Limitations of Women in Russian Politics
The period of transition to post-communist Russia has negatively impacted the lives of Russian women. The degradation of the economic, political, and social position of women in Russian society has provoked organizational responses; however, women’s movements in Russia have often been weak and undistinguished, and have mostly remained disorganized and dormant.
During the time period of Communist Russia, the institutions within the Communist regime did not provide the uniformity and identity necessary for unity among women. This lack of unity left activist groups and organizations without the ability to become an organized movement for women’s rights. Organizations suffered the impact of disjunction and low numbers in membership, a fate not unlike that of labor unions in Russia at that time. Although the transition period in Russia has created more opportunities for activism and mobilization, common class and gender interests have yet to be made known. (Dawson)
Before 1991, the USSR seemingly promoted equality among sexes by providing social services such as guaranteed employment, child care, generous maternity leaves, and easily accessible abortions. Along with these services, there was the apparent promise of women’s representation in state bodies. The reality was greatly different from what was advertised. Although women were in the labor force, they were usually in the lowest-status jobs with little to no mobility. Women earned less than men who worked similar positions. On top of being a part of the labor force, women had to work the “double shift.” Due to the normalization of gender roles in Russia, many men did not take on any household or child care responsibilities. This meant that women were doing household chores and child rearing while also working their day to day jobs. As for the promise of better representation of women in state bodies, it was nearly non-existent. Because the power at that time was in the hands of the Communist Party elites, which women were rarely a part of, women did not receive the representation promised by Russia’s egalitarian government. (Dawson)
In post-communist Russia, sex discrimination in the workplace has been normalized. Women are often the first to be laid off at their jobs because men are still seen as the “bread-winners” of the family. Businesses openly advertise for young, attractive women to work as receptionists and other similar jobs. Russia has no laws to protect women from unequal pay, unfair job loss, discrimination, or sexual harassment. If women are so poorly treated on a basic societal level, there is little hope for advancement and better representation within Russian politics.
The Impact of the ‘Women of Russia’ on the Representation of Women in Russian Politics
The organization of Women of Russia advocated for better representation of women in elections under Russia’s new democratic electoral system. Women of Russia is an example of the electoral system influencing women’s representation in Russian politics, due to the positive relationship between the new, more democratic electoral system and party success. Women of Russia made up 36% of women elected to the Russia State Duma in 1993, due to the Proportional Representation (PR) tier. (Paxton) For the 1993 Russia State Duma election, this group received 100,000 signatures and ended up winning 8% of the vote. Although Women of Russia did well in 1993, they failed to maintain the support necessary to legally hold their place in the 1995 elections. Whenever these types of movements become successful, they suffer from political pressures to keep social support in order to maintain their success. This support contributes to both the shaping policy and electoral outcomes. The success of Women of Russia may not have lasted, but it made an impact on women’s representation in Russian politics. Their success led to other political parties in Russia to nominate women (Jaquette).
Dawson, Jane. “Egalitarian Responses in Postcommunist Russia.” International Studies Review , Vol. 1, No. 3 (Autumn, 1999), pp. 13-40. Wiley on behalf of The International Studies Association. Web. 6 Feb. 2013. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/3186330></p>
Jaquette, Jane S. “Women in Power: From Tokenism to Critical Mass.” Foreign Policy , No. 108 (Autumn, 1997), pp. 23-37.Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, LLC. Web. 6 Feb. 2013. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/1149087>.
Moser, Robert G.“The effects of electoral systems on women’s representation in post-communist states.” Electoral Studies 20 (2001) 353–369. Department of Government, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA. Web. 6 Feb. 2013. < http://www.utexas.edu/cola/depts/government/_files/moser-web/Moser_Electoral_Systems_and_Womens_Rep_in_Postcommunist_States_ES_2001.pdf>