Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Saying 'Nyet' to Barbie Dolls 

The BBC highlights a story about Russia's competition for a Miss Universe representative. The winner on votes would have been a 15 year old 'anti-Barbie' girl, Alyona Pisklova, who had received 10,000 votes within 24 hours of the polls opening. Receiving twice the votes of her nearest competitor she has now been disqualified, supposedly because of her age. A protest site has been set up (mainly in Russian), which among other things claims that the votes for her were votes against "Cigarettes without nicotine and coffee without caffeine." Strangely Zizek-ian. Nowhere does it claim that people voted for her because they might find something other than the Barbie image attractive, though, which is a shame.

Others have interpreted the vote as a grass roots protest against the one horse race that was the presidential election, though I think that might be going a bit far. Certainly, the contest could hardly be called democratic when voting was restricted to the internet and texting, making it a wholly middle class affair. Nevertheless, a meaningful choice of candidates perhaps makes it more substantively democratic than other Russian elections, and the procedure is much more democratic than other Miss Universe selections, which are usually done by jury. The authoritarian hand of control has prevented any rocking of the boat in much the way one would expect too...

All this, while the State Duma is busy passing a bill which will ban, or (perhaps on a second reading) at least make nearly impossible, public rallies and demonstrations in many places in Russia. There has been some outcry - hence the possible amendment - but nothing like the attention which has been given to the Miss Universe contest. If the Barbie doll affair is a genuine bit of democratic protest, perhaps they should take it to the streets and see what democracy really means in Russia at the moment...

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