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Ukrainian feminism: from Yulia Tymoshenko to making babies in a crisis

As a holiday gift to myself and readers, I sat down recently to speak to my friend, translator, and Ukrainian feminist, Maria Dmytrieva, who’s famous as Mary Xmas in LiveJournal circles. What follows is a look at modern Ukraine, modern Ukrainian women, and, perhaps most importantly, how to deal with insecure teenagers when teaching them how to stand up for themselves.

Natalia: Here’s a rhetorical question to start us off, IS there feminism in Ukraine?

Maria: That’s not a rhetorical question, that’s a difficult, philosophical question. The most common belief is that feminism is “not needed” in Ukraine, that Ukrainian women have all the rights they need and that we furthermore have a matriarchy. Contrast that, for a moment, with the fact that there less than 8% of members of parliament are female.

Women’s organizations are terrified of the word “feminism.” Right now, Ukraine has seriously begun to tackle the issue of gender equality; there is a sub-commission on it in the government commission on human rights. The media, however, is very careful to differentiate between “gender equality” and “feminism,” because feminists are hellish, castrating creatures, or so everyone thinks.

And why are we so terrified of a single word?

The word “feminism” is a bit like the word “nationalism” here. They are mythologized as destructive and inhumane. The Soviet system equated both feminism and nationalism with the lifestyle of the bourgeoisie. In modern Ukraine, we also spread rumors about how feminism works in, say, the U.S. There is a popular belief that if you come to America, and happen to open a door for a woman, she’ll sue you for everything you’ve got. I’ve been to the U.S., and I know that’s not true, but people enjoy their caricatures.

Can we talk about feminism in the context of nationalism? That’s kind of an alien concept, to me.

It’s a difficult topic for me. I’m a Ukrainian nationalist, but I know that our nationalism is not progressive. One of the many problems with it is the idea that a woman is a kind of keeper of the household and of national identity. In this role, she gets blamed for everything that goes wrong in the country. “Our women are bitches who f*ck foreigners and ruin our gene pool,” does that sound familiar?


People want to build a better nation on the backs of women, and that’s not going to work. I call myself a nationalist because I believe in developing and bettering Ukraine, but how can I reconcile that with putting fellow women down?

I see eerie similarities between Ukrainian nationalism and National Socialism. Like the Kinder, Küche, Kirche slogan, I find that it’s similar to the kind of rhetoric that Ukrainian nationalists spew.

We need to get rid of both sexism and xenophobia, but we don’t have critical mass right now.

Speaking of critical mass, what do you think of Yulia Tymoshenko?

Yulia Tymoshenko on the campaign trail. Photo: Tymoshenko.UA
Tymoshenko on the campaign trail. Photo: Tymoshenko.UA

I think it’s great that we have a prominent, powerful woman in government, someone who has a real chance of winning the presidency, but I think we can’t talk about Yulia Tymoshenko without mentioning the issue of tokenism. Right now, it’s too easy for people to say, “what are you complaining about? You have Yulia!” That’s beside the fact that every time Yulia makes a mistake, all women collectively are blamed. It really makes me wonder about whether or not quotas for women in government will be useful. Quotas, of course, can result in us having a class of female puppets sitting in parliament, but at the end of the day, I think they will help even out the power imbalance.

Here’s something I’ve been dying to ask a Ukrainian feminist: what do I tell my teenage cousin who says that boys won’t like her if she becomes a feminist? She’s smart, she’s young, she’s fit, she wants to have a social life, and she doesn’t want to be ostracized.

Let me start off by saying that when I was a teenager, I knew I was unattractive. My classmates wore make-up, and were fashionable, and I wasn’t anything like that. However, I started approaching the most attractive boys at all the school dances. They were so surprised, that they usually said “yes.” I ended up having a lot of fun. I developed a sense of confidence, and rejection didn’t hurt me, because I just moved on. Confidence is key. As the result of having it, I was never bereft of male attention.

You should remind your cousin that feminist women don’t dehumanize men. A feminist woman doesn’t need a superhero, and guess what? Most men like that. People who don’t have unrealistic expectations of one another tend to fight less. And if a man is, say, turned off by your cousin’s intelligence, tell her to ask herself if she needs a guy like that in the first place. If a smart woman digs deep enough, the answer is always “no.”

When you mentioned superheroes, it made me think about how sexism hurts men too. I know guys who have to be alpha males in all areas of life, 24/7, and if they don’t, it’s a safe bet their wife or girlfriend will be horribly dissatisfied. I think that really sucks.

I come home to my husband and say, “thank God I have you, thank God we have each other,” because I couldn’t stand it if our relationship was built on that model. I don’t know how anyone could put up with that, male or female.

Women who don’t have someone in their lives are pitied, of course. I think so many women in abusive relationships don’t leave, because men around here are seriously over-valued.

