Russian Cultural Studies: An Introduction

By Catriona Kelly; David Shepherd | Go to book overview

16
Gender Angst in Russian Society and Cinema in the Post-Stalin Era

LYNNE ATTWOOD

After Stalin's death, the rapid industrialization and militarization of society were no longer the paramount concerns. The excessive workload which had been placed on women, the concomitant erosion of traditional gender roles, and the negative effect this had had on the birth-rate, now became subjects for both journalistic and cinematic contemplation. The model Soviet woman who successfully juggled professional and domestic roles was increasingly portrayed as a fiction, someone who existed only on cinema screens and in the press. In real life she was overworked, exhausted, and unable to perform either of her roles adequately.1 Something had to go. Some commentators suggested that women should be able to choose whether to prioritize work or family.2 However, with the emphasis now firmly on innate differences between the sexes, there was a distinct subtext. This was that women placed undue emphasis on their professional work because of decades of erroneous upbringing, and that it was in their own interests, as well as those of the family and society, for them to concentrate their attention on the family.

Furthermore, the resurrection of 'family values' under successive leaders from Brezhnev to Gorbachev, while characteristic of the unpredictable U-turns that Soviet policy on gender rights had manifested throughout its history, was not simply a top-down measure imposed on a passive population. The reinforcement of rigid gender roles also bore witness to a general recognition (albeit one that was to remain tacit until the Gorbachev era) that the employment-, education-, and

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