A guest post by Serpentus:
There are two main stereotypes Americans have of Russian women: Olga and Petra. Since most Americans believe that Russia and all of Eastern Europe basically share the same history, culture, and language, the stereotypes apply generally to all Eastern European women.
Olga is a rough, tough woman with a masculine attitude and with an even more masculine voice. She speaks with a thick accent. She is strong due to the long, bitter years of communism and living with the bears in caves during the blizzards of winter. It is comparable to the Sapphire stereotype that Americans have of black women.
Olga likes to drink vodka. She is not feminine nor sexy. Men are afraid of her. She can be of almost any age, although she is usually seen as being older, near middle-age. She is angry and sometimes depressing to be around.
Americans notice that Eastern European immigrants do not smile or laugh much. However, Russian women do have a sense of humor; it is just expressed differently – not like the fake smiles that cashiers give that most Americans are used to. When a Russian woman smiles at you, you can be sure that it is genuine.
Petra is a beautiful young woman who also has an accent, but in a sexy sort of way (An attractive face and body more than make up for an ugly accent.) Men go crazy after her. She is seen as exotic, feminine, and submissive.
Petra is the complete opposite of Olga.
Petra easily fits into the American racialized standards of beauty (blonde hair and blue eyes) because she is white. Thus, Russian models can easily surpass any African, Latina, Mixed, or Asian model due to society’s favor of white beauty.
Petra is submissive, a possible housewife who takes care of the children, cooks, and cleans – a dream come true to American white men who bemoan the loss of the stereotypical submissive 1950s American housewife.
Both Petra and Olga drink vodka, but Petra is sexy, not angry, when drunk.
Both Petra and Olga are materialistic, but Petra is seen as rich and Olga as either middle-class or poor.
In a way, Petra is a little bit like the Jezebel stereotype Americans have of black women – they will marry any man with money because they desperately want to escape Russia.
Many readers may wonder how Americans can have two opposite stereotypes of Russian women. The truth is that they don’t.
The Olga stereotype has been falling away for some time now. Less and less people hold the Olga stereotype. It seems to have arisen during the Cold War from American propaganda that all communists were cold, sad, and inherently evil.
Since at least the 1990s, the Petra stereotype has become more dominant and influential, most likely because of mail-order Russian brides and Eastern European supermodels such as Petra Nemcova (for which I coined the stereotype. Nevermind that she is Czech; for Americans, it is all the same).