Opening of the International Conference “Gender in Transition in Eastern and Central Europe” 21
“Normalized Masculinities”: Constructing Gender in Theories of Political Transition and Democratic Consolidation 26
Gender and Politics in Postcommunism 37
Gender as an Analytical Category of Post-Communist Studies 49
Ten Years After: Gender Relations in a Changed World – New Challenges for Women’s and Gender Studies 57
Hildegard Maria Nickel
ZiF – the Centre for Interdisciplinary Women’s Studies. A paradigm for the Institutionalisation of Women’s and Gender studies 66
Impacts of Globalization on Gender Politics and Gender Arrangements 75
Gendered Integration of Europe: New Boundaries of Exclusion 84
Gender and Citizenship in the Context of Democratisation and Economic Transformation in East Central Europe 97
Feminist Theory and the Publi-Private-Debate
Discourses of Gender in the post-1989 Czech Republic: A Textual Perspective 118
Why Do We Need Feminist Theories or One More Time about Publicity and Privacy 124
Russia – A Patriarchal Mama-Society. The Dynamics of the Private and the Public in Soviet and Post–Soviet Russia 133
“Who is Afraid of Feminism” in Ukraine? How Feminism is Possible as a Post-Soviet Political Project? 142
Anti-feminist Attitudes, Animosities between Women, and the Public Life 148
Connecting Citizenship and Gender: the Possibilities of Arendtian Persepctive 153
Women in the Political Life of Eastern Europe: Ten Years After the End of Communism 167
The Participation of Women in Polish Authorities 176
Feminism and the Public – Private Distinction in Romanian Society 182
“The Greatest Promise – the Greatest Humiliation” 190
The Changing Labor-Market: Structures and Prospects
Gender Relations and Labour Market Transformation: Status Quo and Policy Responses in Central and Eastern Europe 201
Re-Construction of Gender Stratification. About Men, Women, and Families in Changing Employment Structures – the Case of East Germany 214
Beyond the Gender-Hierarchical Monotony? Ambilvalent Gender Relations in East German Branches of Deutsche Bahn AG (German Railways PLC) 231
Constructions of Identities – Images of Women
Universal Woman – Questions of Identity, Representation and Difference 241
Manipulated Emancipation: Representations of Women in Post-Communist Bulgaria 246
Media Discourses on Homosexuality in Hungary 254
In Search for the Lost (Taken Away) Identity 261
Generating New Definitions of Feminine Identity 268
The Armed Forces as a Place of Social Construction of Gender: Women in the Russian Military 274
“The Soviet Woman’s” Identity or Does the History Matter? 278
The Construction of Identities in Media Images of Violence against Women 284
Caroline Antonia Wilcke
Standing at the Crossroad? Women’s and Gender Images in Present Day’s Uzbekistan 295
Feminist Perspectives and National Identities
The State is a Man who Protects the Nation – Gender Relations and the Concept of State and Nation in Eastern and Central Europe 303
Where Gender and “National/Ethnic” Difference Meet 312
Women’s Human Rights in War: Outside the Law? 319
Institutionalization of Women’s and Gender Studies
East European Feminisms – in Rooms of Our Own? On the Problems of Feminist Theorising and Integrating Women’s / Gender Studies in the Baltics / Latvia 325
Gender Studies at Humboldt-University. The Process of Institutionalization in Germany 330
Gender Studies at Warsaw University 335
Eva VÓRnová-Kalivodová, JiÍina Òiklová
The Status of Women’s and Gender Studies at Universities in Post-Communist Countries: the Example of the Czech Republic. Experiences from the First Ten Years After the Change 339
Zoya A. Khotkina
Ten Years of Gender Studies in Russia: We Have Been Able to Accomplish a Lot and Look Forward with Optimism 345
Institutionalization of Gender / Women’s Studies in Russia/St. Petersburg 350
Women’s Studies: Ideological Images, Common Problems and Dilemmas 356
Dilemmas of Institutionalization and their Context/s 361
Experiences in Institutionalizing Women’s Studies at a Canadian University 365
Conference Programme 379
Jana Gohrisch / Daphne Hahn / Gabriele Jähnert / Hildegard Maria Nickel / Iris Peinl / Katrin Schäfgen
2 Discussion during the Sessions
2.1 Feminist Theory and the Public-Private Debate
Discussion of the transformation processes has been extremely ambivalent in women’s and gender research. After all, these processes display at least two crucial, contradictory factors.
