Why Can't Russian Women Drive Buses?

Ludmilla says she started ferrying passengers around Russia's capital in 1995 when the post-Soviet economy made it difficult for her family to make ends meet and other jobs didn't pay as well.

"You'll do anything to feed your family and kids, even drive trains," said Ludmilla. "Russia women will do whatever it takes."

The Russian Constitution does guarantee equal rights for men and women but the feeling among analysts and activists is there's still a long way to go before theory is put into practice.

(It should be noted that there are some restrictions on American women as well: women can't fight on the front lines in military combat, for example. And Demi Moore's portrayal in the movie "G.I. Jane," notwithstanding, women can't be Navy SEALS.)

"This is bad politics and it looks like hypocrisy," says Nadezda Shevedova, a visiting Fulbright Scholar at the Russian Academy of Sciences and a feminist. "On one hand we have constitutional rights which say that women and men will enjoy equal rights and freedoms, and simultaneously we have these restrictions. This is not good for women, it is absolutely real discrimination against women."

Shevedova's is a lonely voice in the nearly non-existent debate over the list. Though, when pressed, Russians offer an even mix of liberal and more traditional views.

"Every person decides for himself how to live, where to work, what to eat and what to drink," said a young woman emerging from a subway train. "If [Klevets] wants to work as a metro driver, why not?"

"She doesn't have the physical capabilities as a man, a man is much more ready for physical labor," an older man responded moments later. "Time is needed to recover and women have family and children they have to take care of."

General apathy and a dire economic environment have all but guaranteed that the list will not change or go away anytime soon. So the small group of activists look toward the Klevetses of Russia to ignite a national conversation about women's rights and their place in the work force.

"If women would try to protect their rights so loudly as that woman did, I think it could have a reaction in the society," Sinyavskaya concluded.

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