This image, entitled “The Delegate” from the visual essay, “Models & Counter-models of Gender” within the subject of Revolutionary Manliness reminded me of Liuda in the silent film, “Bed and Sofa.” This image depicting women in the communist 1920’s is grouped with four others, each different from the next. Below are two starkly contrasting photographs, one depicting femininity and the other depicting ‘manliness’ and power in the holding of a gun.
The lack of consistency with these photographs of women represents the complexity of gender roles after the Russian Revolution. In the Bolsheviks attempt to move from socialism and onto communism, they recognized the need to change society in many ways as to better their collective self and experience (Freeze 329). They also knew that they needed vast state power, education campaigns and party organizations, among other things.
Two of these party organizations included the “Zhenotdel (Women’s Department) and the Komsomol (Young Communist League).” The Zhenotdel became very effective in organizing women at the local level which threatened Soviet leader’s hopes of “class solidarity,” thus the Women’s Department was shut down in 1930 (Wikipedia). The Komsomol, on the other hand, were not known to be as successful or productive; rather, they were known for their “atheism, hooliganism, and sexual depravity.” (Guillory) Further, the Komsomol was known for disregarding and harassing women. The gender roles in this instance, however, are not merely about men not respecting women but rather about how communism was characteristically masculine and thus women could not be a part of it. Now you can see how the pictures above show the complex gender roles of the time in that women saw themselves as powerful (Woman with a Gun) whereas men and the communist party viewed women as subservient and domestic (A Young Pioneer).
In the silent film, “Bed and Sofa”, Liuda plays the characteristic role of women in the eyes of men in that time. However, Volodya, a Mensehvik, saw Liuda as she wanted to be seen, someone capable of more than just tending to the household. His gift to her of newspapers and a radio showed his belief in women’s ability to be involved and aware of their government’s actions. Thus, there was some progress on the front of the perceptions of women’s newly gained rights of civil marriages, readily available divorce, legal equality, full rights to children born out of wedlock, and abortion. These newly given rights were an attempt by the new government to change the tsarist ways that were patriarchal, religiously sanctioned families (Freeze 331).
The Revolution, despite bringing about new women’s rights, created complex gender roles and altered the dynamics of family towards revolutionary values of relative freedom and away from tsarist societal values and norms.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed., New York, Oxford UP, 2009.
Guillory, Sean. “Revolutionary Manliness.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, soviethistory.msu.edu/1924-2/revolutionary-manliness/. Accessed 24 Feb. 2018.
Wikipedia contributors. “Zhenotdel.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 Nov. 2017. Web. 24 Feb. 2018.