On the one hand, they are always founded on a national, historical context and the concomitant “national gender order”, into which the structures of state socialism were also embedded. By comparison with western countries, gender relations in some respects produced an ambivalent “head start on equality” (Geissler 1996), notably in terms of female employment. In most socialist countries, social policies encouraged the reconciliation of paid employment with motherhood.
On the other hand, transformation today is linked to a western “path dependency”; in other words, it is under pressure to adapt to patterns of market economy which are themselves undergoing drastic alteration. As production, labour and labour markets in “post-industrial” countries are buffeted by change, the prototype of the male breadwinner and the female homemaker has been falling apart, along with the polarised domains of “public” and “private” ascribed to men and women. It is not clear what this means when it comes to structuring the “public” and the “private” in post-socialist countries. Perhaps the old concepts do not apply any more, and the viability of (western) feminist theories is already challenged. Discussion showed that this position did not attract equal support from western and eastern feminists. According to Mária Adamik, one cognitive explanation offered for this is that, even in the western countries, the social transformation taking place is reflected in differentiated form. Furthermore, interpretations of the current erosion of conventional gender relations which have recourse to the traditional categories of “public” and “private”, and to an a priori assumption of an existing gender hierarchy which disfavours women, are evidently skirting around social realities, which are fanning out more broadly, as Anca Gheaus made clear: if the agenda is social equality between the two gender groups, the aim is surely to achieve an equitable division of labour within both domains of human activity.
This is also singled out as a key condition for democratisation in the post-socialist countries, still obstructed by the gender hierarchy which governs the relationship between the public and the private. As one expression of this, Zuzana Kiczkova (for Czech/Slovak women) cited the fact that society does not accept “woman’s double burden”, i.e. the need to juggle paid employment and “private” reproductive labour. Another aspect of this unequal social relationship was elaborated with regard to Russia, where women do not function within either “private” or “public” gender relations as fully-fledged subjects, but indirectly through the influence of men, be it as wives or in a reductive role as mothers, as Martina Ritter has shown. This not only makes it harder for them to articulate and assert their interests in the “private” sphere, but also (and above all) in the public and political sphere.
Studies have shown (Einhorn 1993; Kraatz 1995; de Nève 1997; Koncz 1994) that the collapse of socialism in Central and Eastern Europe has, in the majority of cases, limited women’s opportunities to participate in the political process. In most of these countries, “proportional” quotas had ensured that women accounted for about one-third of parliamentary assemblies (ibid.). The “competitive principle” (Kraatz 1995: 249), however, meant that female representation in parliaments has shrunk to barely visible levels. Nevertheless, the fact that women were proportionately well represented in the parliaments of the former socialist countries did not signify automatic sensitivity to women’s interests or gender issues.
Women’s large-scale political exclusion after democratic elections in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe has acquired these states the fitting label of “male democracies” in feminist research (Einhorn 1993: 55). This draws attention to a contradiction at play in transformation societies: on the one hand, the transition to a multi-party democracy establishes civil rights for women (too) (Lemke 1996), but on the other their interests, demands and specific problems are extensively ignored due to their marginalisation in democratic institutions (Zherebkina 1997). Indicators include not only women’s declining political participation according to “conventional” criteria (such as the percentage of women in legislative and executive bodies), but also a distorted and/or tentative representation of women’s interests on the part of existing political parties as Ma»gorzata Fuszara has demonstrated for Poland. Nevertheless, Marilyn Rueschemeyer interprets this current marginalisation as an historically open process, induced primarily by the constitution of a political system embedded in the market economy with its integrated “structure of obstruction” to political activity by women, rather than by an essentially decreasing female interest in political representation. However, these very conditions may one day provide women in post-socialist countries with an opportunity for (re)vitalisation, in that their persistently strong orientation towards paid employment and their integration into the market economy, along with the resources they possess in terms of qualifications and emancipatory skills, could forge (structural) bridges for future political commitment. Within this political context, Vlasta JaluÓi… raised a more general question about whether feminist depictions of women’s political identity and representation to date have been a little too narrow to reflect the variety of ways in which (female) interests are articulated and asserted. In this respect, Ahrendt’s distinction between “social” and “political” practice could stimulate the conceptualisation of a politically pluralistic feminism.
