Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to bump into President Obama later this week — that much is fairly mundane. But when asked in an interview with Radio Europe 1 whether he'd prefer to meet with Hillary Clinton, formerly the secretary of State, things got weird.
"It's better not to argue with women," Putin told an interpreter, playing on a stereotype of women as irrational, weepy creatures who presumably can't be trusted to handle complex things like diplomacy. "But Ms. Clinton has never been too graceful in her statements. Still, we always met afterwards and had cordial conversations at various international events. I think even in this case we could reach an agreement."
Next, he beat his bare chest. OK, he didn't do that. But he did suggest it's unfeminine for women to be powerful, just generally. "When people push boundaries too far, it's not because they are strong but because they are weak," he said. "But maybe weakness is not the worst quality for a woman."
No word yet on what German Chancellor Angela Merkel thinks of this.
Putin, who has been photographed shooting a gray whale with a crossbow, hunting shirtless, and tranquilizing a tiger, has developed something of a cult of masculinity around him. His particular trope of patriarchal alpha masculinity has played well not only in Russia, where gender roles have been notably slow to progress, but abroad.
Just a guess, but a Hillary Clinton presidency might teach him a few things about diplomacy. And not just between nations, but between sexes, since women, particularly strong ones, are apparently so foreign to him.