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Gender discourses in Estonian in the Soviet period

Eve Annuk

The Soviet period in Estonia has a contradictory meaning from the perspective of gender. Although gender equality was an inseparable part of the Soviet worldview, it was not realized in reality. Despite the fact that women were granted rights equal to those of men Soviet society was characterized by gendered stratification and the patriarchal view of gender remained vigorous under the public rhetoric of gender quality. Gendered division of labour was also maintained as women often worked in positions that have traditionally been viewed as feminine. The traditional gender role division was also maintained in the private sphere where women were responsible for domestic labour. The official Soviet image of the working woman above all showed women to be (cheap) labour power, the most expressive example of which is the representation of the woman tractor driver. However, Estonian experience of the Soviet period is also somewhat different from that of the rest of the former Soviet Union because, in addition to the experience of national sovereignty, Estonia was the most “Western” of the Soviet republics in an economic, geographical (closeness to Finland) and ideological sense. This also influenced the understanding of gender which combined Soviet gender equality rhetoric, ideology of Estonian-ness, certain Western influences, puritanism in relation to sexuality and the biological aspects of womanhood, etc. The central site where the gender question was discussed was the only women’s magazine of the time, “Nõukogude Naine” (‘Soviet Woman’) that echoed the position of the Communist Party on the question of gender. Gender was represented in a more diverse fashion in literary texts, especially in the so-called domestic fiction. Opinions on gender were also importantly shaped by popularizing medical texts with their puritan vision of the female body. The article analyses gender discourses in the public sphere of the Soviet period on the example of print media, literature and popularizing medical texts.

Caught by the French Revolution – flourishing and destruction of feminism. The example of Olympe de Gouges (1748–1893) as a voice of political feminism

Tiina Veikat

The article aims to introduce a contemporary of the French Revolution, Olympe de Gouges, a brave voice for women’s political rights. De Gouges has been written into history above all as the author of the “Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Woman Citizen” that demanded equal civic rights and duties to men and women. In addition to different pamphlets and essays, de Gouges also wrote many plays and often faced difficulties in getting her socially critical plays staged.

In writing about de Gouges, one has to write about the impact of the revolution that shook French society in the second half of the 18th century that, at least for a few years, also meant greater rights to French women than under the ancien regime (briefly, for example, right to divorce, equal treatment of children in the distribution of inheritance, the abolition of the lettres de cachet, etc.). Under the banner of republicanism Parisian women sought the right to bear arms, which legally meant becoming a citizen with full rights. Women also gathered in different clubs that generated a sense of unity and that helped to propagate specific republican principles and values.

In revolutionary France women were active agents in oral and written declarations as well as in taking to arms in a way not seen before. This, without a doubt, changed the previous social image of women as fragile and gentle beings whose only place could be at home and presented men with the dilemma of how to return the active women to domesticity. The rise of Napoléon and his famous civil code ended women’s rights and aspirations achieved during the revolution. After the revolution, the punishment of women ideological leaders was society’s revenge to “male women” who dared to cross the conventional lines and question the Enlightenment celebration of equal rights that did not live up to the ideal of equality in reality.

Estonian men’s violence against their intimate partners

Kadri Soo

The article studies the violence perpetrated by 18-54-year-old Estonian men against their female partners or wives and the related risk factors. The empirical data are derived from the 2014 survey of Estonian men’s attitudes and behaviour. Of the 1137 men studied 12% state that they have used mental, physical and/or sexual violence against their women partners. Men’s violence is above all related to socio-cultural attitudes that support violence. Attitudes that explain and justify hitting women and reduce the responsibility of the man help violent men normalize their actions and lead to the repetition of episodes of violence. Men, who have themselves experienced abuse as children, are more likely to act violently in their relationships, support the man-breadwinner family model and gender inequality in sexual relationships. Alcohol use is a statistically important factor, but its impact on perpetrating violence is weaker than that of attitudes supporting violence. Men’s labour force participation status and the financial state of the household are not related to aggressive behaviours in a relationship. In conclusion, it can be said that men’s violence against women partners is primarily related to patriarchal values that legitimizes male dominance and privilege as well as double standards in sexual and family relationships (but also in the public sphere). Men who have adopted the described stance during their socialization as the image of the “real” man are very likely to expect submission and obedience from women and consider them people with fewer rights. Violence is a means of establishing power and control as well as an act securing masculinity that can be practiced by men with a very different socio-economic status. Alcohol use helps to demonstrate adherence to the norms of masculinity, but it is also a handy excuse to reduce men’s responsibility for acts of violence.