Another perspective from which to analyse the political participation of Eastern women is provided by the ideologically contested turmoil to which the cultural and symbolic gender system of “real socialism” has been subjected in this field. According to Irina Zherebkina, there are
paradoxes at work here. In Ukraine, for example, allegedly neutral, hegemonic government discourse is generating a broad “league of fear” against feminism by positing the development of democracy as a direct alternative to feminist practice. The fatal consequence is that women’s projects are located above all in the third sector, which places them definitively outside those processes of political power and decision-making which are crucial to the way in which social relations are being reconstructed. Following Libora Oates-Indruchová, another effect of these paradoxes is expressed in the potential and limitations of discursive gender analysis within a fuzzy, complicated ideological terrain. On the one hand, today’s hegemonic ideology can be used to “decipher” gender hierarchies and stereotypes in the “real socialist” countries, but on the other, the inherent, relatively “covert” patriarchy which has evolved historically is an obstacle to discursive practice. As Boóena Cho»uj has shown for Poland, this patriarchy is also manifested in the dominance of male patterns of evaluation and action in the public sphere, with their undertones of “brotherhood”. Female “counter-meanings” are needed to counter this, and also to facilitate solidarity between women.
2.2 The Changing Labour Market – Structures and Prospects
Discussion focussed on structures which constitute the gender relationship as one of social inequality: segregation, hierarchy, asymmetry and exclusion (Frerichs 1997: 49), particularly with regard to economic activity and the labour market.
The states in transition were characterised at the outset by high levels of vocational skills for women and – before socialism collapsed – unquestioned female involvement in economic activity, albeit with gender asymmetries in access to power and resources (cf. among others Khotkina 1994; Koncz 1996; Nickel 1993; Siemienska 1996). Participants discussed specific constellations of inclusion and exclusion in the various post-socialist countries and the effects which “marketisation” has had on the gender relationship.
One key question was whether women have confronted not only risks, but also opportunities, and what this might signify for future relations and arrangements between the sexes. Let us take as our point of departure a recognition that ultimately women were responsible for the “private” business of reproduction in “real socialism”, too, in most cases alongside and in addition to their paid employment. Apart from this, participants reviewed the specific diversity of gender relations in the former socialist countries – with reference to the concept of “gender regime” (cf. Sauer 1996) – and considered how this has affected the concrete experience of transformation.
Are generalisations at all possible given this background? If so, what are they founded on? Current debate about changing gender relations tends to be polarised, at least in Germany. On the one hand we hear assumptions that the reproduction of bipolar, hierarchical gender dualism is taking place on a “higher plane”, while on the other hand there is a thesis that fundamental restructuring in the gendered division of labour also has implications which erode hierarchies and enhance democratisation (Nickel/Schenk 1994). Empirical findings sharpened our vision of a more differentiated development. Silke Steinhilber recorded ambivalences in the gendered segregation of the labour market both from a comparative perspective based on an analysis of national labour market statistics. Iris Peinl located these ambivalences through the finer grid of organisational sociology applied to the German rail operator Deutsche Bahn as a service company. These authors attributed the ambivalences to a tertiarisation of production and paid employment. Although this does not compensate in statistical terms for the enormous loss of jobs also suffered by women in the process of deindustrialisation, it evidently implies a reorganisation of the labour market which moves a little beyond the traditional bounds of industrial gender hierarchies. As “private” reproductive tasks are currently shifted back from their socialised forms, (young) skilled women in particular are being discovered as an efficiently profit-serving source of service labour, sometimes accompanied by the insinuation that their skills reflect conventional gender attributes. This degendered trend in labour market demand is evidently (still?) being superimposed on different gender arrangements in East and West (Sabine Schenk considers the case of Germany after 1990), with eastern women, moulded by their now historical orientation towards paid employment and relatively regardless of their private lifestyle, insisting on a standard working week. This appears to be compatible with the requirements of an increasingly market-oriented process of individualisation.
