Did the Bolsheviks Revolution Improve the Lives of Soviet Women?
The Bolsheviks Revolution of 1917 had a great impact on the place of women in the Russian society. The Revolution came about at that time because of a nationwide economic crisis, lack of proper management and control. The industrial manufacturing and transport sectors caused most factories and industries to shut down thus causing mass job retrenchments and the dropping of salaries. The cost of living had gone up, and the country went into massive debt. The Russian citizenry felt that the time was right for changes to be instituted. The Bolsheviks spearheaded this quest for change. Leon Trotsky and Lenin, leaders of the Bolsheviks party, desired also to bring social and political equality for the women of Russia who had for a long time been discriminated and constricted to the home and domestic roles. Rights like employment and the right to vote or even to have any say in government were privileges that were alien to them.
The Bolsheviks were seeking to change this predicament for the women. Lenin, a leader of the Revolution, aided in the establishment of a women’s organization called the Zhenotdel to cater for and address the needs of women. They also made significant reforms of the laws of Russia. For example they would now be able to keep their own assets and what they have earned in marriage and they could now divorce (Smith, 2002). They were also given the right to abort, laundries, childcare services and opened up more employment opportunities.
Though in as much as the Bolsheviks Revolution made big commendable leaps towards the liberation of women from domestic confinement, its positive effect was only felt mainly in Petrograd and other urban areas. The plight of women in Rural Russia remained the same and even worsened in some areas. The backwardness of Russian society was still overwhelming. Discrimination continued, and they continued to be confined to home, thus destroying the hope that had grown among most women that their plight would get a reprieve (Spartacist, 2006).
After the Revolution, women were slowly given more opportunities for employment and more and more started spending their days working thus duties like cooking at home and teaching of children remained neglected. Trotsky once argued that the family as a fundamental unit of any society could not be brought to an end but wholly substituted. The actual liberation of women is unrealizable on a basis of ‘generalized want’ (Trotsky, 2006). Thus Joseph Stalin changed the Family Separation government policy causing women to slowly go back to their roles in their homes (Nosotro, 2010).
The rates of unemployment remained high with falling wages. The men felt threatened that the women the women were now been given more opportunities and general social equality and they took advantage of these legal changes to abandon their responsibilities and abandon women and children (VanGorp, 2010). This caused even more poverty for the women and subsequently these turns of events caused many women resort to prostitution. Their life expectancy significantly decreased as a result of these and other social factors. The percentage of women who remained in employment was very low. Even by 1975, the rate of pay for women was still around 70 percent that of men (Nosotro, 2010).
The Bolsheviks Revolution did a lot to aid the plight of women but unfortunately these changes could not be fully incorporated immediately into the society. It took time for Russia to come to a degree of social development that could accommodate the social, political and economic equality of women with men, but thankfully after a lot of struggle, it got there. Right now Russian women enjoy equal privileges with men, and they owe it all to those moves in policy made at that time by the Bolsheviks.