Sock it to the macho man. Women and men in Maarja Kangro’s short story collection „Hüppa tulle” (Jump into Fire)

Riina Roasto

The article studies the representation of men and women in Maarja Kangro’s short story collection „Hüppa tulle” (Jump into Fire). As literature as a form of art has the ability to question norms dominant in a society, including traditional gender norms, the article seeks to find out whether and in what way the men and women characters in Maarja Kangro’s work interact with gender stereotypes of today’s Estonian society. Kangro has been chosen for analysis because of her socially critical and ironical mode of writing. The representation of gender has this far been studied in Estonia through literary analysis. The present article provides a methodologically novel linguistic analysis of literary data.

Specifically, the article focuses on two aspects: what are the characteristics and actions of men and women characters represented in the short stories. The analysis covers all noun phrases referring to characters. The analysis is based on Michael Halliday’s (2004) functional grammar, specifically relational processes describing being and material processes referring to actions.

Protagonists and minor characters are clearly distinguished in Maarja Kangro’s short stories. The linguistic analysis demonstrated that the minor characters are represented in a very stereotypical manner. Descriptions of men stress macho attitudes, descriptions of women appearance. Men have more important professions, women low-paying ones. However, the protagonist who is female and describes the events is emphatically non-traditional. For example, the woman protagonist is sexually active, sometimes untypically violent. As the protagonist’s attitude towards the minor characters is clearly ironical, their gender-stereotyped world appears somewhat pathetic. Thus, characters who embody unequal gender roles have not been introduced by chance or in order to imitate social norms, but with the goal of ridiculing them.

Social grammar of gender and the role of the student

Tiiu Kuurme

Gender equality is one the grounding principles of general education. Many international studies, however, show that the school context reproduces both gender stereotypes and gendered self-positioning. The article studies how boys and girls from Estonian schools of general education perceive different aspects of school as well as themselves, their opportunities and the limits of permissible within the school. The study of high school students conducted within the program “Gender Equality and Life-Work Balance”, funded by Norway Grants, elicited responses from 649 students that provided a multi-layered picture of students’ gender-marked perceptions of the school and the effect of gender stereotypes on students’ self-perception as students. The theoretical framework of the article introduces the notion of social grammar that links gender and school roles into a unified pattern of behaviour. The material was analysed with the help of thematic qualitative content analysis. The discussion takes a closer look at the similarities and differences in the opinions of respondents of both genders, their self-positioning as the creator- subject of actions and changes as well as the limits of freedom and the permissible. We conclude that, as the result of gender stereotypes, students’ descriptions of school contain more references to gender differences than gender similarities, which culminates in the descriptions of what is normal for both genders. However, the shared role of the student also unites students’ desire for change at school. The neoliberal agenda has not added gender equality to schools.

“New Woman” in Johannes Semper’s novel “Armukadedus” (1934)

Merlin Kirikal

The article focuses on the novel “Armukadedus” (Jealousy) by the Estonian modernist writer Johannes Semper (1892–1970) that has been excluded from the Estonian literary canon of today. Because of the latter, the article first introduces the text – its technical aspects, contradictory reception and the context (of gender relations) that surrounded the novel. The aim of the article is to study how “Armukadedus” constructs, from diferent perspectives, the relationship between the representation of women and men and the cultural situation of the day and the fixed definition of femininities/masculinities.

The analysis focuses on the modern figure of the “New Woman” and asks whether and in what way Semper’s characters – especially women characters Krista and Herma and the protagonist Enn Maiste – support the ideals of women’s emancipation and “New Woman” and how they simultaneously undermine emancipatory ideals. The article also looks at how the birth of the “New Woman” affected thinking. Among other things, the author considers the “New Woman’s” relationship with consumer culture, women characters’ expectations for themselves and other women and men characters and briefly touches upon the modern “new masculinity”.

The article concludes that the “New Woman” was both desired and feared. Therefore, Semper’s women characters are somewhat spilt, a phenomenon that can be explained also by more general trends of modernity (e.g., the fragmentation of the humanist sense of the subject, secularization). One of the main aims of the article is also to show how women characters seek “new ways of being”, something that, in the opinion of many theorists, goes hand in hand with the incorporation of characteristics/attitudes conventionally considered masculine. The article also analyses the characters’ relationship with arts and the meaning of the woman artist in the context of the period.

As several of the characters of “Armukadedus” question classical definitions of femininities/ masculinities, the novel is a symptomatic text in the context of modernization and shifting gender relations.

Influence of place of employment on Estonian men’s plans of having children

Mare Ainsaar, Ave Roots, Marek Sammul, Kati Orru

The majority of studies of birth-rate focus on the attitudes and behaviour of women. However, today couples often make decisions about having children together and thus it is also necessary to study men’s plans about having children. A study of Estonian men conducted in 2015 showed that Estonian men up to the age of 54 believe that an ideal number of children a family should have is over two and they wish to have the same number of children. Only 3% of men did not want to become a father at all. The majority wanted to have either two (48%) or three children (34%).