2.3 Construction of Identities – Images of Women
In the West, women’s and gender studies have been drawing increasingly in recent years on concepts from discursive analysis and constructivist theory. This affinity with post-modernist forms of discourse is rooted in a critique of the cultural patterns which define the “female” and the “male”. Post-modernist criticism of the theoretical postulates of modernism has challenged those dichotomous patterns of thinking which seek to include and exclude, to attribute dominant and subsidiary significance.
One major premise of women’s and gender studies is that the cultural constructions “male” and “female” not only assign attributes, character, fields of activity, and so forth, but also constitute and reproduce power relations (Dölling 1995). Discourse theory provides a basis for exploring the linguistic, symbolic mechanisms which underlie the ontology and naturalisation of gender difference, and at the same time questions those historical configurations which determine practices of discipline, normalisation and subjectivisation through which “gendering” occurs.
A number of empirical studies undertaken in the post-socialist countries indicate the enduring impact of this discursive construction of gender. In the battle (of the sexes) for scarce resources (paid employment, for example), it seems that traditional role models are being reactivated, with recourse to cultural patterns founded on the old male/female dichotomy. In this context, women are referred to the reproductive domain. A “natural female vocation” is cited to justify their confinement to domestic and family labour (Schubert 1993; Hoffmann 1993; TÓth 1993). As we are seeing, very different cultural traditions can apparently serve the purpose (Mänicke-Gyöngyösi 1991).
A retraditionalisation of gender relations is reflected, for example, in dominant discourse about masculinity, such as Ioulia Gradskova described for Russian society. Christine Eifler took the Russian Army as her illustration to show how appeals are now being made to traditional gender stereotypes in spheres which had long been reserved for men, but where women’s presence has been growing in recent years. The increase in the number of women in the Army, a crucial arena for the production of masculinity, is by no means an expression of women’s emancipation; in fact, biological differences between the genders are underscored and reinforced along the old boundaries. A revival of traditional images of women can also be observed in women’s magazines, analysed by Katarzyna Wieckowska. These harp back to women’s biological otherness, allocating women to pre-defined roles. They define issues and propose solutions to problems which they regard as specifically female. In so doing, they produce and reproduce certain views of femininity. Examining public discourse of homosexuality in Hungary, Mihaly Riszovannij demonstrated that the retraditionalisation of gender roles is not an isolated phenomenon, but occurs alongside sexist, nationalist and xenophobic discourse. The democratisation of Hungarian society has not stimulated tolerance of other choices, but has generated new processes of exclusion rooted in traditional gender stereotypes.
Nevertheless, there are a number of national characteristics at play which distinguish views of femininity from one country to another, fed by different cultural traditions. For Bulgaria, Krassimira Daskalova shows that discourse on femininity is moving in two directions: one “traditional/conservative” and one “emancipated/progressive”. “Traditional” views of femininity are above all promoted by scientific channels, especially through medicine, demography and sociology, as a form of legitimation, whereas “emancipated” currents are oriented towards the socialist image of women and additionally subjected to external factors.
Looking at Uzbekistan, Caroline Antonia Wilcke shows how different ideas about femininity manage to co-exist in post-socialist countries. She observed a synthesis between traditional views of women and views born during the socialist period, combining with each other and with quite disparate elements of Uzbek culture and religion.
