Real Men and Women in Ukraine

If you’ve seen Joseph von Sternberg’s 1930 classic film The Blue Angel, you’ll know that it features the young Marlene Dietrich as the sexy chanteuse Lola-Lola who belts out a song that made her a star: “Kinder, heute abend, da such ich mir was aus.” Lola starts by saying she’s “in love with a man, but doesn’t know which one,” and then proceeds with the refrain:

Hey, kids, tonight I’m gonna find me
A man, a real man!
Hey, kids, I’m fed up with the boys,
A man, a real man!
A man whose heart still burns
A man whose eyes glow with fire
In short: a man who wants to kiss and can
A man, a real man!

Well, I’ve got good news for Marlene. If she were living in Ukraine today, she’d have no trouble finding a real man—or, for that matter, a real woman. 

In early September of this year, the “Rating” Sociological Group asked 1,200 Ukrainians, 18 and older, who they believed was a “real man” and a “real woman.” The results are encouraging for Ukraine and its political culture.

The top male vote-getters were: ex-boxer and Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform leader Vitaly Klitschko (30.1 percent), his brother, world heavyweight champion Volodymyr Klitschko (9.9), Russian President Vladimir Putin (9.5), Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (6.3), democratic opposition leader Arsenii Yatseniuk (5.3), and soccer star Andrii Shevchenko (5.1).

Significantly, Vitaly did well across Ukraine, polling 37 percent and 41 percent in the center and west and 21 percent in both south and east. His brother Volodymyr’s numbers were, respectively, 15, 15, 6, and 5 percent. Putin did well in the center (10), south (15), and east (12), and miserably in the west (2). Yanukovych’s numbers for the center, south, east, and west were 8, 6, 7, and 2 percent, while Yatseniuk’s were 8, 1, 3, and 9 percent. 

Thirty-five percent of men preferred Vitaly, while 26 percent of women did. The male-female breakdown for the others was: Volodymyr (12, 8), Putin (11, 8), Yanukovych (6, 7), Yatseniuk (3, 7), and Shevchenko (8, 3).

Here’s the good news. Vitaly Klitschko got the most support, not because he’s a sports star—after all, Volodymyr keeps on knocking out his opponents in the ring and Shevchenko is one of Europe’s best football players—but because he’s a self-made man and aspiring politician who also happens to be tall, dark, and handsome. That he’s a democrat probably accounts for his somewhat lower level of support in the south and east, but there, too, a fifth of the population regards him with esteem. Consider as well that the big-fisted Yanukovych is just a sliver above the bespectacled Yatseniuk: clearly some Ukrainians are happy to consider nerds real men. But there’s also some bad news: evidently, 10 to 15 percent of central and southeastern Ukrainians regard Putin and his bare-chested he-man antics with awe. Fortunately, that’s not a lot.

Here’s the better news. Whom do you think most Ukrainians regard as a “real woman”? Some sexy singer? Some traditional homemaker? Not quite.

It’s the democratic opposition firebrand and political prisoner Yulia Tymoshenko, with 24 percent! She garnered 44 percent in the west, 32 in the center, 6 in the south, and 13 in the east; 22 percent of males and 25 percent of females. To be sure, second, third, and fifth on the list are pop singers Sofia Rotaru, Ani Lorak (both Ukrainian), and Alla Pugacheva (Russian): 10.4, 6.2, and 4.9 percent, respectively. However, fourth and sixth are German Chancellor Angela Merkel (5.2) and former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (4.2).

In sum, about a third of Ukrainians view really tough, smart, and successful ladies as “real women,” 15 percent admire the mature professionals Rotaru and Pugacheva, and only about a twentieth opted for the Lola-Lola type. 

This is great news. Despite having a political culture that is still hostage to too many of the retrograde values that Communism promoted, Ukrainians clearly are breaking out of traditional male-female stereotypes. Vitaly Klitschko is a cross between US basketball star-turned-senator Bill Bradley and bodybuilder-turned-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. And Yulia Tymoshenko is Ukraine’s answer to an amalgam of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and businesswoman Carly Fiorina.

A Tymoshenko-Klitschko ticket, anyone? How could Yanukovych, or any Regionnaire for that matter, possibly compete with her burning heart and his glowing eyes?

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