I grew up in the United States, which doesn’t pay much attention to International Women’s Day, so when I moved to Europe years ago I just assumed it was – well, I don’t know what I assumed.

Not that I much cared, either. I don’t have much time for holidays that honor any one group based on some inborn characteristic. Too often there’s a sense of guilt or even a patronizing air about them (see American Black History Month).

Still, I did assume it wasn’t about picking the sexiest babes in male-dominated professions. So I was chagrined, and amused, last week when I spotted on the Russian Interior Ministry’s website a “news” item “Kuzbass Chooses Miss Police.”

Here’s an explanation of the contest, from the English-language version of the site:

Two weeks ago, the official website of the Main Administration of Russia’s MVD for Kemerovo Oblast got adorned with 15 photos of beautiful fair sex women, and the beauty contest “Miss Police” was declared open. This contest was organized on the eve of the International Women’s Day of March 8. 15 contestants were the beautiful women serving in the Internal Affairs authorities along with men. Charming investigators, tracers, patrol and guard police officers, juvenile inspectors and even escort guards proved by their participation that a woman may remain a woman in the police as well, and the uniform may serve as a decoration.

We learn that the winner, Captain Anastasiya Lugovaya, heard of her victory while “apprehending a suspect.”

“During hard weekdays, the girl remains a real lady wearing high heeled shoes even during the raids, which does not prevent her from achieving good service performance.”

I’m not happy about this, but I’m laughing too hard to be outraged. Ms. magazine used to have a section for items that were too ridiculous or appalling to require comment. It was, appropriately, called No Comment, which is where I think this fits.

Natalia Antonova, a columnist for RIA Novosti, writes, “[I]n celebrating women on March 8, we in Russia tend to go for aesthetic extremes: either we celebrate the commercial notion of femininity, that which comes packaged with a push-up bra and an expensive gym membership, or we tend to look towards some bland Soviet ideal.”

Somehow this beauty contest, with its “good worker” kind of language, managed to do both at once.

Barbara Frye

Barbara Frye is Transitions Online’s managing editor. Email: barbara.frye@tol.org

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