Discursive practices are also important in the constitution of identity. Post-modernist theories teach that identities should not be perceived as existing a priori, but as artefacts. Identities must be constructed and reconstructed politically and culturally. A group or gender does not begin to exist until it can be distinguished on the basis of a particular principle from another group or from the other gender through a process of perception and recognition (Bourdieu 1992).
The contributions from Ioulia Gradskova, Zorica Mrsevic, Madalina Nicolaescu and Vesna Nicolic-Ristanovic describe influences which informed female identities in the socialist countries and changes which have occurred since. They show how heterogeneous conditions were, and that there was no all-pervasive female identity in socialism. For Gradskova, the identity of Russian women resulted from social contradictions in different historical phases of Soviet ideological discourse and from particular features relating to ethnic groups, social strata and religious beliefs, combined with political postulates and everyday life. She describes how structural transformation and competition for meagre resources have affected gender identities, and women in particular. She summarises changes in the identity of Russian women as follows: Many women are victims of violence, many are unemployed or impoverished, and women’s political involvement has faded almost completely. Women feel that they have lost out in the reforms and rate their chances of influencing social processes as very slight. The dramatic changes, Gradskova argues, are perceived by women as a threat to their “ontological stability”, and they have responded by drawing on ancient survival strategies, unconsciously assuming the role of victims.
Social transformation has opened up new identity models and triggered a broader differentiation. Nicolaescu describes how, for example, in Romania local discourse has been influenced by the country opening up to the outside, thereby facilitating the emergence of new models. The restrictions so characteristic of Romania during its pronounced isolation under socialism have been eroded. This opened the way for a greater diversity of gender definitions and has enabled Romanians to break out of the existing model. Mrsevic describes this differentiation process for lesbian women; Nicolic-Ristanovic analyses it in conjunction with how the media construct identity, drawing on Serbian, Bulgarian, Macedonian and Hungarian newspapers and magazines as her sources.
One aim of the conference was to review the theoretical and methodological tools to see whether they can be applied to this domain and what explanatory force they possess. It may well prove that these conceptual approaches are well suited to analysing changes in the post-socialist countries, because focussing on language, cultural repertoires and forms of knowledge as the place where significance is created also demonstrates the scope which exists for shifts in significance, including those shifts in the gender relationship which are happening in parallel to the structural changes in post-socialist societies.
2.4 Feminist Perspectives and National Identities
The transformation process in Eastern, Central and South-East Europe is embedded within a world-wide process of globalisation. In many countries it is accompanied by a quest for national identity and the flourishing of nationalist ideologies and politics. Another dimension addressed at the conference was whether and how gender relations are caught up within this field of tension and whether symbolic gender allocations are instruments in the process.
The quest for identity seems to be a by-product and expression of political and social insecurities and disorientation in the post-socialist countries. The processes entailed draw frequently on traditional institutions in society, such as family and nation. Membership of a national community and patriarchal role models have become essential points of reference and even arenas for thrashing out social problems of all kinds.
Participants were eager to discover, for example, how important gender as a category actually is in the social construction of new national identities in the post-socialist countries and how the symbolic gender order is modified by nationalist political programmes.
There was a pronounced tendency for contributions to focus on the theoretical function of gender and nation in constituting identity and to develop theoretical foundations for empirical and concrete media and policy analysis. As Ellen Krause’s and Rada Ivekovi…’s contributions demonstrated, there was unanimous endorsement of the hypothesis that processes of creating national identity are closely linked to gender order and that the inscription of national difference within a social corpus is linked to the inscription of sex difference. Nationality is a historico-political construct which has the function of integrating and creating identity in drawing boundaries between “ourselves” and “others”, and in Eastern and South-East Europe gender images and stereotypes play a fundamental part in defining this nationality. Whereas the concept of state has male connotations, nation has female undertones. As Ellen Krause aptly put it: “Men act in the state, they defend the nation, women symbolise the nation and stand for its fertility. The state offers women protection in terms of their motherhood. State, nation, men and women are combined in a liquid mass of danger and protection.” The nation manifests as spatial, embodied femininity.
