The New Eastern European Woman: A Gold Digger or an Independent Spirit?
This essay contends that the woman of the new Eastern European democracies have created a new identity, in sharp opposition to the traditionally established image of the Eastern European woman as a caretaker and a heroine/worker. By examining the rhetoric of the lyrical content of contemporary Bulgarian pop folk songs, this essay argues that Eastern European women have overthrown traditional stereotypes of femininity and asserted a new independence. The advent of democracy in the former Communist states of Europe brought both promise and hardship. A once monolithic fate based upon ideological rigor and progressive stalemate has been replaced by a perplexing variety of threats to stability in this fragile region, with the advances of democracy frequently drowned out by the noises of intolerance, social injustice and repression. In this changing new world, the voices of women are vital to a healthy social and political discourse (Hunt, 1997). With the fall of the Berlin Wall, Eastern European women enthusiastically embraced the radical social and political changes that advocated equality at home and in the work place. Even with a new open market economy, however, the position of Eastern European women did not change as expected. The difficult transition in the countries of the ex-Soviet bloc confirmed that the collapse of Communism is nothing more than an ascendance of capitalism. A free public life and civil society were but facades for the underlying realities of capitalism, and patriarchy was a necessary component of a retrogressive social formation that clearly undermined the status of women in Eastern Europe. In the 1960s and 1970s, American feminists viewed Eastern European and Soviet women from afar and envied their situation (LaFont, 1998). Indeed, women from the former Soviet bloc enjoyed rights and privileges which Western women could only dare to imagine and enjoy, such as laws that provided three years of maternity leave, widely available state-sponsored child care, and abortion rights. These were just few of the “protectionist” laws established by the socialist states of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in their attempt to resolve in a Marxist fashion what they termed the “women’s question.” Consequently, the illusion existed that women in the Communist countries had indeed been liberated.