WOMEN IN SOVIET SOCIETY: Equality, Development, and Social Change by Gail Warshofsky Lapidus

WOMEN IN SOVIET SOCIETY: Equality, Development, and Social Change

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Gail Lapidus, Professor of Political Science at Berkeley, has written a superbly researched and trenchant analysis of the impact of Soviet economic development on the status of women since the Revolution. She persuasively argues that the Soviet leadership's efforts to alter women's roles have rested neither on the pre-Revolutionary feminists' libertarian ideals nor on the Marxist-Leninist egalitarian impulse. Rather, working women were seen to be essential to the political consolidation and economic development which would lead to a classless society. In the process, however, sexual inequality was reinforced. Recurrent crises allowed the leadership to draw women into new productive and political roles at an unprecedented pace. Women's contribution to social change (e.g., shifting from family-farm to factory labor) was emphasized without providing facilities to lessen their home responsibilities; ""sexual equality ultimately came to mean an equal liability to mobilization."" Currently, women tend to occupy low-wage, routine, non-manual positions and be underrepresented in better paid, skilled manual work. In the professions dominated by women, such as teaching and medicine, as well as in the male-dominated political apparatus, the proportion of women declines as the level of responsibility rises. This structured inequality is clouded by propaganda proclaiming formal equality of rights and opportunities. To the exploitation of women in the home has been added governmental exploitation; to women's unpaid labor within the family, female underpaid labor outside. Lapidus stresses that the recognition of women as a collectivity has not resulted from organized action by women on their own behalf, but from a paternalistic pattern of political rule. As a case study in the politics of sexual inequality in Leninist systems, the book is specific to one country and lacks a comparative framework. Yet the insightful treatment of the challenges facing the contemporary Soviet woman whets the appetite for further research in this area and complements Western feminist thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 1978
Publisher: Univ. of California Press