In the present article we analyse the link between men’s plans of having children and their satisfaction with their employment and the employer’s support to families. The analysis is based on the data of a study of Estonian men conducted in late 2014. The study is a questionnaire- based representative study of Estonian men between the ages of 16 and 54. For the analysis we used the data about the men who are employed and live together with their partners. The number of such men in the study was 1167.

The results showed that the plans of having children were associated with demographic data. The men with more firm desire to have children were younger and had few children at the time of participating in the study, but desiring to have more, that is, they were men whose desire to have children had not yet been fulfilled. Behaviour related to the birth rate is also influenced by social norms. Men who believe that the ideal number of children is smaller also desire to have fewer children.

Of the characteristics related to work, men’s dissatisfaction with their employment reduced men’s desire to have children, but the family-friendliness of the employer or workload did not have an effect. Satisfaction with employment lost its effect in the family planning model that also included references to financial difficulties. Financial difficulties reduced the desire to have children and are related to satisfaction with work.

Competing activities in life should reduce the desire to have children, but our results show that changes in different spheres of life increased men’s desire to have children. Men who planned more changes in their lives also planned to have more children.

Challenging sexism while supporting speciesism: opinions of Estonian feminists on animal rights and its links to feminism through a vegan feminist perspective

Kadri Aavik

In this article, Kadri Aavik takes as a starting point her own everyday experiences as a vegan feminist in Estonia and dilemmas stemming from this identity. Relying on critical animal studies and vegan-feminist perspectives, she explores connections between feminism and animal liberation and veganism as bodies of thought and everyday critical practices challenging powerful systems of domination. The paper examines how 16 key Estonian feminists understand human-animal relations, whether and what connections they see between feminism and animal liberation, and how they conceptualize veganism as an ethical food practice.

As a significant finding, research participants challenged sexism while supporting speciesism, using similar discursive strategies. Feminists’ lack of interest in and motivation to challenge speciesism could be framed as strategic ignorance. The concept, originating from critical studies of whiteness, can be understood as actively and consciously produced ignorance that upholds and legitimizes species hierarchy, human exceptionalism and the exploitation of other animals.

As vegan feminism is a novel and virtually unknown body of thought and practice in Estonia, a further aim of the article was to introduce this stream of feminist thought to Estonian readers. The paper hence discusses the relationship of vegan feminism with other, more established streams of feminist thought in Estonia and considers its potential contribution to feminist research and activism in Estonia. The article is based on a paper published in English in the Journal for Critical Animal Studies (Aavik & Kase 2015).

Attitudes and experiences related to the involvement of women in Estonian Defence Forces

Andres Siplane

Most Western countries have developed special policies about the service of women in defence forces and declared the desire to increase the number of women in the military. Estonia is no exception. The involvement of women is not an aim in itself but it is seen as a solution to several problems, starting from the achievement of better cooperation with the local population during missions and a better representation of the society in the armed forces to the need to improve the effectiveness of the leadership of military organizations. However, the involvement of women also poses a challenge to the infrastructure, equipment and attitudes that express the traditionally masculine character of armed forces.

The Estonian Defence Forces also face the above problems, challenges and opportunities. To map the situation, a survey was conducted among active military personnel in 2017. As expected, the survey showed that Estonian Defence Forces were noticeably more progressive about the involvement of women than the rest of the society and that the traditional fears about women coping as soldiers are unfounded. It was also interesting to observe that women considered military careers as important as men. The increase in the proportion of women soldiers appears to be an irreversible trend as, on the example of Estonia, it can be said that the younger generations accept women serving in the military more than the older generations and at the same time the Defence Forces prepares for the recruitment of increasing numbers of women. Thus, we can expect the continued increase in the numbers of women soldiers and we need to prepare ourselves for the detection and analysis of processes taking place.

Feminist contribution to moral philosophy, on the example of ethics of care

Kadri Simm

The key questions of moral philosophy – right and wrong, with explanations and applications – have also inevitably been the focus of feminist approaches. Do theories of ethics that seek to be universal consider women’s experiences? How have traditionally masculine and feminine attitudes, actions and ways of thinking been evaluated form the perspective of morals? Can only a feminine woman who is true to her gender role be virtuous or is it also possible outside of the home and the family, for example in the public sphere? What deconstructive critiques and constructive suggestions do feminist theorists present to the traditional canon of moral philosophy? Throughout much of history men’s and women’s life experiences have been quite different because of traditional gender roles. Has that also meant different experiences and opinions about right and wrong? Feminist moral philosophy tries to deal with these questions systematically.

The article focuses on feminist moral philosophy on the example of ethics of care. The emergence of the ethics of care is associated with psychologist Carol Gilligan and her 1982 book „In a different voice“, but today it has become a more widely applied approach, for example in Feminist moral philosophy does not (with some exceptions) seek to create a separate ethics for women. However, it stresses that it is important to consider women’s experiences and to question frameworks that tend to exclude women’s interests, rights and positions from serious discussion of morals, medicine, social policy or global justice.