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News > Latin America

Russian Women At World Cup Victims Of Sexist, Nationalist Hate

  • Brazil vs Mexico in Sao Paulo, Brazil - July 2, 2018 - A fan wearing a Neymar mask is seen during the broadcast of the FIFA World Cup soccer match

    Brazil vs Mexico in Sao Paulo, Brazil - July 2, 2018 - A fan wearing a Neymar mask is seen during the broadcast of the FIFA World Cup soccer match | Photo: Reuters

Published 2 July 2018

Russian nationalist groups troll and threaten Russian women online for appearing in videos with foreign men at the soccer games, blaming them for the abuse.

Brutal sexism and online abuse are following Russian women who have posed with foreign male soccer fans at the World Cup.

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Just as the 2018 World Cup kicked off three weeks ago social media circulated videos of Brazilian men harassing and tricking a Russian woman into chanting obscene or sexually explicit phrases in Portuguese, which the woman didn't understand.

Weeks later these same women - and other Russian females photographed with foreign football fans - are getting abused a second time online, now by Russian online far-right, nationalist groups.

Online Russian nationalist groups - mainly male - have been trolling the female Russian soccer fans and hurling graphic insults and death threats at them.

Many of the women had posted their photographs with male foreign fans on their Instagram and VKontakte (VK) accounts - Russian's Facebook - used by more than 30 million people daily.

In particular, ultra-nationalist Russians picked up the video that showed several male Brazilian soccer fans jumping up and down with a Russian female they convinced to yell (in Portuguese) "pink vagina."

The sexist video went viral prompting the United Nations (UN) Women's office to denounce the Brazilians’ behavior. "It is unacceptable the deliberate intention of some Brazilian fans to sexually harass women during the World Cup, using embarrassment, deception, and thus violating the human rights of women," the agency said. One of the men was identified and fired from his job in Brazil.

Ultranationalist Russians on VK groups calling themselves "The Pink Vagina Group." Members, numbering in the thousands, quickly began to hurl insults at the woman in the viral video, and other female Russians who had appeared in videos and photos with foreigner men at the Sochi soccer games.

The BBC says these group pages are highly "sexist and xenophobic" and its members often blame the victims for the abuse they give, saying the photos are offensive to Russian males.

The Russian woman erased her VK profile and disappeared from social media, but her name, age, place of birth and address, along with personal photos, had already been made public.

Speaking to the BBC, Maria - not her real name - is another young woman who has been abused online. Maria posted a picture of herself kissing a male Brazilian on the side of the mouth as she was celebrating a friend's birthday. "It was friendly. We kissed each other on the corners of our lips." 

Almost immediately far-right groups accused her of getting too fresh with foreigners. Maria says they threatened her online, " 'I'll cut out your uterus' they wrote to me. They even attached two pictures of a weapon that looked like a dagger," says Maria.

As the abusive messages flooded in she became scared. Maria has found the experience so traumatic, she's considering seeing a psychologist help her get over the experience.

The day before the World Cup opening ceremony took place, Tamara Pletnyova, head of parliament’s committee for families, women and children, warned the women of Russia to avoid sex with non-white foreign men during the soccer World Cup because they could become single mothers to mixed-race children.

"I am not a nationalist," Pletnyova has stated, then said, Russians should "give birth to our own children".

Pletnyova, other nationalists, and many Russian media hold that thought that the ‘Natasha phenomenon’ will repeat. Natasha refers to the name of children supposedly born out of wedlock to foreign men after Moscow's 1980 Olympics.  

Some journalists and bloggers have spoken out against the violent backlash against Russian women at the World Cup. "Russian women can have sex with absolutely anyone they wish," wrote the editor in chief of Sports.ru, Yuri Dud.

VKontakte also demanded that groups remove some of their comments that call for violence.

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