“[In]… the brothels off Wenceslas Sq., in central Prague, [where] sexual intercourse can be bought for USD 25 – about 50 % the value billed at a German brothel… Slav women of all ages have supplanted Filipinos and Thais as the most typical overseas presenting in [Europe].” (The Economist, August 2000, p.18)
“I am also wary of the innovative ambition of some feminist texts, with their strategies about switching existing ailments, having observed enough tried utopia’s for a single life time” (Petr Príhoda, The New Existence, 2000, p. 35).
“As almost certainly every nation has its Amazons, if we go considerably back in Czech mythology, to a assortment of Aged Czech Legends, we come throughout a very interesting legend about the Dévín castle (which pretty much implies ‘The Girls’ Castle’). It describes a bloody story about a rebellion of ladies, who commenced a vengeful war towards males. As the story goes, they have been not only capable warriors, they had no mercy and would not wait to destroy their fathers and brothers. Underneath the leadership of mighty Vlasta, the “ladies” lived in their castle, “Dévín”, in which they underwent a severe military services coaching. They led the war very properly, and 1 day Vlasta came up with an shrewd strategy, how to acquire hostage a famous nobleman, Ctirad. She selected the attractive Sárka from the physique (sic!) of her troops and experienced her tied up to a tree by a road with a horn and a jar of a mead out of her reach, but in her sight. In this point out, Sárka was waiting for Ctirad to come across her. When he in fact actually appeared and saw her, she explained to him a sad tale of how the ladies from Dévín punished her for not pursuing their ideology by tying her to the tree, mockingly putting a jar and a horn (so that she would be usually reminded that she is thirsty and helpless) around by. Ctirad, enchanted by the beautiful female, considered the entice and untied her, and when she handed him the mead, he willingly drunk it. When he was drunk previously, she permit him blow the horn, which was a sign for the Dévín warriors to capture him. He was then tortured in lots of terrible techniques, at the stop of which, his overall body was woven into a wood wheel and displayed. This event mobilized the army, which quickly later on wrecked Dévín. (Quite substantially, this legend is the only account of radical feminism in Czech Lands.)” (“The Vissicitudes of Czech Feminism” by Petra Hanáková)
“We myself…and several other folks are not in look for of international sisterhood at all, and it is only when we give up anticipating it that we can get any where. It is every single other’s very ‘otherness ‘ that motivates us, and the points we locate in common just take on bigger indicating in just the context of otherness. There is so a lot to master by evaluating the methods in which we are diverse, and which the exact same aspects of women’s encounter are international, and which usually are not, and wondering why, and what it suggests” (Jirina Siklová)
“It is hard to carry 3 watermelons less than one arm.” (Proverb attributed to Bulgarian females)
“The high stage of unemployment among girls, segregation in the labour current market, the increasing salary hole concerning women and men, the lack of girls existing at the selection making amount, expanding violence from girls, the superior degrees of maternal and toddler mortality, the total absence of a contraceptive sector in Russia, the insufficiency of boy or girl welfare advantages, the absence of ample methods to fund present state programs – this is only element of the lengthy list of women’s rights violations.” (Elena Kotchkina, Moscow Centre for Gender Scientific studies, “Report on the Authorized Standing of Girls in Russia”)
Communism was men’s nightmare and women’s aspiration, or so the left wing model goes. In reality it was a gender-neutral hell. Women of all ages less than communism were being, certainly, encouraged to take part in the labour force. An array of conveniences facilitated their participation: day treatment centres, kindergarten, daylong schools, abortion clinics. They had their quota in parliament. They climbed to the top of some professions (although there was a list of women-no cost occupations, a lot more than 90 is Poland). But this – as most other points in communism – was a mere simulacrum.
Actuality was substantially drearier. Females, on the other hand mettlesome, groaned underneath the “triple load” – perform, marital anticipations cum childrearing chores and social gathering activism. They succumbed to the lure and requires of the (stress filled and boastful) graphic of the communist “super-lady”. This martyrdom – now threatened by the twin Western imports, capitalism and feminism – served as a fountain of self-esteem and a source of self-really worth in usually gloomy circumstances.
But, the communist encouraged place of work revolution was not complemented by a domestic a single. Women’s regular roles – so succinctly summarized by Bismarck with Prussian geniality as “kitchen, children, church” – survived the modernizing onslaught of scientific Marxism. It is genuine that electricity shifted inside the family members unit (“The lady is the neck that moves the head, her husband”). But the “underslippers” (as Czech adult men disparagingly self-labeled) even now experienced the upper hand. In limited, women of all ages ended up now subjected to onerous double patriarchy, both personal and community (the latter propagated by the party and the condition). It is not that they did not benefit the independence, position, social conversation and assist networks that their positions afforded them. But they resented the absence of preference (work was obligatory) and the parasitic rule of their often worthless husbands. Many of them were being an integral and crucial aspect of nationwide and social actions throughout the region. Nevertheless, with victory secured and objectives accomplished, they were invariably shunned and marginalized. As a end result, they felt exploited and abused. Tiny surprise women voted overwhelmingly for right wing get-togethers article communism.
