Cultural Construction of Gender

Recognized gender categories include men and women, who are generally assumed to have distinct psychological and personality traits and to possess different capabilities. A widespread notion is that, as a result of their inherently different natures, men and women complete one another and need each other in order to live a full life. This conviction is at least partially based on the tenets of the Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches (historically the state religions), which emphasize men's and women's complementary roles.

Men are valued for their leadership skills, authority, and business sense, while women are valued for their compassion, sensitivity, moral qualities, and caretaking roles. Masculinity and femininity are valued, and this is reflected in customs of dress and personal grooming. Maintaining one's appearance is considered especially important for women. Women often wear make-up and "feminine" clothing such as skirts, dresses, and high-heeled dress shoes and boots.

In the context of nation building in the newly independent Ukraine, women are positioned as the keepers of the home hearth and the protectresses of the nation (Rubchak, 1996, 2001). As the alleged descendants of the mythical pre-Christian goddess of the hearth called Berehynia, women are encouraged to take care of their families first and foremost, and to inculcate a sense of national pride in the next generation of Ukrainians. This duty is often assigned to women in the domestic/private sphere, while men's activities are directed towards the public sphere of business and politics.

These trends towards strict separation of gender roles represent somewhat of a divergence from socialist discourses on men and women. Under socialism, women were guaranteed equal rights to education, work, and political representation. While the Soviet gender contract did provide women with many opportunities for education and career advancement, the continued close association of women with the domestic sphere created for women a "double burden" of official paid work and unpaid domestic labor. This unpaid "second shift" for women continues today, and has been magnified by a revival of traditional gender ideals. Many in Ukraine believe that socialism masculinized women and denied them the chance to realize their femininity. Likewise, it is thought that socialism took away men's agency and resulted in the development of weak men. Contemporary gender ideologies represent a drive to refeminize women and remasculinize men. Feminist discourse is usually met with skepticism, because it is often associated with a dangerous form of westernization, hatred toward men, and a threat to the sanctity of the family (Pavlychko, 2000).

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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