This incident marks an important moment in Russia. For one, it highlights that women have the right to protection from harassment by men. Second, it underscores the double standard by which intoxicated women are blamed for whatever happens to them, but drunken men have a “right to make mistakes” and are even justified in their behavior. It also presents us with an opportunity to create a new workplaceethic.
Perhaps most importantly, however, it is the first case in which a high-ranking man suffered at least some consequences for behavior that nobody had previously questioned. Sexual harassment, it seems, no longer goes unnoticed.
Within Russia’s media circle, most observers watched the Kolpakov scandal play out through the lens of the liberal elite or tusovka. The word, which entered into Russian slang in the 1980s, used to describe a kind of gathering of people with shared interests who led similar lifestyles. Nowadays, it usually refers to a clique of liberal journalists, creatives and others in the so-called “in-crowd” of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
In an attempt to preserve the inviolability of this clique, many of its members began posting mean-spirited things about Kolpakov’s alleged victim on Facebook. And because many members of the “tusovka” are well-known Russian journalists, artists and writers, it was almost impossible to ignore their frenzied posts.
The tusovka didn’t stop at inappropriate turns of speech and victim blaming. Dozens wrote that the issue should not have been settled by Meduza’s Board of Directors, but rather by the husband of the victim simply punching Kolpakov in the face.
However, no one from this clique proposed punching Russian lawmaker Leonid Slutsky when he was accused by several journalists earlier this year of misconduct. And when the Kremlin uses physical violence to solve its problems, the tusovka are the loudest critics.
Every incident of violence or harassment, therefore is deemed “good” or “bad” by the tuskovka based solely on whether those deeds were committed by “good” or “bad” people. Respected figures from this clique are generally known for pronouncing their desire for Western values, but when one of their own — Kolpakov — is implicated, those grand aspirations fell by the wayside.