Russian Woman and the Social Structure of Russia
The position of Russian women in social structure of Russia has always been a sore subject in Russia. Up to the middle of the 19th century the woman in Russia had no legal rights. She was the property of her husband and her social status depended on that of her husband. All education a woman could get was private, any public service (i.e., a possibility of taking some post) was out of the question.
The 1860s are the period of marking a change in feminine consciousness and the starting point of feminine struggle for equal rights. The idea of emancipation was conceived by the progressive, educated part of Russian women nobility. They strove for the right to get public education, including higher education. (In the 70s the higher courses of Bestuzhev were founded and existed up to the Revolution of 1917). The first Russian emancipated women emphasized independence outwardly: they cut their hair short, smoked, abandoned their families (strove to prove they were able to support themselves), despised men, considered the institution of the family a survival of the past. Since 1917, after the Revolution, the Soviets officially granted equal rights to men and women. But in the socialist state the women could exercise her equal rights in social labor only. Thus even popular women’s magazines were called “Rabotnitsa” (“The Industrial Worker“) and “Krestyanka” (“The Agricultural Worker“). The significance of the feminine personality, individual peculiarities were artificially understated.
In modern Russia the situation is different. Still, keeping in mind that Russian women nowadays may, though, volunteer army service, publish their works, play football and hockey there is a certain discrimination. This it is more difficult for a woman than a man to find a well-paid job, to start her own business, to launch a political career. Women account for 53 per cent of the population of Russia but this majority is represented in Parliament by only 10 per cent of its members.
I’d like to draw your attention to the fact, that the social structure has a direct impact on the formation of a woman’s image and the social status of women. The communist universal standardization created the I-neigh-I-bellow-I’m-a-woman-I’m-a-fellow type of women (A popular Russian rhyme used to say that a woman has to perform the functions of both men and women), but it didn’t raise the woman to the level of state affairs. Perestroika (restructuring) and democracy that accompanied it helped the Russian woman feel a Woman once again, expanded the range of available professions, previously considered masculine, but they didn’t radically change the public set of mind: the woman is still identified with the house, kitchen and children, while political games are played mostly by men.