Gender Issues

“Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski of Łódź warned that ‘gender’ would bring the ‘denial of God’ and ‘death of civilization.’” – From a collection of essays on current Polish politics.      
“Just as the Church criticized Marxist and Nazi ideology, and was persecuted for it, so now it is criticizing gender ideology.”
“In the Polish case, gender as a word has never been translated and functions in the English form, which only adds to its vagueness in common use.”
“Women’s procreative rights are in danger of being further curtailed and there will be little to no room is left for LGBT rights. Instead, homophobia is on the rise.”
“The conservative aims do not take into account the dominant moods in society.”
“Xenophobic nationalism targets both refugees and a range of perceived domestic enemies, including gay activists and other ‘genderists,’ the few remaining or returning Jews, the small German and Ukrainian minorities, most intellectuals, and practically anyone on the left.”

“Policymakers and activists consider human trafficking to be one of the most dramatic challenges of the global world, alongside terrorism and drug trafficking.”
“The noticeable increase in the production of feature films, television dramas, and documentaries focusing on trafficking in people invites closer scrutiny, for the representation of trafficking and its violence can be as perilous as it is helpful in combating this twenty-first century major human rights violation.”
“The Whistleblower (2010) breaks the gender hierarchy. While the main character, Kathryn Bolkovac, a dedicated Nebraska police officer, confronts her male colleagues and the perpetrators of trafficking, the female Secretary of the UN Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom protects her.”

“The Habsburg administration explained the takeover of Bosnia-Herze­govina as a ‘civilizing mission.’ The central and contested figure in this discourse was the ‘Muslim woman,’ in which Islam’s ‘backwardness’ and Bosnia-Her­zegovina’s otherness culminated. A veiled figure, she had withdrawn herself from Habsburg male view and was orientalized as both dirty and desirable.”
A volume on the intertwined relationship between public health and nation building.     
From 1918 on, the newly independent “Poland became ‘a living laboratory’ for experiments in modern life; this constellation created a space of possibilities, full of opportunities and challenges, in which established so­cial, political, economical, ethnic, and gender relations were ordered anew.”  
Although, in the GDR, women benefited from a policy that promoted their integration into the labor market, which contributed undoubtedly to their emancipation, ‘socialist marriage’ was far from equalitarian, and women still performed most domestic tasks.

Titles from the backlist, contemporary topics on top, older themes below:

Participation in the Kosovar nationalist movement offered new channels through which women could enter the public space in the otherwise deeply traditional society. Nevertheless the authors of this book find that women’s civic engagement and contribution in Kosovo has been continuously silenced by mainstream remembrance and historical accounts. Most feminist scholars in the region are still unable to speak about Kosovo and have created superficial accounts of women’s experience there. This is why the Norwegian team attempted to unearth what is often a buried account of women’s participation in nation, state and peace building projects in Kosovo. They detected how gender relations have figured in and shaped notions of civic participation in Kosovo as part of civic engagement in national, state and post-war projects.

“The feminist discourse on democracy in Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s works along three major lines of conceptual interpretation: 1) feminists saw civil society and active citizenship, mostly in the sense of ‘ethical civil society,’ as the carrier of democracy, 2) they placed emphasis on democracy as being incomplete unless women were included and patriarchal values overwritten, 3) nonetheless, they treated democracy as a counter-concept to nationalism and xenophobia on the one hand, and state socialism on the other”.
“At the patriotic end of the scale in Croatia, the organizations were openly anti-Serbian to such an extent that they refused any cooperation with Serbian feminist organizations. When it came to the question of rape, the ethnic aspect overruled the gender aspect.”
Feminist discourses are analyzed alongside the nationalist discourse in the early 1990s in the volume that explores the past twenty-five years of east-central Europe in the perspective of intellectual history.

Is Virgin Mary in Catholic religious life an emancipatory figure for women or confirmation of patriarchal oppression? The research about a Marian apparition provided a scholarly opportunity to explore its impact on the state of affairs in the Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine, including the role of women within the church.
In August 2002 two little girls from a village in Transcarpathia “saw the most beautiful white Lady. She was standing on a cloud, embellished with wonderful blossoms that did not touch the ground.”
The Catholic women in Transcarpathia still largely accept male dominance, but some subversive practices have emerged in recent years that point to significant gender-related shifts in reconfigurations of power relationships.

“The low presence of women in all political structures during the last twenty-five years can be attributed to the post-communist propaganda that demonized women’s presence in politics based on a mythology that women in the communist-era leadership were numerous and incompetent.”
The place of myths is discussed in the memory politics in a number of East-European countries.
“After 1989, the women who held positions of authority in the Romanian Communist Party were represented, without exception, as the incarnation of absolute evil.”
“The roots of the myth of a sinister presence of women in politics can be identified in the distinctive features showed by the former communist countries in Eastern Europe after the fall of the communist regimes. We can add the sexist, misogynist attitudes that came as a return to what some called ‘traditional values’ from before the communist era.”

