Yana Djin Essays

Trading Places

Moscow News
July, 2001


Friedrich Nietzsche once famously remarked that a woman is God’s second mistake. Upon further deliberation, he added that when a man – God’s first mistake – goes to see a woman, he must never forget to carry his whip. In the country in which I live, in America, this latter remark still plunges the female population into unspeakable horror. On the very rare occasions when the name of the German thinker comes up, a conscientious American woman feels obligated to frown in disgust as if to indicate that she still has not forgiven him. So, if by some miracle an American male picks up a volume of Nietzsche for the sheer pleasure of ousting the usual pulp that populates his head, it is safe to assume that he is either single or shrouding his “sin” in secrecy.

In the country of my birth, however, in Russia (FSU), the philosopher’s “insensitive” comment would not cause such a stir. In fact, according to the Russian saying, if a man bothers to whip a woman, then he must love her. Although the above-mentioned Nietzsche had more meaningful things to do with his time then whip his girlfriends, many-an-average John or Ivan, for the lack of having anything better, would, indeed, welcome the opportunity to kick his better half’s behind. As the latest statistics indicate, the mutual dissatisfaction between men and women has reached a climax in the Western nations. Divorce rates have skyrocketed : one out of two marriages ends in divorce in the United States. Local entrepreneurs, ever searching for the way to make an easy buck, have proposed to integrate divorce ceremonies into the local tradition. The population, being as it is made up of us, God’s mistakes, and egged on by the ubiquitously trashy magazines, is predictably embracing this “ingenuous” trend. The more “enlightened” of God’s servants, otherwise known as priests or rabbis, are now making a considerable percentage of their income by conducting religious divorce proceedings. So, while the conservative ultra-right is bombarding us with the crap of “family values” from the right as well as from the left, the families themselves are marching in unison to the divorce drum which rids them of that sour souvenir of love – marriage.

According to the same statistics, Russia holds one of the last spots in the “divorce competition” and the American faith-based groups are calling upon the locals to take pointers from their former “enemies”. Such senators as Jesse Helms, known for his intolerance to anything that is unlike Jesse Helms, or such congressman as Tom Delay, otherwise known as the “up-and-coming Joe McCarthy”, are crediting none other than Ronald Reagan with Russia’s low divorce rate. “It was our Golden Ronnie”, they shout from their pulpits, “ who single-handedly brought down the Iron Curtain and enabled religion and fear of God to spread into Russia’s bloodstream!”

The less insane of American senators and congressmen, who luckily for us still constitute a majority, agree that, indeed, it was the fall of communism that enabled marriages in the former Soviet Union to last longer than in other European countries. They hasten to add, however, that the “fault” lies not with the temporal Ronnie but with a more enduring factor: money. During the seventy years of the Soviet Empire, Russian women enjoyed equal financial and social benefits with men and, and as a result, found it easier to live without them and raise their children without their support. The scene has drastically changed over the last ten years: men have become the major bread-winners, or should I say bread-robbers, leaving Russian women no choice but to interpret their frequent physical outbursts as a sign of love. It was not a suddenly acquired fear of God that made Russian women stick to their mostly pitiful marriages, ridden with boorishness and infidelity that would not be tolerated anywhere else.

It was fear of hunger and poverty which would befall them and their children if they chose to be single. It was the very same factor – money – that now enables the women of America to leave their husbands for subtlest indiscretions. Fact is, American women make enough of the Green God to let themselves follow their desires.

Ironically, Russian and American women have traded places: at the time when women here were wearing aprons and cooking for their overbearing other halves, the women of the Soviet Union were building bridges and overseeing factories. The most that an average American woman of the 1950’s dared to say was: “ Honey, do you want me to fix you a drink?”. More often than not, the designated honey would not even bless her with a response. The feminist movement changed that by requiring equal pay for women. Having filled their pockets with gold and silver, American women have now gone to such an extreme that even I, being myself a woman, would love to reach for Nietzsche’s whip and give them occasional lashes. After all, it is rather unnerving that a creature of female persuasion whose only achievement in life is acquiring cellulite in her thighs demands as much respect and love as Aphrodite from her Greek worshipers.

But, alas, American women have, what Aphrodite failed to get: a good salary. So if the ultra-conservative demagogues want their “family values” garbage to be heard, they should heed to the well-known suggestion of the local political advisor: “It’s the economy, stupid!” All they need to do is pass a fatter tax-break to married couples and the deal is as good as done! But unlike the recipient of the above advice, Bill Clinton, these “Christ-lovers” are stupid and they invoke God to their rescue, who, as Nietzsche knew, has long been dead.

That is why when I hear that American men are more sensitive to “women’s needs “ then their Russian counterparts, I invariably disagree. Indeed, today they seem to be less vulgar and boorish in their attitudes to women than the Russians but only because they cannot afford to do so. I sincerely hope that women of Russia will once again be able to enjoy the privilege of dumping their spouses, but, just as sincerely, I do hope that they will not cite the most common excuse here :“the lack of private space. Even though, Russia today is “infected” by just as many trashy magazines as the United States, women everywhere should realize that there is no such thing; that if anything is public, then it is precisely the space which was meant to be shared by trees, buildings, dirt, animals and us – God’s mistakes. And if they absolutely must come up with an excuse, why not borrow a line form an American movie: “Because I no longer liked his stinking looks!”

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