Russian Women Want You Essay

1333 words - 5 pages

The Bolshevik revolution was the beginning of a political, social, and economic experiment and in theory should have led to a society of happy workers. However, as we look back we know that what worked in theory turned out very different in practice and this is exemplified by the struggle of women to find equality in a system that promised it. Examination of Russia’s policies that effected women, labor differences between genders, work place misogyny, and women’s challenges outside of the work place offers us insight into the triumphs and failures of this grand experiment. Was the revolution a revolution for women in Russia?
Many women in Europe, like Clara Zetkin, and elsewhere were excited by the progress that was being made in Soviet Russia. Capitalism had been a disappointment to these women and they felt that communism would pave the way to more fulfilling lives. Previous to the revolution women were expected to take on traditional roles as housewives and mothers. Divorce favored men and women rarely had careers of their own and never alongside men. The Bolsheviks promised them equality in work and pay because, they believed that progress at work would naturally lead to equality between the sexes. They also promised to help wives and mothers free themselves from the burdens of the home by providing day cares for children, after school programs, community laundries and kitchens, maternity leave, and other helping institutions. In addition, work places and other after work programs would educate and train both men and women to be better workers and taught many to read (Smidowitsch 12). Furthermore, women gained the right to vote and could participate in policy making or hold important positions in unions and gender was not an issue when it came to legal rights. Therefore, Women’s position did improve dramatically after the revolution but many of these things didn’t come to fruition for many women in Russia. These policies were brave ideas that were never fully or correctly implemented to the detriment of Russia’s women. For example the social programs meant to lessen women’s burden at home never materialized for most women and at work they faced many types of sexual discrimination from men, and some women, who remained bigoted from pre-revolution values.
Laws couldn’t change the way men thought of their role in society or women’s own attitudes about their current roles. Women were subjected to daily acts of sexual harassment and other forms of abuse from fellow workers who were mostly men, but sometimes women, made raunchy comments and gestures at women workers. Managers would use their position to solicit sexual acts from female employees in exchange for promotions and higher pay (Koenker 1449). Moreover, when the government did step in women were merely promoted to positions outside of the shop to, “cooperatives, factory cafeterias, kindergartens, and medical clinics” (Koenker 1456). Men complained that women weren’t physical...

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