UKRAINE: 8 First Dates (8 перших побачень, 2012)

Analyzing the claim that beautiful women are Ukraine’s brand through 8 First Dates (2012)

by Paulina Zacharko

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed that beauty is his country’s ‘brand,’ and it does not help that then Vice President Joe Biden agreed. However, if this is true, what standards of beauty are then included? Considering the subjectiveness of this question, the answer in inevitably exclusive and unfair.

Miss Ukraine beauty pageant rules dominate Ukrainian perceptions of beauty. To consider these as the ultimate standards of beauty means that a girl under 17 or a woman over 25 who has ever been divorced or given birth is incapable of being even in contention for most beautiful. In fact, when Veronika Didusenko won the 2018 Miss Ukraine beauty pageant, she was forced to give up her crown on the basis of the two latter characteristics (Euronews). Beauty is thought to be subjective, but this seems to only be a remark made to those who just don’t make society’s cut. In a country where it is against the rules in their national beauty pageant to have a child and ex-husband, the idea of beauty implies young, innocent, and lifeless. It shows that physical appearance is not the only factor of beauty Ukraine considers. Not having children is typically a characteristic of only underage girls in the country. Being married, but not divorced, puts pressure on women to stay in a relationship even if abusive. It doesn’t help that contestants must be body-hairless, like a newborn (Euronews).

Women can also become soldiers in Ukraine. Despite their inclusion in the military, their participation is inherently sexualized due to the requirement that they wear heels to public events. Men soldiers are never asked to do the same. If not blatant sexism and disrespect, what should trouble the Ukrainian government are how these standards against women soldiers are viewed in the eyes of the Russian Federation which has sought to diminish Ukrainian independence. Acts to reinforce bigotry often in a country inadvertently have national security dangers. Clips of soldiers in nonfunctional-for-combat heels do and have arrived at the Russian government, and in their own sexist and hegemonic eyes, Ukraine is absolutely far from sustained sovereignty (WION). The country generally believes that being considered beautiful is the best thing a girl or woman can do, and even in the midst of losing independence, this is what is prioritized. The capitalist concept of marketing a nation with a brand is apparently that necessary.

Moving forward, Ukraine can start to embrace femininity with strength. A method: political means. In fact, the first person I gravitated towards in my understanding of Ukrainian politics was Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. However, I quickly landed on the darker side of the internet. Articles went from accusing Tymoshenko of being part of Russia’s Kremlin to exclusively journalizing her “diminishing hourglass” (Financial Times). What upset me most was to see yet another female politician so thoughtlessly degraded. Perhaps Tymoshenko could make more progressive stances if she wasn’t having to make her proposals palatable to the conservative and masculine-oriented government. It’s possible she could be seen as outspoken instead of aggressive if the President didn’t consider beauty the country’s biggest priority.