Is there feminism in Ukraine?

While in the 28 countries of the world same-sex marriages are staggering, in Ukraine gender equality issues are only beginning to gain momentum. Moreover, Ukraine ranked 83rd in the index of gender equality among 150 countries of the world. Is the phenomenon of feminism positively affecting our society?

It is worth recognizing that the problem of gender inequality existed always and everywhere, from a tribal union to an emerging nation. In the public consciousness, gender stereotypes function in the form of standard representations of patterns of behavior and features of the character, corresponding to the concepts of “male” and “female.” That is, about a man talking about a strong, courageous, one who does not follow the appearance, necessarily a sport, an emotionally stable “breadwinner of his family.” A woman is shy, emotionally weak, needs protection, “draws” her appearance, is not inclined to achieve high results in sports, etc. So people lived for a long time, and they seemed to not worry about it, moreover, they considered it a pattern of behavior.

The generally accepted definition of “feminism” does not exist. The literature has more than 300 interpretations of this term. Early feminists did not use this word but called themselves protectors of women’s rights. In the scientific community, the French socialist theorist Charles Fourier was first who used this term. It was in the first half of the XIX century. He wrote about a “new woman” who would participate in changes in social life and at the same time change in society created by association and reciprocity. Fourier was convinced that “extension” of women’s rights is the main source of social progress.

In Ukraine, as in the whole world, feminism arose in the second half of the XIX century. Women from higher social strata began to proclaim the injustice that existed in contemporary society. The first problems pointed out by feminists were the inequality of property and family rights, the inaccessibility of professional education, the impossibility of professional self-realization and the lack of political rights.

Women began to group, write and talk about these problems. It was an absolutely normal process – the same happened in Europe and in North America. Therefore, one can not say that feminism was imported into Ukraine – it had its own roots, its founding mothers. The names of the then Ukrainian feminists in everyone’s hearing – Natalia Kobrynska, Olga Kobylyanska, Lesya Ukrainka, Daria Starosolska …

Now the attitude to the feminist movement in Ukraine is quite controversial. On the one hand, there are many participants in online campaigns (# IDon’tAfraidToSay, #MeToo against the omission of violence) and public actions (for example, for quotas for women in politics), feminist organizations are increasing and even in Kharkiv, the Gender Museum has appeared. On the other hand, not everyone understands the meaning of feminism, in the daily life there is a little of such manifestations, it is often heard that all the requirements of this movement have been achieved or it is inappropriate to raise this topic during the war. There are anti-feminist initiatives that demonstrate their rejection publicly and loudly – their members are attacking actions, exhibitions, and discrediting the theme of feminism.

For me, feminism is an opportunity to think critically. It is not necessary that a woman is discriminated against, although in the first place this is a chance to simply look at things that happen in the country in a political, social and cultural context. When some feminist initiatives get active in Ukraine, all people start breathing with more freedom. Being abused in the past, a lot of women kept silence. Now if you’ve been told something sexually offensive, you can state it in numerous organizations supporting women, and the offenders will not beat the rap as it has been before. Therefore, it seems to me that everything is changing for the better. I hope it will be so. As Merle Dandridge, a brave woman, once said, “As women, we have super powers. We are sisters. We are healers. We are mothers. We are goddess warriors.” No wonder that men are supposed to respect us and our rights.

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