Russian Women's Studies: Essays on Sexism in Soviet Culture

By Tatyana Mamonova; Margaret Maxwell | Go to book overview

19
Women in the USSR from the
Points of View of the Official
and Unofficial Presses

As is generally known, the Socialist Revolution in Russia declared equal rights for women.Two relatively democratic and liberal periods in Soviet history give evidence of sporadic efforts to make this a reality: the social experiments and the zhenotdels of the 1920s, and the more or less open discussion of women's issues in the 1960s.But, in spite of the fact that several years ago, 8 March, International Women's Day, became an official holiday in the Soviet Union, we cannot state that equality of the sexes has been realized.More often than not, the statute on equal rights exists only in theory, both in the workplace and in the home. Men do not share family responsibilities with women: Soviet wives and mothers, unlike Western women, must perform all of their housework without the aid of machines. Their husbands prefer to pass the time behind a mug of beer or a glass of vodka, or, at best, reading the newspaper or watching TV — preferably soccer.In addition, men are not expected to make themselves attractive, while women feel they must — a fact that has become especially noticeable with the availability of data showing the increasing use of cosmetics. As regards problems specific to women, they are not being addressed at all: availability of effective means of contraception, the difficulty of obtaining sanitary napkins for menstruation; conditions in abortion clinics and maternity hospitals which leave much to be desired.

However, the Soviet State considers the participation of women in the work place mandatory and, in various ways, propagandizes the active role of women in production.As a result, women bear a double burden, and, taking stock of patriarchal morality, far from having been eliminated in the USSR, it has, in many ways been strengthened: a female laborer, underpaid in most cases, is also the victim of pornographic language, which is spreading at an epidemic rate and discriminates against her as a sexual object.All of these issues were raised by the samizdat Almanac, Woman and Russia, founded in

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