e-Book on Russian Women (Part 2)
e-Book on Russian Women (Part 2)
Russian women in Society
RW have for a long time been competing to gain equal status in Russia. Although I think competing is the wrong word. I think most women have resigned themselves to the fact that they just need to wait for changes to take place – there is nothing they can do.
This sentiment typifies a RWs place in society. She is forced to go where there are opportunities for her…and there are not many. One needs to also keep in mind the structure of Russian society. Many of our clients look for doctors, lawyers and sometimes engineers to marry. They do not know that in Russian these are the least prestigious careers with the least pay. This may not be so important to our clients but at least they will understand the woman’s place in society.
The inferior placement of RW in society has much to do with their role in history. Does anyone remember any famous women from Russian history? With the exception of Catherine the Great, that is impossible to do! Russian women are experiencing two revolutions, one is the reconnection with the West, and the other the possibility of living a life which is not possible 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. This point is easily emphasized by a comment a man once made. He said that during the 80’s he had always had the impression RW were cold, rough women with rough physical appearances. But after seeing me, he was forced to reconsider this.
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. Women are usually treated as if they are meant to serve the whims of their male counterparts.
One friend told me about her experience in finding a job. She managed to find a job which paid only 100 rubles a day. She is attractive and young, and has been the object of much attention from men. She is a bright intelligent person who strives to succeed. The owner of the shop kept postponing her weekly payments until the end of the month. He then told her that he would not pay her unless she slept with him. Stories liken these are common and demonstrates the hardship RW face.
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.
This explains why RW need to be married at such a young age. They believe it is there duty to get married and be good mothers and wives. If not married by the age of at least 25, RW are considered to be old and seen through critical eyes.