Two Swedish feminists managed to interview 13 Soviet women in Moscow in 1978, and get their tapes out; to their dismay, none...


MOSCOW WOMEN: Thirteen Interviews

Two Swedish feminists managed to interview 13 Soviet women in Moscow in 1978, and get their tapes out; to their dismay, none of the interviewees perceived the contradiction between women's official parity and their manifest inequality (lower-status occupations or positions, lower pay, primary responsibility for home-making), and all saw women's role as inherently different from men's. The interviewees, predominantly young and several still students (though either married or with a child), do not represent a cross-section. But, as young intellectuals willing to risk being interviewed by foreigners, they might have been expected, perhaps, to be more rebellious or alienated than the norm--and Hansson and LidÉn also prodded them. To no avail: ""Women have certain obligations, men others""; ""the man's career is the more important. . . the family is more important for the woman."" Even the women who acknowledged that something was amiss (""We lead such abnormal, twisted lives, because women have to work the same as men do""; ""The fact that women take on the responsibilities and pave the way for their husbands is a serious problem here"") iterate and reiterate that ""Change can only come from the top""--probably the book's most sobering lesson. On an everyday level, the women accept not only the housing shortage that dominates city life (a private kitchen is good fortune), but day-care centers that breed sickness, childbirth without anaesthesia, and a virtual absence of effective contraception (condoms are poor-quality, and disliked by the men; pills and IUDs are suspect). Everybody's recourse, abortion, is kept painful, they realize, as a deterrent--yet almost none expect to be able to afford more than one or at the most two children. ""Women's role?"" To be feminine--beautiful, stylish, gentle, considerate. Still, the three older interviewees, and what the women say of their own mothers, suggest that there is more to the story. Many of the mothers divorced, it appears, for independence; the older women--Ph.D. Nadezhda Pavlovna and peasant Alevtina Giorgievna--each in her own way did help build the USSR. And, as Hansson and LidÉn note (in their other roles as critics of ""capitalist society""), these women have no identity problem. One way or other, there's much to reflect upon here.

Pub Date: May 16, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983