Highly appropriately timed, since I am writing my essay on the double burden and it is our next discussion in class, is a NY Times article from the week about the Russian Orthodox patriarch condemning feminism. He is quoted as saying it is dangerous for giving women an “illusion of freedom” when they should be focusing on their families and children. As a 21st century woman, I find this notion extremely disturbing, but as a history scholar, I see this echoed throughout my research on the double burden. In the early Stalinist period, women were discriminated against in the workforce because of this same patriarchal mindset, and even the women that wanted jobs were refused and told to go back to their husbands. Of course I recognize that these ideas are commonly used by churches all over the world, but what I found even more off-putting was that the Patriarch works with the Russian president to ensure that the church is the guardian of Russia’s national values. This official relationship between church and state is proving to be dangerous to women.
The Patriarch also claimed that the “pesudo-freedom” feminism encourages takes place outside the confines of marriage. Here, I understand some of the historical significance of his claim. Bolshevik officials after the revolution argued against marriage as a mutually exploitative economic endeavor and made divorce easier to obtain, which resulted in men leaving their wives easily and the women taking advantage of their alimony to live outside of marraige. In the socialization of Russia, women were forced to work in the marginalized sectors of industry, which provided them with poor working conditions and little free time. At the same time as working the night shift in a textile factory, for example, they had to get up early to take care of the children and feed their husband. This resulted in what is called the “double burden,” which was responsible for high levels of work-related accidents among women and infertility, since the working conditions were chemically dangerous. However, in an alternative twist on feminism, many women refused to leave these jobs because they provided the best wages and access to housing in order to support their families. The government, especially after WWII, recognized this problem and sought measures to protect women within the work force, such as providing them maternity leave, but even though socialism required the equality of the sexes, women were pressured into assuming domestic and reproductive roles to help Russia rebuild. The orthodox Patriarch is reminiscent of this stereotypically misogynistic and patriarchal past, putting all the pressure on women to preserve the homeland when the Soviet Union already proved that the assertion of traditional gender roles does nothing to contribute to modernization and results in the exploitation of the female population.