Russian President Putin takes a topless dip in the freezing waters of Lake Seliger. He has reportedly never worn a skirt. Picture: REUTERS
Russian President Putin takes a topless dip in the freezing waters of Lake Seliger. He has reportedly never worn a skirt. Picture: REUTERS

Tbilisi — A company’s offer of extra payments for women who wear a skirt or a dress to work has sparked a furious backlash in Russia, with feminists (and women in general) calling it a return to the Middle Ages.

Aluminium firm Tatprof promised 100 roubles ($1.50) a day to female staff who sent bosses a selfie of themselves dressed according to rules that also required them to wear modest make-up and have their hair tied up.

The “femininity marathon” would allow women to feel more feminine, and would brighten up the office for the — mainly male — staff, the company told news website TJurnal.

Russians took to social media to express their outrage.

“We are not here to make mans [sic] days brighter,” Instagram user jumagri wrote on the company’s page, while female and feminist blogger Zalina Marshenkulova described the move as “news from the Middle Ages”.

The company declined to comment, pointing to remarks issued to local media in which it denied the campaign was sexist.

They included the assertion that all the women who had sent in selfies so far — from accountants to sales managers to industrial safety specialists — “are smiling and even seem to be glowing”.

Jacqui Hunt, director of Equality Now’s European office, said the campaign perpetuated harmful stereotypes that held back both women and men.

“Such messages are derogatory and offensive for Russian women and perpetuate harmful assigned roles that hold back both women and men, impoverishing society rather than allowing it to flourish,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an e-mail.

Tatprof is based in Naberezhnye Chelny, a major industrial city in western Russia, and makes a range of aluminium products from window frames to balcony railings.

Russian women are barred by law from doing more than 450 jobs that entail “heavy work and work in harmful working conditions”, such as mining, firefighting and diving.

Thomson Reuters Foundation