In Russia, women who complain of harassment are generally mocked and ignored, including by other women. Both the government and the powerful Russian Orthodox church commend traditional family hierarchies, which privilege the man. In China, a (possibly) extreme example of the culture was caught on a video posted on a popular web site: the teaching in one of many “morality schools” set up to educate women in obedience. One teacher was shown telling her class: “Don’t fight back when beaten. Don’t talk back when scolded. And, no matter what, don’t get divorced.”

These schools point to a semi-subterranean, but highly divisive, clash of cultures. On one side, a return to a society where women submissively accept men as masters, both in the home and in the nation; on the other, an appeal to the values of equality and respect. The women who protest have to fight custom, a male-dominated society, a ruling party that hates challenges to its monopoly of knowing what is good for the country as well as the fearfulness of many women, often hard-pressed and poor, who feel they have no choice but put up with the way they’re treated.