Beauty vs. Brains: Putin Calendar Girls in Pin-up Pose-Off
Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin turned 58 last week and female journalism students from Moscow State University gave him a sexy present: a 2011 pin-up calendar featuring 12 scantily clad students with salacious suggestions to fill his year. The next day, a separate group of students from the same campus responded with their own calendar in protest at the first. It’s become a true beauty versus brains bitch-fest.
The first calendar shows the ladies posing in little more than sexy lingerie, with each of the 12 images accompanied by a short flirtatious quip. Titled “Vladimir Vladimirovich, We Love You”, the suggestive captions included such gems as “You put out the forest fires, but I’m still burning”, “You only get better with the years” and “If only everyone had such a man.” One even pouts with a sultry wink as she asks: “How about a third time?” a suggestion that Putin should run for a third term of office in 2012. Another asks if she can be his co-pilot. Miss December is posed topless in sheer shorts over black lace panties, next to a telephone number and the declaration: “I want to congratulate you personally.”
No Special Obscenity
Moscow State University’s journalism faculty distanced itself from the project.
“I saw in this calendar not journalists but young girls,” faculty dean Elena Vartanova told gzt.ru. “Our students are free people and we cannot keep them from such self-expression. Of course we do not want the name of the faculty associated with obscene photos, but we have seen no special obscenity in this calendar.”
Russia and Putin are used to this sort of thing. He has been serenaded by pop divas and has cultivated a macho image by riding in jet fighters, diving in Lake Baikal, firing darts into tigers and whales and famously riding and fishing shirtless in Siberia. State television, on which real news is scarce, devotes much time to such official pantomimes.
Amid speculation that the calendar was another homage from one of the youth groups that propagate Putin’s cult of personality, the men behind it insisted that it was a simple birthday offering from girls “with good looks and brains”.
We Have a Few Questions
But others were less kind, with bloggers deriding the calendar as ‘shameful’ and complaining that the would-be journalists’ antics devalued the whole Russian media. Fellow female journalism students at MSU seemed to agree. The day after the “We Love You” calendar was released, the second one made an appearance.
Under the less than flattering cover-page title of “Vladimir Vladimirovich, We Have a Few Questions” it shows students fully clothed in all black outfits, with their mouths taped shut by yellow tape. The captions on this edition are as direct as those on the first, but with none of the flirtatiousness. “When will Khodorkovsky be freed?” (a reference to the jailed former CEO of Yukos oil company), “When will the next act of terrorism take place?”, “Freedom of assembly always and everywhere?” and, most pointedly, “Who killed Anna Politkovskaya?”
This last questions the still unresolved murder four years ago of a MSU journalist alumni Anna Politkovskaya. Politkovskaya was one of the Kremlin’s sharpest critics and had exposed human rights abuses by Russian security forces in Chechnya shortly before her death. The outrage of critics of the first calendar was intensified by the timing of its’ release. October 7th was not only Putin’s 58th birthday but also the fourth anniversary of the murder of Politkovskaya. She was shot dead in the hallway of her apartment block by men who have still not been found, and so became a symbol of the free, combative media that has been almost completely silenced since Putin first entered the Kremlin 10 years ago.
Journalism Faculty ‘Sluts’
“When I first saw the calendar, I was absolutely shocked,” said Liz Menschikova, one of the opposition calendar’s co-producers. “People were calling girls from the journalism faculty ‘sluts’. I knew we had to do something.”
Some students Menschikova approached to take part in the calendar declined, saying they feared the repercussions, she said. “Girls from the journalism faculty are just being sold to the Kremlin and that’s not right,” Menschikova said. “They teach us to tell the truth and that’s what we’re doing here.”
- The original Vladimir We Love You Calendar can be seen at Wasabix.org.
- The alternative Protest Vladimir We Have Some Questions Calendar can be seen at Agent Provocateur.
So what do you think? Especially those of the journalism ilk. Should journalism students be propositioning the PM? Or should they be putting their ‘talents’ to better use by challenging the status quo?
And would something similar in South Africa cause as much of a stir? Any UCT and Rhodes journalism students out there who want to challenge the Freedom of Information Bill and the Medial Tribunal? How about some sexy ANCYL members doing a “We Love JayZee” calendar? Just a thought.