The abortion debate in post-socialist countries and the raping which took place during the wars illustrate that control over women and their fertility bears constituent significance for a nation defined ethnically and that this has led to a repatrialisation of the public domain. Rada Ivekovic rightly claimed that “women do not belong to the nation in the same way men do: they are the nation in their bodies”.
Women’s and gender studies confront particular difficulties when analysing the mass rape of the Yugoslavian wars. Discourse is functionalised on the one hand by the belligerent parties, in particular through the media, in pursuit of nationalist programmes. On the other hand, the issue of human rights and feminist critique of women’s rights as human rights is dominated by western political interests, above all western discourse and a strategy for legal resolution as Natassja Smiljanic pointed out.
The contributions on the relationship between nation and gender served two purposes: they formulated women’s position as victims of nationalist programmes as an issue, and they fine-tuned theoretical assumptions about the degree to which gendering plays a part in the construction of national identity.
2.5 Institutionalisation of Women’s and Gender Studies
After 1989 various initiatives were taken in the countries of Eastern, Central and South-East Europe to establish women’s and gender studies inside and outside the universities. These efforts to set up a differentiated programme of teaching and research as a counterweight to post-socialist views on equality encountered major obstacles and resistance (and still do). The lack of an independent development of theory in these countries, which frequently made recourse to western feminism seem expedient, has an inherent flaw: although teacher exchanges facilitated the rapid introduction of gender or women’s studies, this same measure hindered the construction of “rooms of our own” (as Irina Novikova discussed for Latvia and Eva VÓRnová-Kalivodová and JiÍina Šiklová for the Czech Republic). As a result, western feminism is not merely regarded as an “instrument of power of western dominance” as Irina Novikova said. Following Biljana KaÓiƒ’s investigation, western feminism prevents the analysis of inner-state differences and a formulation of ethnicity because it has no differentiated approach for dealing with the countries of Eastern, Central and South-East Europe.
Another problem repeatedly raised was the lack of financial security for these attempts at institutionalisation. Although universities in many countries (e.g. Latvia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia, Slovenia and Macedonia) have now incorporated women’s or gender studies, the financial support for this comes almost exclusively from western institutions (such as the Network of East-West Women, FrauenAnstiftung, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, Soros Foundation).
The degree of institutionalisation also varies considerably. Whereas complete degree courses have been introduced or are in the pipeline at some universities (gender studies are an M.A. component at the Humboldt University in Berlin, Warsaw offers a post-graduate qualification and the Charles University in Prague plans a minor course), disputes continue at others (Latvia, Russia, Slovenia, Macedonia) about how to integrate gender studies into the canon of academic training.
Alongside the universities, or indeed as alternatives to them, centres of women’s and gender studies have opened in Eastern, Central and South-East Europe. These have links with the women’s movement (and in the republics of former Yugoslavia with the anti-war movement) and they regard it as part of their work to build networks (Latvia, Czech Republic), engage in political activities (Russia, ex-Yugoslavia), collect biographies of women under socialist conditions (herstory) and provide education (Czech Republic).
Compared with projects to implement women’s and gender studies as material for academic training (whether as separate degree subjects or within “traditional” disciplines), extra-mural activities in the field of gender studies are extremely variegated and defy summary. However, that was not the primary purpose of the session, which was designed, rather, to provide a forum for articulating problems and experience with institutionalising women’s and gender studies and for more networking. It was in this spirit that Margrit Eichler (Canada) presented the case for defining one particular institutional form to free the project from dependence on individuals. Which form is of secondary importance, and will depend on the structure and culture of the institution concerned.
The conference, which was characterized by a most productive and friendly atmosphere, was concluded by a final discussion to sum up the results of the meeting. All participants unanimously agreed that the conference was successful in establishing a mutually beneficial “bridging discourse” between East and West to be continued in the future.