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Analysis & Opinion
29.08.11 Politically Blonde
By Svetlana Kononova

Russian blondes have voted to have First Lady Svetlana Medvedeva head the All-Russia Congress of Blondes, which will be held in Sochi on September 23 to 25. “Medvedeva is a paragon of perfect style and high-society glamour. Many eminent beauties envy her finesse and elegance,” the organizers of the event said on their official Web site. Although the first lady has yet to publicly comment on the offer, her nomination has drawn the attention of local and international mass media.

The All-Russia Congress of Blondes looks like a commercial event. A hospitable resort city located on the Black Sea coast will host several hundred blondes from 28 regions of Russia, who will stage a street march and a large-scale tournament of tic-tac-toe, which could potentially make it into the Guinness Book of Records. The program of the event also includes various activities such as makeup, dance and photo workshops, a contest for the best imitation of a blonde star on stage, and a blonde party.

Organizers of the congress also plan to unveil a monument to a blonde and open a museum of blondes in Sochi. They claim that there are over 30 million blondes in Russia and hope to attract up to 5,000 “blonde heads” to their movement in the next several years. Besides Svetlana Medvedeva, the organizers invited other Russian blondes who were famous in the past: Soviet movie star Svetlana Svetlichnaya, who is now 71, and a perestroika sex-symbol Yelena Kondulainen, who is 53.

Members of the All-Russia Congress of Blondes intend to join the All-Russia People’s Front created by the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, which gives the event political connotations. The idea of using beautiful sexy blondes for political goals is not new. In 2008 an NGO titled the Party of Blondes was set up in Russia, now boasting more than 70,000 members in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Germany and the Baltic States. The organization, which operates under the slogan “All the best – for blondes!” is open to both men and women regardless of their hair color. The Party of Blondes was one of the first NGOs in Russia to start promoting the idea of women as strong political leaders and possible candidates for president and prime minister.

One of the leaders of the Party of Blondes, Sergei Kushnerov, said that his organization bears no relation to the congress in Sochi. “The All-Russia Congress of Blondes is not of our doing. Our Party of Blondes stands for political initiatives – women’s rights, single mothers’ rights, support for small business and women who work in this field, free kindergartens and education for children to give women the opportunity to develop their personalities and careers,” he said. “We know about the existence of many different alternative ‘projects’ – from special restaurants and clubs for blondes to blondes’ competitions and rallies – which are one-hit-wonders. But we are not against it.” Kushnerov also called the idea of all members of the All-Russia Congress of Blondes joining Putin’s All-Russia People’s Front a “defilement for both sides.”

But while Russian blondes prepare for a great game of tic-tac-toe, Forbes magazine has published a list of the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women,” and there are no Russians on it. At number one this year is German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is often recognized as the most influential leader in the EU. In second place is Hillary Clinton, the U.S. Secretary of State, and third is Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. The top-ten also includes PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, the co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Melinda Gates, India’s President Sonia Gandhi and U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama.

Despite the fact that most women on the Forbes list come from the Western World, the presence of developing countries is also noticeable. The list includes women from India, China, Brazil, Argentina, Costa Rica, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, South Africa and even Nigeria.

There have been no Russians on the “World’s 100 Most Powerful Women” for the last three years. In 2008, the only Russian woman on the list was Valentina Matviyenko, the former governor of St. Petersburg who has resigned in August of 2011 and is now headed for the Federation Council. “The fact that Russian women are not recognized worldwide as powerful leaders reflects reality. Indeed, women still don’t play any significant role in political and social life in Russia. It is because they are insufficiently represented in the government and other political structures – at the level like in Islamic countries. But according to United Nations, women’s representation in the authorities should be no less than 30 percent: like in the United States or Western Europe,” said Rima Sharifullina, the president of Peterburgskaya Egida, a St. Petersburg-based NGO that specializes in protecting women’s rights.

“Even other BRIC countries look much better than Russia in this regard. Here no parliamentary political party even talks about gender equality. Even high-ranked officials often have a bad attitude toward females. They talk about women as ‘adornments,’ ‘diamonds’ that may be easy replaced with other ‘diamonds’ when they get older. Many Russian women still think of themselves as objects, not as individuals. Therefore, they don’t have any real power and influence,” Sharifullina continued. “A very indicative fact is that women themselves [State Duma Deputies Elena Mizulina and Tatiana Yakovleva] promote anti-abortion laws. It means that they equate themselves with ‘fertility mechanisms’ that have to give as much birth as the state needs,” she added. “But the situation has slightly changed in the recent several years. The election of Valentina Matviyenko as governor of St. Petersburg was a breakthrough in the Russian political landscape. Moreover, public movements that aim to protect women and children’s rights, including Women’s Voice, appeared in the country. A law ‘On gender equality’ has been introduced for consideration to the State Duma. If approved, we should see positive results,” Sharifullina concluded.
The source
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