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In Russia as a whole, there are 11 million more women than men, due in part to a century of bloody revolutions, gulags, and wars that drained the country’s male population.
Add to that the fact that male life expectancy is particularly grim in Russia—on average, 59 years, as opposed to a woman’s 73 years, the largest gap of any country in the world—and you’ve got a serious demographic imbalance.
“It is unsafe to grow to close with them,” says Shpakova, the art director, who describes her run-ins with her male colleagues as a “constant battle with light sabers.” Shpakova saw the full misogyny of Russia’s legal system close up when she tried to stop her last Russian ex-boyfriend from sending her threatening, abusive texts after they broke up.
When Shpakova consulted a lawyer, she was told that “there is no law defending a person’s dignity, no state guarantee of personal security,” she said.
While Russian women have long been celebrated for their strength—they “would hold up a galloping horse,” wrote the poet Nikolay Nekrasov in praise—they are still expected to be subservient to men in the workplace, where business is often conducted afterhours in the male-only steam baths.
Just recently, Russian women have begun to circumvent this traditional system by forming female networking events.
Still, the numbers of single men and women in Russia are roughly equal: 17.6 million single ladies to 17.2 million single lads.
“As a teen, I always thought I would be married by my early 20s” she says.A single woman herself, Zhuravleva says she “never had any interest in marrying a drunk, to later suffer the pain of divorce and splitting [of] real estate.”Her stance reflects the fact that Russian culture has yet to catch up with women’s lib—a point that frustrates the country’s younger women in particular.Despite the overwhelming surplus of women in Russia, only 3 percent of the country’s senior executives are female and a scant 6 percent of politicians are women.(She has “not met a single gentleman among Russian men,” she says.) The litany of complaints that Russian ladies have against their male counterparts is long: They smoke too much and drink too much. They expect their girlfriends and wives to clean for them, cook for them, and to look like models.More seriously, they are often violent and feel threatened by independent, high-earning women.