“The interviews asked whether the husband was helping his wife with the household chores, particularly in looking after the children, which was appreciated as a merit… One conspicuous difference was the appearance of young women compared to women in the past: instead of plaits, young women now sported short haircuts following the urban fashion. The ethnographers were left with the impression that ‘generally, the everyday clothes and formal dress used on holidays are not different from the outfits of the average woman in Sofia, like office staff girls, young intelligent workers, and others’.”
“Bourgeois” sociology was an anathema in the Soviet Bloc, yet valuable records survived from Soviet-style ethnographic surveys in the 1950s, like the one in Bulgaria in the book about remembering communism.
The chapter on memories of childhood under communism discussed single motherhood, illegitimate children, and adoption. “Once the mother signed a renouncement statement, the child became ‘public’ to the fullest extent. Their continually increasing numbers led to the creation of new homes in almost all district centers”.

“I would never marry in the traditional way. Elopement is magical. It creates a stronger feeling, of doing it your own way.” The statement by one of the Bosnian women interviewed in the frame of the anthropological research is by no way an exception. A survey in 2013 proved that a higher proportion (94%) of the women in Bosnia-Herzegovina who eloped are still married than what was the case with women who did not elope.
The tradition is shared nearly identically by each national group: Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks. Elopements empower women: “the young woman has more independence than the young man, who must win the consent of his parents for the marriage before bringing the girl he wants to marry to their home. The girl herself exercises a certain independence and exemplifies a sense of autonomy”. In about half of the cases, however, the couples also arrange for a traditional wedding.

Novels written after the military intervention of 12 March 1971 in Turkey share a common ground which is rich in images of men and women craving for power: general isolation, sexual-emotional frustration, and a traumatic sense of solitude and alienation. (Future will tell what literary works will be generated by the aborted coup in July 2016.)
“This book is an attempt to understand gender from the perspective of masculinities with Turkey’s military periods as the backdrop, especially the coup of 1971, which traumatized the climactic 1968 spirit in Turkey.”
“Whether satiric or realistic, March 12 novels elaborate the ways masculinities and femininities settled in the traumatized power hierarchy of the period, questioning modernist utopias and authoritarian pressures.”
“The idea of women as objects of exchange, forced definitions of gender, performative acts to fulfill these forced definitions, and problems about hegemony, hegemonic masculinity, and male homosocial bonding to keep patriarchal power in hand in various types of solidarity and institutions are all at work in March 12 novels. These books question common notions about sex and gender, and center around the fluidity of identity.”

Essays on family life and childhood in Soviet times and in post-Soviet Russia and the Baltic States. Subjects include motherhood, childbearing, single mothers, divorce etc: How these used to be, or have recently been, perceived and handled in this corner of the world. Throughout the last century, the family in Eastern Europe and Russia faced a number of dramatic social transformations that came with the promise of a better life but have not necessarily lived up to the expectations of the people who had to endure their results. Several of the essays contextualize their cases by referring to models of family policies and practices elsewhere, particularly in Sweden.

“Young and successful Eastern European female artist seeks gentleman for marriage. This marriage would enable her to freely move around and accompany her exhibitions to the West. In exchange accommodation in her home country and local art contacts are offered.” This ad was published in the French daily paper, Libération in 1980, connected to a performance at the Paris Biennial.
Artistic interactions both within the Soviet bloc and with the west between 1945 and 1989 are presented and analyzes in a collective book with 35 contributors.
“The ‘socialist way of women’s emancipation’ that in Eastern European societies ran parallel to the second wave of modern feminism, was both a social and artistic movement. True, this ‘emancipation’ had its many flaws and caused discontents, but it also propounded an intense political rhetoric on ‘women’s equality’ and implemented actual pieces of legislation and very real social policies, which together brought enormous and documented changes to women’s lives and identities.”

“Countless women conspirators were largely overlooked in research about Solidarity, they wrote, manufactured, and distributed… Almost simultaneously to women’s active contribution to the Polish underground movement, even more explicit forms of feminist samizdat started to emerge, most prominently in Russia in the late 1970s… In Yugoslavia, too, a feminist movement emerged in 1978”.
Separate subchapters pay tribute to women in the exhaustive analysis of underground literature in the Cold War.
Samizdat production was also a male-dominated activity. But women’s sense of the importance of personal contact and their continuous efforts to cultivate relationships established close ties between a great number of activists. As they linked the core centers of uncensored activities, they played an eminent role in maintaining the social aspect of samizdat.
In turn, women’s social skills were crucial in establishing and maintaining the community. Many of the women used their inconspicuous shopping bags or handbags to smuggle large amounts of leaflets or copies from a site of samizdat production to a space where material would be collated and distributed.

