I hold by what I wrote in this piece: the stereotype that ‘Ukrainians are fascists’ is as incorrect and damaging as the stereotype it has replaced, that ‘Ukrainian women are prostitutes’.
Minutes after the piece was published I saw a facebook post of photographs of pretty Ukrainian girls enrolling in the National Guard Institute in Kyiv, with the invitation to compare them to the ‘genetic material’ of Novorossiya. I saw that post had got over a thousand likes from Ukrainians. And I realised that putting sexist and fascist stereotypes together in one article about Ukraine was sadly, not at all a stretch.
I still hold by my opinion:
If the ‘prostitute’ label was extremely harmful for Ukrainian women, the ‘fascist’ label is harmful to the country as a whole, because it becomes not just a justification for open Russian aggression in Ukraine, but an excuse for other nations not to condemn that aggression. If ‘Ukrainian women are prostitutes’ then unfortunately in many people’s minds they ‘deserve’ rape, abuse and exploitation. These days, in thrall to a new stereotype, much of the world seems to assume that since ‘Ukrainians are fascists’, they ‘deserve’ the loss of Crimea and the Russian-supported war in the east in which thousands of entirely non-fascist civilians as well as soldiers from both Ukraine and Russia have died so far.
This matters too, because war reduces people to many desperate strategies to stay alive, and war encourages extremism. If the east Ukraine war continues, or is permitted to become a ‘frozen conflict’ sapping Ukrainian economic and civil development, those Ukraine stereotypes may edge towards becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.