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Is it sexist or not?

Is it sexist or not?

Old Oct 28, 18, 5:22 am
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Is it sexist or not?

I've just returned home to mother Moscow from a business trip in Yuzhno Sakhalinsk in the very far East of Russia (I guess only Anadyr, Magadan and Petropavlovsk Kamchatsky are further). I'm by no means a stranger to Russian behavioural idiosyncraticities on board e.g. obnoxiously clapping when the plane lands etc.


One thing that bugs me is the fact women will always want help getting their bags in/out of the overhead lockers, usually from men, which could be anything from a tiny granny literally unable to reach the lockers herself right through to a 20-something just looking at you as if to say "you're a man, you have to help me with my bag, it is your duty to do so" and everything in between. And believe me, this happens A LOT. I've even witnessed old ladies asking cabin crew to take their bags from the back of the plane to the front where they were sitting...big and heavy ones too...

Don't get me wrong, I quite often offer help to people struggling up/down stairs with suitcases/bags/prams etc, but out of sheer principle, I refuse to help others on board with the occasional exception. I'm fairly sure one should be able (within reason) to be able to put their bags in and out of the overhead lockers by themselves, and knowing what Russians are like for packing, they're fairly likely to try and put more in than they should.

I refused (in English rather than Russian) to help a woman who was faffing around with her bag looking around for a man to ask, which just happened to be me, to ask to help. Admittedly she was reasonably polite about it, but it was quite obvious she was capable of doing it herself, which she did in the end unaided. Another woman turned round at me in disbelief and translated the woman's request (I understood what she had said, just not how to respond appropriately in Russian) and explained my stance to this second woman, looking in utter disbelief that a man didn't help a woman.

Yes, one could very easily call me an a-hole, or selfish, or whatever, but hey. So...is this a sexist matter or not? Just bear in mind such a concept is kind of lost in Russia and many have firm ideas of what men and women SHOULD do, albeit a bit outdated for the west.
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Old Oct 28, 18, 6:54 am
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I am not surprised for this to be commonplace in Russia... I can't say what I would do in Russia, but my opinion changes depending on the case.

In London, people should get used to carry what they can carry, and yes I know waiting for checked luggage is annoying, and yes it is more expensive, but we are all different and we all have our burden to bear... The culture here is quite individualistic and while it is annoying that people delay trains by blocking doors for their own benefit, and don't volunteer their seats to those who need them... it seems to be the rule of the land.

In some other cultures, like in Japan, I would certainly consider helping other people as I know other people there would be also generous in their help if I needed it.

Last edited by thebigben; Oct 28, 18 at 7:00 am
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Old Oct 28, 18, 7:01 am
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I second that “carry what you can carry” attitude, but hey, different cultures I guess.

Traveling solo with fractured ankle in a plaster, having zero free hands when walking on crutches and having different levels of WHCS assistance among different airports has teached me to expect nothing, carry no baggage I can’t carry on my own, despite most people in Europe being nice to you :-)

What do these people do when the leave the aircraft or the airport?

edit: re: japan - I felt almost ashamed with the locals trying to help me in every way, I just wanted to do things on my own, my pace :-)
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Old Oct 28, 18, 7:57 am
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Russia is a country where the average female's expectation of chivalry doesn't seem to be dead, so I'm not the least bit surprised to hear that your refusal to assist (understandable from my westerner perspective) was received poorly.

As for is it sexist?... that's a very tough question to answer, and it all depends on one's frame of reference, one's culture, and the social norm's of one's country. I'm not Russian, but framed from the perspective of that country... I'm gonna guess the answer would be "no".

There is something about Russians and massive amounts of luggage/bags, though. The overheads on AMS-LED are full, every time, without fail, of duty free bags. Still, I recognize I'm privileged to come from a place where virtually nothing duty free is a product I can't get back home, nor is it ever cheaper than I can get it back home.

Last edited by eastindywalrus; Oct 28, 18 at 8:02 am
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Old Oct 28, 18, 10:19 am
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I’m female (American) and lived in Russia for several years in the 1990s. I’m not terribly surprised at women’s expectations that a man will help them with their bags, because without fail, any man I was ever with in Russia would pretty much wrestle my bag out of my hand to carry it for me. As an American and a particularly independent person, I found this jarring and slightly annoying at first, but I got used to it and learned to expect it and not be bothered by it. These days, if someone wants to pull my bag out of the overhead for me, I let him (although with the warning that it’s heavy!)

