Friday, March 2, 2012

Gay in St Petersburg?

So... the news is that St Petersburg has passed a law prohibiting people from promoting anything 'gay'.  No speaking, writing or talking about homosexuality, if it might promote it to minors (yes... we need to protect the children!).  According to the NY Times, the law defines propaganda of homosexuality as

Book by Johnny Valentine (2004)
  “the targeted and uncontrolled dissemination of generally accessible information capable of harming the health and moral and spiritual development of minors,” particularly that which could create “a distorted impression” of “marital relations.” 
So reminiscent of all the debates we once had at home in Chamberlain (and resolved!) about whether schools could prohibit teachers from using books featuring about kids who had two mothers, or two fathers.  sigh.

This reform was in the air on my visit to St. Petersburg.  Alex and Evgeny told us about it, but i somehow couldn't believe that their government would actually DO it.  But they did.  The activists are of course starting to protest. As they well should.  I guess as we all should.  But it is such a bizarre thing for a city to do!

Under this new law, I guess my "Angels in America" research (thinking about the encounter of a gay man and mormon woman) would be on the prohibited list.  Would I be allowed to speak about it now... given the risk of uncontrolled dissemination of information about same sex relationships?

Licedei mimes
 I wonder also about the fabulous mime show we saw in St Peterburg by Licedei.  It was a collection of some of their most well loved sketches.  (Click here for a great 3 minute video that really gives you a sense of the incredibly beautiful (and dark) work that Polounin does:  mix of clowning, pantomime, and avant guarde.  

Anyways, one of the skits involved a dance between two of the clowns (to the song "Shall We Dance?")   As you might expect, they dance with eachother.  At the end of the sketch, the two clowns went into the audience, and pulled up men from the audience to dance with them [and a third clown rushed in at the last minute to join them.... so we had three male couples dancing at the end].  here is a short clip from the sketch performed back in 2009).

The Dancers...

The thing about the sketch, was that it felt really sad and painful, more than funny.   Or, at least, as I was watching it with the knowledge that the government was debating a bill to prohibit the promotion of homosexuality, i wondered if this sketch was in fact just that 'a promotion' of the idea that people (maybe two men?) might want to dance with eachother, and might want to do that in a context where other understand that desire as as a crime. 

I couldn't help but see the piece as a moment of political activism by the clowns. Afterall, they were performing to an audience of children, exactly those who need to be protected from the idea that there might be same-sex relationships or love or desire.  So.....Watching the sketch both made me happy and broke my heart.

1 comment:

  1. This post is especially interesting as Prop 8 in California is deemed unconstitutional. Two nations that created the Cold War having the same social and legal debate at the same time. Hopefully this law in St. Petersburg lasts as long as Prop 8, about 8 minutes. Most interesting in this debate are those who want an opportunity, privilege or experience themselves that they want to restrict for others because of their 'difference'. Hypocrisy is only the beginning of an explanation.

    As an educator, the idea that a child will do something just because they find out about it is not evident in research literature. Education and knowledge is power, and kids should have all they power they need to make individual, informed opinion and choices that fit with her or his life purpose. Thanks for keeping us informed Rebecca.


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