O. Labur «Window of Opportunities?» Gender in the Wake of the February Revolution’s Policy in the 1917’s Ukraine

DOI: 10.20535/2307-5244.49.2019.189568

Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institutе

Despite the women’s insufficient representation in Ukrainian political life, they
still have achieved particular progress towards establishing equality. Nevertheless,
the Soviet heritage retains a paternalistic vision of law regarding gender
equality. Little is known about processes when women contested and won over
previous discriminatory practices. In this article, I use the notion «window of opportunities
» to study the gender status after the revolution in February of 1917.
The main idea is to view this period as favorable for the law codification and political
resolution of such socially pressing issue as the electoral rights for women.
Using the gender perspective in studying the periodicals of 1917, I establish the
chronology of women’s protests and appeals, analyze how effective those were, and
trace connections with the ideas of democratic transformations. Viewing the status
of the government after the revolution as temporary and transitional, I identify it as
a less aggressive and «masculine» model of power. Within its framework, men as
a group allow women as a group a right to express themselves and to satisfy their
interests. Women were heard by the men, who were interested in redesigning society.
I provide evidence that the desire to acquire electoral rights, that women had
been accumulating over a long time, inspired the feeling of an opportunity and
radicalized women’s demands. Solidarizing with each other, women stepped up
as a single front and managed to achieve electoral rights. It is the aggregate of
these phenomena that created the «window of opportunities», in which the electoral
rights for women appeared socially and politically acceptable.
In the end, the formal (at first glance) inclusion of women into the process of
elections had more profound consequences. Traditional gender models broke, and
new gender patterns of women’s civic stance and professional activities emerged.
They extended the spectrum of gender behaviors and shifted the focus in political
discussions. The political elites actively discussed the participation of marginal
groups in state-building, as well as the extent to which various groups, including
the proverbial «housewives,» could be engaged.
Further events of October-November of 1917 and rise of the Bolshevik government
in Ukraine showed that «the frame of the window» could shift, the space
of opportunities could be modified, narrowed by a class dimension. The notion of
«emancipation» could transform into «alleviating the strains.» Feminist egalitarianism
was replaced with the Party’s paternalism. The gender setting progressed
into a different set of rules and principles, aimed at engagement in mass production.
Keywords: «window of opportunities», women’s suffrage, gender inequality,
democratic revolution, everyday life routines, women’s demands, women’s


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