“Applying a gender perspective to the study of traumas associated with the ‘fighting and suffering’ memory can help to challenge the monumentalism of these traumas and make the experiences of women visible.”
A book on Soviet deportation memoirs from the Baltic States.
“The deportees’ diaries are full of references to the early deaths of small children, pregnant women, and elderly people from suffocation, congestion, heat, and dehydration inside the train carriages.”
“The local people looked in disbelief how the deported women gathered natural flowers, arranged them in their rooms or planted along the walls of the houses they lived in.”
“Women resistance fighters in Lithuania were unlikely to challenge gender roles by trying to establish themselves as leaders of partisan units or political organizations.”

“Any requests from Soviet citizens for permission to get married are to be rejected on the spot. No questions or requests for an exception are to be entertained.” – from a 1946 document, unearthed during decade-long archival research that, accompanied by numerous oral history interviews, explored the deportation of civilians from Czechoslovakia to the USSR. Even pregnant married women were forced to be repatriated, causing the breakup of families.
Most of the abducted tens of thousands were from the Slovak regions (including ethnic Germans and Hungarians). Women in a number of towns pooled their efforts to bring about the return of their husbands. The women of Kežmarok put together a delegation which in December 1945 managed to reach President Beneš and Archbishop Beran but apart from words of encouragement and comfort they could not help the women to bring their husbands home.
Life in the Soviet camps was merciless especially for women. To go through pregnancy and give birth must have been an incredible test. The chances that a woman in labor, and especially the child, would survive were minimal.

“The average age of the women perpetrators was 38 years”. The meticulous analysis of the archival documents about the trials over wartime atrocities in Hungary administered in the so called people’s courts produced a great number of similar findings. On the whole, 18 percent of suspects in these trials were women, rather high in the light that before 1945 only a very small percentage of women had been active in public life.
This unique research examined how political justice functions from a gender perspective. One of the main questions was to identify the extent to which the justice mechanisms operated differently depending on whether a man or a woman was the defendant.

About a third of the monograph on emotions focuses on the gender dimension of the processes that brought emotions to the fore of public interest and debate. The author analyses how perceptions of honour, rage, power or love varied in time according to social class, age, religion, and national belonging. "Emotional gender features and differences as they had been discussed in detail since Rousseau's and Kant's times remained surprisingly stable throughout the nineteenth century." And today? "Girls, indeed, no longer blush when greeted by male peers. But they still cultivate emotional styles and practices quite different to those of boys."

"The higher marriage rate among Jews in late eighteenth-century Bohemia was a fact. In a society where most children were born inside wedlock it led also to higher fertility among Jews. Jewish women breastfed longer, and this was a very important factor for improving the chances of a child's survival during the first six months of life." The population growth of Jews was therefore higher than in the total population." But then, faster modernization of the Jewish population led to a decline in births earlier than in other segments of the society. "In 1930, the share of married people was smaller in almost every age group in the Jewish population than in the total population. The proportion of never-married Jewish women exceeded that of gentiles in every age group. The share of divorcees was also larger in the Jewish than in the total population."

  • The biographical portraits of 150 women and men who were active in women’s movements and feminism in Eastern European history.
  • How to handle links between nationalism, racism and gender discrimination and similar issues in teaching?
  • A collection of essays on women and war mirrored in the arts, ranging from women in novels, films and songs or on posters around World War II, up to recent armed conflicts.
  • The study on the sovereignty movement taking place in Tatarstan pays special attention to the changing conditions of women; the book on Kalmykia does so with a statistical approach, and “Buryat women quickly adopted new educational and career plans in the later Soviet period.”

Academic monographs focusing on gender issues in earlier CEU Press catalogues:

Memories of women from various times and places, presented with scholarly care, feature…

  • a Serbian woman Natalija (1880-1956), based on her diaries and other memorabilia;
  • the celebrated psychologist sharing her traumatic wartime memoir;
  • thirteen Estonian women from Hilja (b. 1905) to (Tiia b. 1973), remembering Soviet times;
  • women in anti-Soviet partisan resistance in the forests of Lithuania.

The fifteen titles in the series of east and central European modern classic literature (CEU Press Classic) are rich in characters of women specific of place and time. The book by the Nobel Prize winner author includes examples of the oppression of women in historical Bosnia and the disaster that ensues if any should defy the established rules. A Slovak classic guides through the moving trajectory of love and morality, while the tussles of a young woman between tradition and modernity in Sub-Carpathian Ruthenia are depicted by a Czech author. The novel about – or rather around – an unmarried woman depicts the fin de siècle Hungary. A frigid society “doll” is the title character of the great Polish historical novel.

Finally, academic anthologies display texts, authored – among others – by women...

  • as travellers – Dragojla (1839), Lucja (1841), Polixena (1842), Dora (1863), Kallirhoe (1909), Isidora (1914, 1951), Mimika (1950), Kazimiera (1957), Milica (1987), and Vesna (1999);
  • thinking about Europe – Ursula (Hamburg), Ilma (Zürich), Daniela (Prague), Mirela (Sofia), Lidia (Lisbon), Emine (Berlin), Dubravka (Amsterdam), and Mara (Riga).