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Yet, even after demise of communism, Western feminism failed to take root in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The East Coast Amazons from America and their British counterparts were too ideological, too Marxist, too radical and too men-hating and family-disparaging to engender much following in just-liberated victims of leftist ideologies. Hectoring, overly-politicized women were a staple of communism - and so was women's liberation. Women in CEE vowed: "never again".
Moreover, evaporation of iron curtain lifted triple burden as well. Women finally had a choice whether to develop a career and how to balance it with family life. Granted, economic hardship made this choice highly theoretical. Once again, women had to work to make ends meet. But stifling ethos was gone.
Communism left behind it a legal infrastructure incompatible with a modern market economy. Maternal leave was anywhere between 18 and 36 (!) months, for instance. But there were no laws to tackle domestic or spousal violence, women trafficking, organized crime prostitution rings, discrimination, inequality, marital rape, date rape and a host of other issues. There were no women's media of any kind (TV or print). No university offered a gender studies program or had a women's studies department. Communism was interested in women (and humans) as means of production. It ignored all other dimensions of their existence. In sputnik-era Russia, there were no factories for tampons or sanitary bandages, for example. Communism believed that restructuring of class relations will resolve all other social inequities. Feminism properly belonged to spoiled, brooding women of West - not to bluestockings of communism. Ignoring problems was communism's way of solving them. Thus, there was no official unemployment in lands of socialism - or drugs, or AIDS, or unhappy women. To borrow from psychodynamic theories, Communism never developed "problem constancy".
To many, women included, communism was about perversion of "natural order". Men and women were catapulted out of their pre-ordained social orbits into an experiment in dystopy. When it ended, post communism became a throwback to 19th century: its values, mores and petite bourgeois aspirations. In exegesis of transition, communism was interpreted as an aberration, an interruption in an otherwise linear progress. It was cast as a regrettable historical accident or, worse, a criminal endeavour to be vehemently disowned and reversed.
Yet again women proved to be prime victims of historical processes, this time of transition. They saw their jobs consumed by male-dominated privatization and male-biased technological modernization. Men in CEE are 3 times more likely to find a job, 60-80% of all women's jobs were lost (for instance in textile and clothing industries) and highest rates of unemployment are among middle aged and older women ("unemployment with a female face" as it is called in Ukraine). Women constitute 50-70% of unemployed. And women's unemployment is probably under-reported. Most unrecorded workers (omitted from official statistics) are women. Where retraining is available (a rarity), women are trained to do computer jobs, mostly clerical and low skilled. Men, on other hand, are assigned to assimilate new and promising technologies. In many countries, women are asked to waive their rights under law, or even to produce proof of sterilization before they get a job. The only ray of light is higher education, where women's participation actually increased in certain countries. But this blessing is confined to "feminine" (low pay and low status) professions. Vocational and technical schools have either closed down entirely or closed their gates to women. Even in feminized professions (such as university teaching), women make less than 20% of upper rungs (e.g., full professorships). The tidal wave of rising cost of education threatens to drown this trend of women's education. Studies have shown that, with rising costs, women's educational opportunities decline. Families prefer to invest - and rationally so - in their males.
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, United Press International (UPI) and eBookWeb and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory, Suite101 and searcheurope.com.
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com