I don’t think that there’s anyone who hasn’t seen the film Coyote Ugly at least once. I, for one, have seen it a few times, and although I wouldn’t consider it a great masterpiece, I still must acknowledge its merits. What’s better to break down one’s prudishness than seeing the adorable, shy, and sweet-as-sugar main character dance away on the bartop?! And what’s even more striking – and a definite nudge towards you being more tolerant and slightly less stuck up – is to see it happening in the flesh.
Last weekend we went to Moscow, and what we saw in roughly thirty minutes (we couldn’t bear to stay any longer) made me think a lot more than a casual night out is supposed to. After many remoresful hours spent wondering why it is that I think dancing on a bartop is not quality clubbing, I am now a hundred percent sure that those girls who went to Crazy Daisy in Moscow last weekend, the girls who broke their way through the crowd and were helped onto the bartop by the bouncer, had a hell of a lot of fun. Yet it still leaves me with a bitter taste.
As a foreigner in Russia, you can never be certain about your night out. It might not turn out the way you planned. Even if you pick a club, there are high chances that said club didn’t pick you as one of their customers that night. There’s nothing more hurtful to a slightly intoxicated mind than to be bluntly refused by the bouncers. Happy and cheerful you walk up to the door, only to get the answer to a question that you didn’t even ask – net. It’s a no that leaves no space for questions. So you turn around and look for another place, hoping that they might let you in.
If you manage to find somewhere that is merciful enough to welcome you, you and your friends still have to face the cruel Eastern European way of pricing tickets. Guys – 500 roubles. Girls – free. I have to admit that when I was in high school in Hungary I couldn’t even imagine that it should be any other way – of course I wasn’t going to pay as much as a guy, I’m a girl. That reasoning seemed right then, but now that I’ve been enlightened and have lived in a community concerned about gender equality, I find it unacceptable.
Once you’re inside, you expect some entertainment for your money. And not just the thrilling shock when they let you know that you have to pay 1000 roubles if you want to sit down. Where better to stand than at the bar then? Not only do you have the best view of the ladies dancing on it but you can also spot the busy bartenders preparing some fun for you.
Russia’s not playing it small. A spirit-filled shot glass is placed on the bartop and some alcohol is poured around it in a half circle. The two bartenders, one of them a girl with a long fringe (this is important information concerning what happens later) take a sip each of some drinks and blow at the shot glass, that was conveniently lit before. Flames break out towards the crowd standing around the bar. Everyone is in awe, but us especially, foreigners who suddenly start questioning whether we are in a club or a circus. Unfortunately, the girl’s hair behind the bar catches on fire. To calm the concerned onlookers, the MC in a spiked bra announces that she is fine before going on with the show and grabbing some guy’s hair.
It seems a night out in Russia is not without spectacles or visual stimulants. On another occasion, when we went to a much smaller club in Tver – the town where we study – the shock only hit me half way through the night. Two girls wearing minimal clothing and covered in oil appeared on two stands. That was their job – to dance sexily, covered in oil, in a club attended by men in white shirts and women wearing their shortest and tightest dresses and highest heels. My prude heart broke when after the confetti shower, they were still dancing there with some pieces of paper stuck to their body here and there. The only difference between these two dancers and the girls dancing on the bartop, is where their motivation is coming from. The girls in Moscow were thrilled to be able to dance there and feel each other up, make their own show. The girls in Tver were simply doing their job – even though there is of course the possibility that they enjoy it.
One important thing is the same about them though: they live in a society where women are to be looked at, and shamelessly. They function as decorations. Russia has got a long way to go, but as anywhere, when change is needed, it is just a matter of time before it will happen. Pussy Riot have already done their share of the fight and continue to do so, and others are making their appearance too. With people such as Yelena Serova, the fourth Russian female astronaut to go into space, who refuses to answer banal questions like ‘how she plans to do her hair’ once she’s there, Russia is off to a strong start.