Accepted Paper:

Work and gender in Western Ukraine: imageries and realities  


Lucia Petrovičová (Commenius University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper deals with gender and work, based on research in Western Ukraine. It shows the gap between post-Marxist traditional gender imaginaries in connection to work and actual economic strategies of both men and women.

Paper long abstract:

During communism in Ukraine, men and women were expected to work equally in order to bring development to the country. After the fall of communism, new popular imaginaries emerged, connecting women more to the household and beauty and men to their breadwinner role. These may have been perceived as a reaction to the restrictive politics of the communist party trying to shape gender, family and work. However, ethnographic research of work and gender in western Ukraine shows that there is a strong discrepancy between proclaimed return of traditional gender model - male workers/female caretakers - and local realities. Even if a more traditional conception of gender re-emerged after the retreat of Marxist politics, gender is defined not only by the state, but also through economic realities. While there is a popular image of a wife supported by her husband, taking care of a household, extremely low wages often force both partners to work. Additionally, the mismatch between gender imaginaries and reality may also be connected with phenomena such as alcoholism or domestic violence. Therefore, it is often women who support their families with help of other relatives, often working abroad. Within families, women are responsible for bringing a wage, house chores, childrearing and improving their appearance. The disproportion between proclaimed traditional gendering and reality is often articulated by Ukrainian women, who see themselves as "really maintaining Ukraine", while characterizing men as "mothers' little sons", something that is seldom reflected by the state and its work or family policies.

Panel Gend005
Gender and power in communist and post-communist places