Motherhood and sex in the Soviet Union

Mother’s Day was prohibited in the USSR (Estonia included, of course) as a bourgeois relic. Being a mother was naturally an obligatory part of life for every Soviet woman; motherhood was a national, party-governed program for reproduction of the labour force. According to Zdaromyslova and Tjomkina, girls were brought up to be “working mothers”. Sexuality was never mentioned, the important issue was the reproduction of the labour force. Mothers who had many children were awarded medals of honour and received special benefits.

In the Soviet Union, women were first and foremost workers and only then mothers. Women naturally took care of the household chores because Soviet men did not do much at home. Despite being mothers, women had no gender and neither did men. Sex was taboo. Abortion was permitted but the procedure was medically primitive and brutal. Furthermore, the employers were notified of the abortion. Contraceptive devices were almost unknown and there were no special toiletries for women. Thus, the state had accepted reproduction but neither sex nor gender-specific needs were recognised. Everyday consumerism generally did not exist; all of those hundreds of accessories for women and for homes that help to furnish one’s life and one to be a woman in a practical manner simply did not exist.

The Soviet woman. What does it really mean? In order to answer that question, one ought to write a monograph. One thing is for sure, however, Estonians are still experiencing the aftershocks of such a phenomenon. It is because of the Soviet woman that Estonian women do not want to hear anything about equality of treatment or human rights, women’s political organisations or women having their say in society.

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