Sunday, October 10, 2010

Putin's Dueling Calendars

There are birthday presents and then there are birthday presents... A group of female journalism students from Moscow State University decided that the best way to celebrate the 58th birthday of President Vladimir Putin was to make him a calendar, so the twelve young ladies put on their best lingerie, struck their best poses and the result is “We Love You, Vladimir Vladimirovich” a glossy twelve-month calendar garnering a lot of stares and more than a few laughs thanks to the mildly suggestive (ok, blatantly suggestive) odes each student gives to Mr. Putin (the Toronto Sun kindly provides a month-by-month view).

Past the laugh-and-leer factor of “We Love You, Vladimir Vladimirovich”, the calendar points to a few real problems, not the least of which is that Moscow State Univ. is suppose to be Russia's top center for higher education, its journalism school well-respected and Russia itself is suppose to be a country with a free and independent press (a point many will argue in reality isn't the case). One of the first things I learned in J-school was the idea of objectivity; but it's hard to maintain the image that you'll take an objective view of the government though when you're posing in your underwear while pledging your love for the president – image if a group of Columbia University journalism students made a bikini calendar dedicated to Barack Obama; Fox News would call it the death of the American Press...  Not to mention that the girls of “We Love You...” come off as at best a bunch of airheads and at worst as being incredibly indifferent to recent national tragedies. My favorite comment came from Nastya (aka Miss November) who said to Putin: “I don’t need a fire bell, I need you.” Along with being a come-on to a guy old enough (by a fair margin) to be her father, it also referenced the devastating wildfires that scorched large swaths of western Russia this summer and the Internet protest of a blogger whose village burned thanks to the poor fire-fighting response of the government (see “Give Me Back My Rynda” for the full story) – ironically his post was an effective use of the freedom of the press, a point likely lost on the Putin calendar girls.

In response, another group of female MSU J-students put out their own calendar in protest to “We Love You, Vladimir Vladimirovich”; theirs trades in the lingerie for conservative business attire accented with crosses of tape over their mouths – a protest, they say, against the real lack of freedom of the press in Russia. Rather than come-ons to Putin, the alternative asks tough questions about topics Putin would probably like to avoid: one asks "Who killed Anna Politkovskaya,” referencing the respected Russian journalist murdered outside of her home (Politkovskaya herself was a graduate from MSU's journalism school), a case that is still unsolved; another asks "When will the next terrorist attack be?"; while a third wonders "When will Khodorkovsky be freed?", citing the case of the former CEO of Yukos, once Russia's largest corporation and a man many say was jailed to keep him from emerging as a political rival to Putin himself.

It’s a bold public protest, one not without it's risks; the protest calendar's producer said that some women she approached refused to be on the calendar, fearing a possible backlash from government officials, something the girls of “We Love You, Vladimir Vladimirovich” won’t have to worry about.
Sphere: Related Content

No comments: