Vladimir Putin is macho. Or at least he tries to be. The Economist ran a piece in 2015 which tried to decode why Putin did so many macho stunts. It touched upon how he hunted tigers, fished, rode a horse while being bare-chested, encountered a leopard, did aerial firefighting and once discovered an ancient amphorae while scuba-diving in the Black Sea. It called most of these stunts as being "obviously staged and fake." It had then wondered what was going on with these preposterous photo-ops.
John Oliver has a theory about why Putin does what he does. He says that Putin is hero to many Russians. He's genuinely popular and a lot of people take his photo-ops on face value. And this is important for him as the economic situation in Russia is not all that good. And regardless of how popular a leader is, economic weakness in a country will cause them problems. Putin has sought to combat this with projecting an image of himself which allows people to trust him as a "strong leader".
It is perhaps in the same frame of mind that he said, "I am not a woman, so I don't have bad days.... I am not trying to insult anyone. That's just the nature of things. There are certain natural cycles." He was talking to Oliver Stone, an Oscar-winning director who is making The Putin Interviews, a four-part documentary on the Russian President, reported The Guardian. The report went on to say that Kremlin would see Stone as a friendly interlocutor, a fact which is bore out from the clips released so far as the tone is rarely confrontational, and Putin’s answers are rarely fact-checked or countered.
The documentary also shows Putin playing ice hockey, and flexing his muscles on an exercise machine, said Bloomberg. He mentioned that he lifts weights and then swims every day. He also fed carrots to a thoroughbred horse at his residence. Stone clearly believes in leaving Putin's macho image intact.
In fact the only negative story which is discussed was the anti-homosexuality law Putin had signed, said the report. Putin said that "There are no restrictions whatsoever" on homosexuals. However when asked if he would take a shower in a submarine next to a gay man, he laughed as he said, "Well, I prefer not to go to the shower with him. Why provoke him? But you know, I'm a judo master."
Such statements might seem off the cuff but they are part of a carefully cultivated personality that Putin projects. Putin is a world leader whose policies are increasingly growing relevant not just for Russia but also for the world. He has also cosied up to US President Donald Trump, who has described Putin as "very smart" and has asked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson "to rebuild relations with Moscow," despite the ongoing investigations into the White House's relationship with the Kremlin and its efforts to affect the outcome of the election, reported CNBC.
Even if we leave aside his standing as a world leader for a while, Putin is a man much of his country looks up to. Russia has its problems with sexism as does the rest of the world. When Putin says that bad days are the domain of women, he does much harm to the cause of equality. Similarly when he portrays homosexuals as sex-maniacs who can "be provoked," he is reinforcing an image which many will imbibe.
We might be able to reject his statements out of hand but many will not. It is necessary that his masochism is broken down and he is forced to lead on actual policies and not just on propaganda. People must get a counter-narrative to the spite he's spreading. Only then can the Russian people (and indeed many of his other fans around the world) accept and fight for causes like equality for women and those of alternative sexualities.
Published Date: Jun 08, 2017 04:00 pm | Updated Date: Jun 08, 2017 04:34 pm