Change in Attitudes Beliefs and Practices Regarding Gender

Recent years have seen a revival of a matriarchal myth based on the pagan goddess of the hearth Berehynia. Yet the historical record shows an ambivalent picture of male-female relations in Ukrainian history. While Ukrainian society is usually characterized as patriarchal, there is some evidence that women have exercised a significant amount of control over their lives. During the 17 th century, for example, the traveling Frenchman de Beauplan was surprised to find that Ukrainian women enjoyed great sexual freedom. Premarital sex was not taboo, and did not negatively impact a woman's marriageability (Le Vasseur & de Beauplan, 1660/1993; cited in Rubchak, 2001). In fact, in some regions of Ukraine, premarital sex was considered an absolute precursor to marriage (Denysiuk, 1993; Vovk, 1995; cited in Rubchak, 2001). Nineteenth century marriage customs described by Rubchak (2001) also indicate that Ukrainian women commanded considerable respect as brides and spouses.

During the Soviet period (1917-91 in central and east Ukraine, and 1939-91 in west Ukraine), an image of the Soviet superwoman (Rubchak, 2001) was promoted. Women's emancipation was a primary goal of the Bolshevik revolutionaries, and women throughout the Soviet Union were given opportunities for education and career advancement. The gender-specific allocation of domestic responsibilities was hardly questioned, however, and women were expected to be full-time workers, mothers, and housekeepers. In contrast, men's roles were seen to lie squarely in the public sphere. In many ways, post-socialism has seen a return to the traditional myth of the Ukrainian matriarch, and women are encouraged to carry out their womanly duties in the home as "hearth mothers" (Rubchak, 2001). However, this is only a pipe-dream for many, since socioeconomic crisis makes stay-at-home mothering an option few can afford.

There is some evidence that men and women are beginning to renegotiate their respective roles in families, especially in young families where the wife is the primary breadwinner. Some husbands are taking on domestic chores and childcare, and family structures may be becoming more egalitarian (Averianova, 1998).

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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