Last month, a video of a woman allegedly dumping water mixed with bleach into the laps of manspreaders on the Russian subway went viral. The story of 20-year-old Anna Dovgalyuk, first posted by In The Now, was papered across news outlets and social media alike as its so-called activist star combated a scourge of men taking up too much space on public transit. Dovgalyuk would approach an unsuspecting victim, dump a water bottle full of liquid on them, and then flee the scene.
According to a St. Petersburg-based publication, one of the men featured in the video said the whole thing was staged and the men were paid actors. “They poured water on us,” he wrote on a Facebook post sharing the video in his now-deleted profile. “That feeling when you come to the shooting with two spare pants and leave with a salary.” The publication also suggests that the video was shot by My Duck’s Vision, a studio with Kremlin ties that specializes in viral videos. My Duck’s Vision has denied involvement.
Dovgalyuk has pulled outlandish pranks before, including a viral video meant to call attention to “upskirting” — men taking photos of women’s underwear without their permission.
“what they see and share is in fact Russian state propaganda”
EU versus Disinformation, a site that specializes in dissecting pro-Kremlin disinformation, reports that In The Now is Kremlin-owned. “In The Now successfully brings elements of Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaign to large international audiences,” the site says. “The majority of those who are targeted will not suspect that what they see and share is in fact Russian state propaganda.”
The video did what it apparently intended to do: tap into and stoke anti-feminist sentiments. “This is not a protest, it’s assault,” one of its top comments on Facebook reads. “Maybe someone should pour bleach water on her for sticking her breasts out. Same thing.” One Russian politician even called feminism “insanity from the standpoint of a normal person,” Buzzfeed reports, and deemed it an “absolutely radical point of view.”
The video has since been pulled from channels like YouTube, but copies of it remain online. The prank may have been staged, but the resentment and anger it encouraged remains very real.