''I’m a supporter of full female equality of rights, but not as a caricature''

Denis Dragunsky about homosexuality, blurring borders between decent and indecent things and treating children like sacred people

''I’m a supporter of full female equality of rights, but not as a caricature'' Photo: Andrew Rushailo-Arno (facebook.com/denis.dragunsky)

The idea of tolerance, political correctness, equal rights and feminism and scandals around harassment linked with them, objectivation of women, gay parades – this all seems to be more topical for the West than Russia. However, this agenda is becoming more popular in our country too. In an interview with Realnoe Vremya, writer and political expert Denis Dragunsky told how it affects our life including the language.

''Homosexual marriages are the main conclusion of the 20th century that broke everything''

Mr Dragunsky, how do gender, feminism, tolerance problems concern Russian society today?

Actually, a very small layer of people is under influence of these tendencies in comparison with the general population of the country. Leo Tolstoy said once: ''I'm happy all Russia reads Anna Karenina''. His novel had 2,400 copies. 1,800 copies of Pushkin were printed, and it was considered too much. In other words, the layer of educated people who were conditionally called ''all Russia'' was very thin. It's wider now, of course. And revolutionary changes have taken place due to social networks. The editor, the publisher, the media's owner was between the person who wanted to express his opinion and listeners. My elder brother worked in Izvestiya newspaper a long time ago. And I saw a huge number of people working in the letters department who read letters arriving in the newspaper (and their number was as big as the number of posts in social networks – hundreds of letters a day). And there was very detailed sorting – themed, educational, stylistic. To express your opinion in front of the big audience, you needed to avoid grindstones and nets. Now everything is different: you create an account and create the audience of more than 100 people with the help of several attractive photos of kitties, beautiful food and celebrities and share your impressions.

But anyway, despite this grandiose progress in social networks, the number of those whom we consider people who are consciously ready to publicly discuss different important topics is very small. Even if their number has augmented ten times than before, it's very little anyway. It's like I had a brick factory, it produced ten bricks, then it began to produce a hundred, and I'm proud I've increased the production ten times – it's a tiny quantity anyway, you can't build a porch with a hundred bricks.

This is why when we say these ideas seized society, we need to understand they seized a very thin layer of society, first of all, educated and smart people in its widest sense who got used to having public discussions. Moreover, it's people who are interested in this subject because I know very educated and smart people who aren't interested in gender, feminism, tolerance and political correctness problems at all. For instance, I'm interested in literature, while music passes by me. When my good female friend, a music critic, calls different names, I'm only grateful to her that I know something in the music world. I know nothing about it, though belong to this piece of educated stratum according to all rules.

This is why who is interested in, for instance, tolerance problems? People who chose it as their profession for some reason. Professional rights activists, feminists, LGBT activists, defenders of rights of the disabled. Or people who were affected maybe dramatically – the disabled themselves, the disabled people's parents or homosexuals, women who suffered from the violation. This is why it's a local problem in any case.

I have a friend, a famous economic, a theorist, a very clever person, Aleksandr Auzan. He's a dean of the Faculty of Economics at MSU. It means he's a symbolic figure in economics. 15 years ago, we were talking with about the main conclusion of the 20 th century in a circle of friends. Of course, we enumerated the nuclear bomb, nuclear synthesis, genetic engineering, the post-colonial era, liberation of enslaved peoples. He said: ''Far from it. Homosexual marriages are the main conclusion of the 20th century that broke everything.'' I think he's right because as famous psychoanalyst Joyce McDougall, if I'm not mistaken, said that culture is a relationship of genders and generations, that's to say, relations between children, adults and old people and between men and women. When the relationship between men and women are so radically corrected, the whole culture, in general, must be radically corrected too. I'll give an example. There are certain constants in physics: water boils at 100 degrees, gravitational acceleration is equal to so-and-so. Imagine that water started to boil at 150 degrees and freeze, on the contrary, at 18 in our world. Everything fails: equipment, motor building, construction mechanics, simply home life, even the production of hotplates. Everything becomes different when the constant disappears.

''Aleksandr Auzan said: 'Far from it. Homosexual marriages are the main conclusion of the 20 th century that broke everything.' I think he's right.'' Photo: tvc.ru

What broke in society when this constant of relationship between men and women disappeared?

Concepts about male and female roles in family, society, the state broke as well as concepts of what we call nature. We began to say: 'Look, guys, nature itself wanted it to be so'' a long time ago, if we wanted to disagree with something or confirm something. But it turns out far from it, ''nature itself'' did nothing. Once protesting against the ''nature itself'', I put an example of the famous article of Russian ethnographer Aleksandr Maksimov. It's said that homosexual marriages were widely spread among the Chukchi people. And I was replied: ''But they are savages, they didn't know how to distinguish a man from a woman.'' How come? It might seem that they are children of nature. In brief, this argument about nature isn't completely correct, the social principle is very strong among people.

But people supporting nature don't give up, they do genetic research, want to prove homosexuality is somewhere in our genes. This genetic approach benefits both sides. Supporters claiming it's a condition say: ''As it's a condition and genetics, it means it must be cured, everything can be fixed.'' And others say: ''Nature has different approaches to different things. Aren't we going to cure subtropics of heat and Norway and Arkhangelsk Oblast of cold?''

''The sphere of proper and improper manners in society is collapsing''

It seems that it was inappropriate to discuss such topics about sexual preferences in public a hundred years ago. Why has this cultural norm changed?