I think you’re just dealing with a “when in Rome” situation here, and you might as well just go with the flow rather than trying to impose your own cultural expectations/attitudes on an entire population of people that do not share them. Will it kill you to help? Or even hurt you? It might actually change your own attitude about the value (to yourself) of being proactively helpful to strangers; it often makes you feel like a better person after you do it.
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Old Oct 28, 18, 10:28 am
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I see two distinct issues here: the cultural expectation and the implicit demand for help in the absence of a polite request. To me, it's rude to just look at the person and the bag or to order someone to help, but a polite request is different, although I can understand the recipient of such a request saying no for whatever reason and maybe more so if the requester is not the proverbial little old lady or seems to have too much carry on stuff anyway.
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Old Oct 28, 18, 10:32 am
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Please continue to follow this thread in the FT Russia Forum
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Old Oct 28, 18, 12:39 pm
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Originally Posted by travelmad478 View Post
I think you’re just dealing with a “when in Rome” situation here, and you might as well just go with the flow rather than trying to impose your own cultural expectations/attitudes on an entire population of people that do not share them.
So where you draw a line then? There is one Russian proverb/expression - "Бьет - значит любит", even more - "бей бабу молотом, будет баба золотом" - I assume that you know Russian enough to understand. For the rest - these are two Russian proverbs. First - "He beats you - he loves you". Second - "hit woman with a hammer, she will turn into gold" - literal translation.

These (and other) proverbs are frequently used in speech and in practice as well. So... do you do the same 'when in Rome"?
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Old Oct 28, 18, 2:23 pm
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Originally Posted by obscure2k View Post
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This is not specifically about Russia, it's about the whole concept of assistance, I'm just basing this on my own experience here in Russia.

Originally Posted by travelmad478 View Post
I’m female (American) and lived in Russia for several years in the 1990s. I’m not terribly surprised at women’s expectations that a man will help them with their bags, because without fail, any man I was ever with in Russia would pretty much wrestle my bag out of my hand to carry it for me. As an American and a particularly independent person, I found this jarring and slightly annoying at first, but I got used to it and learned to expect it and not be bothered by it. These days, if someone wants to pull my bag out of the overhead for me, I let him (although with the warning that it’s heavy!)

I think you’re just dealing with a “when in Rome” situation here, and you might as well just go with the flow rather than trying to impose your own cultural expectations/attitudes on an entire population of people that do not share them. Will it kill you to help? Or even hurt you? It might actually change your own attitude about the value (to yourself) of being proactively helpful to strangers; it often makes you feel like a better person after you do it.
Thing is, I've been here long enough, I know what is expected and what isn't. I even offer help to those on the metro system for example, which I already mentioned in my original post, however, in my own personal experience, 9 times out of 10, when flying, most are simply too lazy or over self-entitled to move their bags themselves. I've made this point perfectly clear in my first post and I'm by no means trying to enforce my own expectations onto anyone. I'm standing by my own principles.

Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
I see two distinct issues here: the cultural expectation and the implicit demand for help in the absence of a polite request. To me, it's rude to just look at the person and the bag or to order someone to help, but a polite request is different, although I can understand the recipient of such a request saying no for whatever reason and maybe more so if the requester is not the proverbial little old lady or seems to have too much carry on stuff anyway.
This. However, in the context of flying only, I'll quite happily refuse anyone's request bar the proverbial little old lady scenario. As for too much stuff...well, that's a no-sympathy vote from me.

Originally Posted by invisible View Post
So where you draw a line then? There is one Russian proverb/expression - "Бьет - значит любит", even more - "бей бабу молотом, будет баба золотом" - I assume that you know Russian enough to understand. For the rest - these are two Russian proverbs. First - "He beats you - he loves you". Second - "hit woman with a hammer, she will turn into gold" - literal translation.

These (and other) proverbs are frequently used in speech and in practice as well. So... do you do the same 'when in Rome"?
Yeah, I don't know enough Russian to know proverbs...

