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

By Tatyana Mamonova; Margaret Maxwell | Go to book overview

23
Feminism: A Sense of
Responsibility and A Sense of
Human Dignity

As far as I can see, the feminist movement in America finds itself in the same maze as in Russia.Professional women in the USSR are similar to the Yuppies in the United States in their conservatism, dread of politics, and indifference to feminism which laboriously paved the way for their prosperity — in Imperial Russia before the 1917 Revolution and in the new Soviet regime in the 1920s.Today, as they retreat into personal careerism, Russian women do not notice that they are losing their assertive position.Indeed, the patriarchy is not napping and does not ever intend to give up its privileges. It has conjured up a new woman, who is forced to serve in a new fashion, as a "partner" (unequal, of course) in the building of the socialist state.

Women doctors, lawyers, engineers and architects in the Soviet Union actually do have a wider field in which to realize their opportunities than in the past, but patriarchal society demands from them ceaseless proof of their right to exist.It says, "So you want new rights? Here they are! We will admit you to the higher spheres, but all that nature and tradition earlier burdened you with remain your obligations.You must cope with both the old and the new. And don't grumble — its your choice. Stand firm. Keep silent."

As a result of her old and new responsibilities, the Soviet woman finds herself with a houseful of children, and a husband, plus her professional duties as a doctor, lawyer, or engineer.She does not make it into the highest ranks of academe, or to the Politburo — the most prestigious positions — on account of her double load, but the patriarchy uses it against her: You cannot do it! You're not coping! It's not your place! If you can't take it, why did you get into it? Don't you see that only men can handle the top jobs?

Valentina Tereshkova, the celebrated spacewoman, remains a facade, for her position as president of the Committee of Soviet Women is used by the patriarchy against women; no ordinary woman has access to the president, and the Politburo dictates to the Committee of Soviet Women who may

-168-

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