Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, one of the most contested aspects of its legacy is communism’s supposed emancipation of women.
Earlier this year, a University of Pennsylvania professor, Kristin Ghodsee, wrote in the New York Times that ‘women had better sex under communism,’ as state-imposed gender equality in the workplace liberated them from the daily concerns of working women under capitalism.
Within the Soviet Union itself, women writers and commentators questioned the notion that Soviet-style equality was all it was cracked up to be. Natalia Baranskaia’s famous 1969 novella A Week Like Any Other detailed the daily grind of a female scientist with two children, who toiled 18 hours a day to keep her boss happy and her children fed and washed. Was this what equality was meant to be?
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Philippa Hetherington is Lecturer in Modern Eurasian History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London. Her research focuses on the cultural, social and legal history of imperial Russia, and the early Soviet Union in global and transnational contexts, as well as comparative legal history, feminist and queer theory, and the cultural history of the fin-de-siècle. She was trained at the University of Sydney and Harvard, and has taught in the US, Australia and the United Kingdom.