It's another interesting moment. Male and female roles are very closely linked with public, private and intimate spheres. Things considered as problems of gender relations are partly private (we get married, celebrate a wedding, kiss on each other's cheek in public) and partly intimate (it's inappropriate to tell what's going on behind the bedroom's doors). There is a thin line between private and intimate things. And traditional male and female roles outline the decencies. You will laugh: I read that even classic pornography has its proper and improper areas. Proper pornographic stories are where a man and a woman just entertain at their leisure. Improper pornography includes rape, or worse, it includes homosexuals.

But the sphere of proper and improper manners in society is collapsing today. Homosexuals themselves help it. They behave like the Bolsheviks who won the October Revolution did, they like deliberately break all rules: ''You respected the professor with glasses, now we will hang him because he wears glasses and a hat.'' Earlier a person from the countryside who came to Petersburg behaved modestly, walked along the pavement and looked at how others behaved. And now he is in the centre of the boulevard, tears his coat up, he can pee on any monument. This is how the proletariat that bluntly won and very poor workers established their supremacy and their full value – political, civil, human, as you wish – rudely and roughly. And gay parades come from the same situation. When this parade takes place in New York, the huge city is paralysed for several days, traffic is closed. I've seen a parade from my hotel room in Berlin: rattles, firecrackers, shouts, music, women disguised as men, men disguised as women…

The changing concept of proper and improper things already affects people who aren't interested in LGBT at all. For instance, children can be swaddled in the street, diapers can be changed in a cramped wagon car without paying attention to the fact that neighbours are wrinkling because of the unpleasant smell. And the mother looks at everyone with pride: ''It's a baby''. And if a woman wants to breastfeed, it's done demonstratively. It's a holy thing, but why does it need to be done in public?

''I love children, children are our future. But I don't think it's necessary to worship children – it's a kind of superstitious service to children when they become some sacred people whom you can't make a remark, you can't bring them down a peg, they must be indulged in different ways.'' Filippo Lippi. Adoration of the Child with Saints (artita.ru)

This all is a consequence of open homosexuality. Previously it was considered improper. There was a big number of homosexuals at the top, even in royal circles in Russia, and Russian society was quite tolerant of them. Nobody screamed about it. Pushkin's epigram could arise sometimes, but everyone pretended he meant a completely different thing. Not it's become open and bright. Or a bit different. I love children, children are our future. But I don't think it's necessary to worship children – it's a kind of superstitious service to children when they become some sacred people whom you can't make a remark, you can't bring them down a peg, they must be indulged in different ways.

As a consequence, boundaries in literature shift. If your character hasn't sworn at least once, it means you're an old stale social realist. If nobody has sex for three pages, you're not an interesting writer.

There is such an expression as inclusive education. So the modern-day situation can be called as total inclusion. What was exclusive in the past (that's to say, turned off) has become inclusive (that's to say, turned on): everything is permitted, it's permitted to talk about everything and, please, louder.

''I'm a supporter of full female equality of rights, but not as a caricature, without bullying! I don't think a woman must be a marine paratrooper or lay asphalt''

How is this reflected on the topic of disabled people, delays in mental development?

There is an idea that we need to include these people in general education schools. In fact, this issue is very complicated. On the one hand, humanity cries out: even if a person counts or thinks worse, he's a person anyway, not an animal, a vegetable, he should be treated well. It's correct. But in this case, the general situation in the classroom is violated. Other children have to fall behind the programme and be patient so that people with disabilities could cope with tasks. It seems good: Christ ought to be patient. But there are some borders, limits. I think the compliance with this limit shouldn't offend anyone.

However, there are people who take offence. And it reminds me of the situation in the 1918-1920s. A person is said: ''Yes, workers and countrymen have all rights. But let's take into account there are educated people, engineers, doctors. They are nobles, they teach you, treat you, provide with water pipes…'' But a person is against: ''You're a bourgeois, a class enemy, they all need to be shot dead, even if we won't have water pipes, we will wash in the river, we can do without a doctor, we will treat with a herbal tea. The most important thing everything will be fair and honest!'' The same thing happens here. The talks that think inclusion and tolerance need a limit cause a fierce opposition… There is such an ideology: ''The era of slavery ended, we won, and now everything will be as we want.''

''It was supposed that ''nature itself'' wanted and society itself required a woman to be a wife, give birth. Now it turns out far from it.'' Photo: prosto-ma-ma.ru

You enumerated several categories of the ''humiliated and insulted'' who are taking their revenge. You also mention lonely women defending their rights in your materials. Do you mean feminism?

I'm a supporter of full female equality of rights, but not as a caricature, without bullying! I don't think a woman must be a marine paratrooper or lay asphalt because not every man can serve as a marine paratrooper according to his physical characteristics. Women must have equal rights in science, art, politics. I think the jokes about stupid women and anecdotes about blonde-haired women are unallowed.

However, this revenge of feminism creates a problem. It was supposed that ''nature itself'' wanted and society itself required a woman to be a wife, give birth. Now it turns out far from it. And if earlier there was a cult of a woman with a child and a cult of a woman with a husband, now there is a cult of either a lonely woman or woman giving birth on her own or the cult of a woman with the child who does everything on her own and can do well without this man. Is it good or bad? I think it's a completely different situation. But this general aroma significantly changes the situation in society.

To be continued

By Natalia Fedyorova