However, even after the demise of communism, Western feminism failed to get root in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The East Coastline Amazons from The usa and their British counterparts have been far too ideological, too Marxist, too radical and way too gentlemen-hating and family-disparaging to engender significantly pursuing in the just-liberated victims of leftist ideologies. Hectoring, extremely-politicized women ended up a staple of communism – and so was women’s liberation. Girls in CEE vowed: “never ever once again”.
In addition, the evaporation of the iron curtain lifted the triple stress as well. Ladies lastly had a choice regardless of whether to build a profession and how to equilibrium it with family members life. Granted, financial hardship made this selection really theoretical. The moment yet again, gals experienced to do the job to make ends satisfy. But the stifling ethos was gone.
Communism remaining at the rear of it a legal infrastructure incompatible with a modern marketplace economy. Maternal leave was wherever amongst 18 and 36 (!) months, for occasion. But there have been no laws to deal with domestic or spousal violence, girls trafficking, structured crime prostitution rings, discrimination, inequality, marital rape, date rape and a host of other challenges. There were no women’s media of any variety (Television set or print). No university supplied a gender studies software or experienced a women’s reports office. Communism was fascinated in girls (and human beings) as implies of creation. It overlooked all other dimensions of their existence. In sputnik-era Russia, there were being no factories for tampons or sanitary bandages, for case in point. Communism thought that the restructuring of course relations will resolve all other social inequities. Feminism effectively belonged to the spoiled, brooding gals of the West – not to the bluestockings of communism. Disregarding complications was communism’s way of fixing them. Thus, there was no official unemployment in the lands of socialism – or medication, or AIDS, or unhappy women. To borrow from psychodynamic theories, Communism hardly ever developed “issue constancy”.
To quite a few, females involved, communism was about the perversion of the “pure get”. Gentlemen and females had been catapulted out of their pre-ordained social orbits into an experiment in dystopy. When it finished, put up communism turned a throwback to the 19th century: its values, mores and petite bourgeois aspirations. In the exegesis of changeover, communism was interpreted as an aberration, an interruption in an normally linear development. It was cast as a regrettable historical incident or, worse, a criminal endeavour to be vehemently disowned and reversed.
But yet again women of all ages proved to be the primary victims of historic procedures, this time of transition. They noticed their work consumed by male-dominated privatization and male-biased technological modernization. Gentlemen in the CEE are 3 moments more most likely to locate a task, 60-80% of all women’s work had been lost (for instance in the textile and apparel industries) and the maximum prices of unemployment are amongst center aged and more mature girls (“unemployment with a female face” as it is known as in Ukraine). Gals represent 50-70% of the unemployed. And women’s unemployment is in all probability underneath-reported. Most unrecorded workers (omitted from the official statistics) are gals. Where by retraining is accessible (a rarity), gals are experienced to do laptop or computer jobs, mainly clerical and minimal skilled.
Males, on the other hand, are assigned to assimilate new and promising technologies. In lots of nations, women are requested to waive their legal rights beneath the law, or even to develop proof of sterilization before they get a position. The only ray of light-weight is increased education and learning, in which women’s participation actually greater in specific countries. But this blessing is confined to “female” (minimal pay out and very low standing) professions. Vocational and specialized universities have both shut down completely or shut their gates to females. Even in feminized professions (this kind of as university training), females make significantly less than 20% of the higher rungs (e.g., whole professorships). The tidal wave of the increasing cost of education and learning threatens to drown this development of women’s training. Scientific studies have revealed that, with mounting prices, women’s instructional possibilities drop. Households like to commit – and rationally so – in their males.
Women of all ages witnessed the resurgence of nostalgic nationalism, neo traditionalism and religious revival – social forces which sought to confine them to household, fireplace, spouse and small children and to “liberate” them from the “compelled labour” of communism. Destructive demographic traits (declining daily life expectancy and start fee, several abortions, late marriage, a high divorce rate, expanding suicide amount) conspired to provoke a “we are a dying nation” outcry and the inescapable re-emphasis of the woman’s reproductive capabilities. Fierce debates about the morality of abortion erupted in bastions of Catholic fundamentalism (this sort of as Poland and, to a lesser diploma, Lithuania) as nicely as in citadels of rational agnosticism, these kinds of as the Czech Republic. Curiously, prostitution and ladies trafficking were being recognized as unavoidable. Maybe because they catered to masculine demands.
