Gender Equality and Communism
Equality for women was a pillar of the ideology of communist regimes that ascended to power in Eastern Central Europe with Soviet support following World War II. Since religion was declared illegitimate by communist theory, marriage was not considered sacred; rather, it was deemed a capitalist mechanism for oppressing women. Thus, communist regimes began instituting policies intended to facilitate gender equality. However, the actual methods employed by communist regimes to encourage equality for women had varying effects (e.g., incorporation of women into the labor force). Furthermore, it appears that many communist regimes encouraged gender equality in theory, but promoted a traditional patriarchal family hierarchy in practice. Indeed, the vary nature of bureaucratic soviet-style communism may be considered to be patriarchal. This contradiction between communist theory and practice concerning gender equality is evident in the films: Loves of a Blond, Man is Not a Bird, and Adoption.
In her book entitled Women’s Equality, Work, and Family in the Czech Republic, Alena Heitlinger asserts,
“ … Czechoslovakia adopted a Marxist-Leninist approach to women’s equality … based on Friedrich Engels’ hypothesis that the emancipation of women would result from the abolition of private property, the productive employment of women, and the socialization of private domestic work and child care [which would give time for self-realization in public life]” (88).
This hypothesis may have proved successful, but the principles it was based on were never fully implemented. The first part of the hypothesis hinged on the abolition of private property, a goal that the communist regimes managed to largely achieve. However, the second and third parts of the hypothesis relied on the incorporation of women as productive workers into the economy and the socialization of housework and child rearing. These goals were never fully realized because the communist regimes failed to discourage traditional patriarchal principles amongst their citizens. Consequently, women worked in inferior occupational fields and suffered wage discrimination in the workforce. Additionally, women received little assistance with family responsibilities despite the additional responsibilities they incurred from their incorporation into the economy.
The inability of communist regimes to suppress traditional patriarchal hierarchies may have stemmed from the patriarchal nature of communist socialism. In her book entitled From Parent State to Family Patriarchs: Gender and Nation in Contemporary Eastern Europe, Katherine Verdery states that, “… socialist paternalism constructed its “nation” on an implicit view of society as a family, headed by a “wise” Party that, in a paternal guise, made all the family’s allocative decisions …” (229). While communist regimes did in fact employ large percentages of their female populations, they...