I've already made my stance on the matter clear in my first post. Please refer back to that.
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Old Oct 28, 18, 5:15 pm
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Originally Posted by invisible View Post
So where you draw a line then? There is one Russian proverb/expression - "Бьет - значит любит", even more - "бей бабу молотом, будет баба золотом" - I assume that you know Russian enough to understand. For the rest - these are two Russian proverbs. First - "He beats you - he loves you". Second - "hit woman with a hammer, she will turn into gold" - literal translation.

These (and other) proverbs are frequently used in speech and in practice as well. So... do you do the same 'when in Rome"?
Kind of a ridiculous over-extension of my point, as you surely know. Fitting into the cultural norm, in the OP’s case, is doing something that helps someone, and actually might make him feel good too. That’s hardly the same thing as actively hurting someone.
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Old Oct 28, 18, 7:41 pm
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So, my question is, why do you care if it's sexist or not? You're either going to help or not (I too would be annoyed at able-bodied people demanding assistance for things they should be able to do themselves- I was raised with the family rule of "you can bring whatever you want but you carry your own stuff"). It doesn't really matter if it's considered sexist in Russia - it is what it is and it bothers you.
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Old Oct 28, 18, 9:26 pm
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Originally Posted by ilcannone View Post
So...is this a sexist matter or not? Just bear in mind such a concept is kind of lost in Russia and many have firm ideas of what men and women SHOULD do, albeit a bit outdated for the west.
So here’s the deal:

From your post, I gather you would say that in Russia, this behavior generally would not be considered sexist.

I also gather that you would say that in the West, this behavior generally would be considered sexist.

Now - if you are asking whether this behavior actually is sexist (as opposed to merely being considered sexist), then you have two choices:

(1) whether or not it is sexist actually is context-dependent (so it is sexist - as opposed to merely being considered sexist - if it generally is perceived as so by those within that context - in aggregate, not as individuals, and vice versa); or

(2) whether or not it is sexist is independent of context and perceptions by those within a given context (i.e., it is absolute).

Someone who wants to go with choice (2) needs to be prepared to provide the (absolute) standards that make the verdict universally binding and also needs to be prepared to defend those standards as applying universally rather then being context-dependent (that might be true in your context, but it isn’t for ours) or even individual-specific (that might be your truth, but it isn’t mine).

Now - if you (or anyone else) wants to assert that the behavior is absolutely/universally sexist (or at least mostly so, if we give the grannies a pass), then the next step is to provide the basis for that verdict, as well as the defense against arguments to the contrary.

Any takers? 😉
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Old Oct 29, 18, 7:43 pm
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There’s an economic factor in all of this. In most regions in Russia women travel with more baggage than they can handle. They transport various things for their relatives. Most of it happens on trains however. An old lady can carry a large bag full of things she wants to bring to someone else. It happens occasionally on planes, however I rarely see women complain that no one helps them. You make it sound as if it happens on every flight. Maybe so. Any case, it’s a cultural and economic thing.
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Old Oct 30, 18, 6:39 am
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Originally Posted by a7m View Post
There’s an economic factor in all of this. In most regions in Russia women travel with more baggage than they can handle. They transport various things for their relatives. Most of it happens on trains however. An old lady can carry a large bag full of things she wants to bring to someone else. It happens occasionally on planes, however I rarely see women complain that no one helps them. You make it sound as if it happens on every flight. Maybe so. Any case, it’s a cultural and economic thing.
I'm aware of all of this. I'm no fool in this matter. But trains are not quite as limited in space as aircraft are. And as a matter of fact, perhaps I'm just unlucky, the barrage of requests (slight exaggeration) DOES happen to me on every flight I take!
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Old Nov 4, 18, 3:43 pm
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I am with you in spirit on this one, because I am in Russia now and have had some experience with it. I am tending to go with the flow, because I see a much higher level of chivalry here than elsewhere, even among young guys. Here, chaps jump out of their seats in buses and metro to offer them to women, old and young. That would not happen in Switzerland or Germany. Also, women have much higher expectation levels of men than they do elsewhere. Of course, that can lead to problems in closer relationships, which I don’t want to go into here, mainly because it would take us OT.
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