In fact, in feminist lore and theory, each nationalism and capitalism are “patriarchal”. Nationalism allocates unique and mutually special roles to adult males and women of all ages. The latter are supposed to act as homemakers and have infants. Capitalism encourages the development of impregnable male elites, disseminates new systems primarily to male monopolies, gets rid of menial and reduced expert (women’s) positions and puts emphasis on masculine characteristics this kind of as aggression and competitiveness. No speculate feminine political illustration in parliaments and governments diminished dramatically given that 1989. When powerless, below communism, CEE parliaments were being stacked with women of all ages. Now that they are far more powerful elected bodies, they are nearly nowhere to be found. The handful of that infiltrated these august institutions are relegated to “soft” committees (social concerns, normally) devoid of budgets and of influence. It is very a great deal like underneath communism when the final decision making social gathering echelons ended up predominantly male. The only influential females then were being dissidents but they appear to have rejected the fruit of their labour, democracy, in favour of tranquility and peace of intellect – or to have been usurped by an emerging male establishment. Irrespective of an education and learning in economics, they are beneath-represented among the business enterprise executives, the entrepreneurs of privatized enterprises and the beneficiaries of favourable fork out polices and tax systems.
This erosion of their economic foundation coupled with the drastic decreases in little one rewards, in the length of maternal go away, in the quantity of general public and, thus, reasonably priced baby care amenities and in other support networks led to a swift deterioration in the social position and leverage of females. With their only powerful contraceptive – abortion – restricted, maternal mortality exploded. So did teenage being pregnant – a final result of the curtailing or absence of sexual intercourse education. The rate of sexually transmitted disorders went by means of the roof. Violence against ladies – rape, spousal abuse, day rape – became epidemic. So did skyrocketing road prostitution. Widowed women of all ages – an ever much more frequent phenomenon in CEE – are destitute and diminished to begging as the pensions of the blessed kinds are floor to nil by a soaring price tag of residing and IMF prodded stinginess. There are also far more quotidian troubles (normally neglected by the media hungry and soundbite craving feminists) like pitiful divorce routine maintenance payments or decrepit maternity wards in crumbling hospitals.
Nonetheless, women’s response to all this was noteworthy in its absence. Following a long time of compelled activism and imposed altruism, the imported Western individualism mutated in CEE to malignant egotism. A sliver of the female populace did effectively in local governing administration and as entrepreneurs. The rest (particularly the previous, the rural, the much less educated) stayed at home and seemed to fancy this novel experience of dependence. A generational divide emerged. Young women of all ages discovered the joys of conspicuous usage and head numbing pop “lifestyle”. They constituted the masses of vocation opportunists, the new managerial course, shareholders and pros – a pale imitation of the yuppies of The united states. Older females retreated – heaving a sigh of reduction – into property and loved ones, in search of refuge from the intrusion of cumbersome community issues. Economic realities continue to compelled them to find a occupation and constant revenue (often in a household company or in the informal economy, with no task stability or controlled labour ailments) but their activism vanished into newfound and demonstrative reclusiveness.
But, even the youthful business owners normally fare poorly. They absence the essential business enterprise skills, the awareness, the supportive infrastructure, or the entry to credit. The more mature women of all ages simply cannot work long hours, absence competencies and, when formally used, are pricey, because of to the load of the nevertheless powerful social advantages. As a result, gals can be typically observed in services, mild business and agriculture – the most non lucrative sectors of the dilapidated economies of CEE. And speaking of the social gains not nevertheless axed – their excellent has deteriorated, obtain to them has been limited and materials are generally short. The expenditures of general public merchandise (mainly overall health and education and learning) have been transferred from condition to homes either formally (a outcome of the commercialization of services) or surreptitiously and insidiously (e.g., clients necessary to purchase their personal foodstuff, bed sheets and treatment when hospitalized).
To blame it all on a botched transition is now in vogue. But, many of the troubles dealing with the wretched females of CEE were being evident as early as 30 a long time back. The feminization of poverty is not a new phenomenon, nor is the feminization of particular professions and the attendant decline in both their standing and their spend. Below communism, females felt as fatigued and as guilt-ridden as they come to feel right now. They were regarded unreliable staff (which they had been, what with a lifetime ordinary of 10 abortions and 2 youngsters). Their offspring endured an alienated childhood in the brutal and faceless gulag of day treatment centres managed by indifferent bureaucrats. Juvenile delinquency, a large divorce charge, single motherhood and parasitic fathers have been all swept less than the ideological carpet by communism. Even communism’s only accomplishment – the inclusionary workforce – was an elaborately crafted illusion for use by large-eyed Western intellectuals. In the agrarian societies which preceded communism, girls worked no much less. And women were not authorized to function night time or shifts or in selected work, nor ended up they paid out as considerably as men in equal features. Task promoting is sexual intercourse-specific and sexist to this really working day (in stark violation of dead letter Constitutions).
Discarding the little one with the leaking bathtub has been a hallmark of changeover. Communism has done a ton for women of all ages (one of its pretty uncommon achievements). Some of these foundations have been seem and strong and need to have been preserved to construct upon. Still the apathy of ladies and the zeal of power hungry males converged to generate an aged new globe: patriarchal, discriminatory and iniquitous. The working day of CEE feminism will come. But 1st, CEE has to come to be far more Westernized.