Well, women in more developed nations also have a hard time leaving abusive relationships, because of Stockholm Syndrome. But I think you’re on to something, in regards to how men are over-valued in countries like Ukraine, in Russia, etc. Entire generations of men were wiped out by a series of horrific conflicts, and that sort of thing has consequences on society. It’s almost like a reflex by now.

How do we get rid of the reflex?

I don’t think anything is going to change for as long as girls are taught that their youth and beauty are the best they can offer the world. Also, the demographic crisis in the country plays its part, because people’s knee-jerk response to that is to treat women like baby-making machines. If we curbed the infant mortality rate and the rate at which men die of alcoholism and alcoholism-related illnesses or injuries, our demographic situation would improve. Of course, this solution is more time-consuming and less slapdash than demanding that women just “produce” babies. Once again, it’s about building a better nation on the backs of women, and it’s not going to work.

I find that the cavalier attitude many in society have toward child-bearing and bringing up kids plays a huge part in keeping women down.

There’s a popular saying, “if God gives you children, God will give you the means to support those children.” I hate it. I hate it especially because it’s usually uttered by people who won’t lift a finger to help, say, a single mother in trouble. A child is a responsibility, and it’s often shared unequally. I wish people would stop saying that, especially now that there is a financial crisis in this country. All it does is shame people who have nothing to be ashamed about.

Also, it’s somehow considered “natural” for men to abandon their families. I mean, it’s considered “unfortunate” as well, but it’s something that doesn’t really shock anyone, does it?

You also have to understand that there are no mechanisms that would allow parents to share custody. Not to mention the fact that there are many situations in which it would be better for the kids to be left with the father, but that option isn’t even on the table, because the mother will then be pecked to death. She’ll be pecked by her own family, by her neighbours, by her colleagues. She’ll be torn apart, because she’s “neglecting her duty,” even if it’s a situation in which everyone would benefit if the kids stayed with the dad.

Because I’d like to end this on a cheerful note, I want to talk about rich husbands. That’s all I ever hear about in Ukraine, these days. “Natalia, Natalia, get yourself a rich husband, quick. Before they all get snapped up.”

[laughs] Remember, if you marry a man for his money and property, there’s no guarantee that it won’t be thrown back in your face later!

12 thoughts on “Ukrainian feminism: from Yulia Tymoshenko to making babies in a crisis

  1. Let’s have some reality here shall we –

    The Rise and Fall of Feminism/Female Domination

    Dec 2009

    The Male Contraceptive Pill; and Freedom For Men –

    The male pill is on it’s way, and will be with us in less than 5 years, if not from the US or Britain, then from China and India.

    The pill for men will be the biggest step for freedom that men have ever had – freedom from the serfdom imposed by fatherhood. So if the present tyrannical feminist British women want their babies, they will have to offer a far better deal to men than at present.

    For example –

    The present marriage laws, and the infamous and secret ‘family courts’ will have to go, and quickly, and the dictatorial marriage and ‘common law’ marriage expectations drastically changed.
    The constant demeaning of masculinity, particularly on TV in programs such as ‘One Foot in the Grave’, ‘Men Behaving Badly’ and the present ‘soaps’ in general, where men habitually behave in an infantile manner, and are presented in an appalling way, will have to be recognised as highly offensive to men, and dispensed with.
    The most powerful of the British feminist weapons – the wild and malicious accusations of ‘rape’ and ‘child sex’ – will have to be brought back under civilized law where the accuser will be required to have hard evidence and be held responsible for their actions, both in the making of the accusation, and their part in the incident. The male sex drive is an extremely powerful force, and a woman who provokes it to the point where a man loses his self-control that woman must accept some of the blame. The accused will have to be considered innocent until – and if – proven guilty.

    The Rise of Woman’s Dominance –

    As far as I know never before in human history has woman obtained such a dominant position in society, and I have puzzled over this for many years. To reason this out I considered that the dominance must coincide with a recent new event, and the rise of science is the most noticeable over the last 100 years.

    It seems that the science events most effecting women’s position in society are the invention of domestic labour saving devices – making the ‘housewife’ redundant, the invention of mechanised work equipment – making the ‘male upper body’ strength requirement redundant in the workplace, and – most significantly – the invention of the female contraception pill which gave a woman political power over men by either withholding sex, which she has always been able to do, or rewarding with sex, which for the fear of unwanted pregnancy, she has never been able to do before. It should be noted that recent social science research has found that giving rewards has far more impact on behaviour than giving punishments, which soon lose their effects altogether.

    The female contraceptive pill in the 1960s Britain gave British women direct power over sex availability without fear of pregnancy for the first time in human history. There was a popular phrase in the 1960s – ‘free love’, but there was nothing ‘free’ about the ‘free love’ of the 1960s. It came at a price, a price controlled and set by women who seized upon this new ‘pillow power’ with vigour; and some have used this power – unwisely – to disadvantage men in every way possible, thus asserting a position of dominance over men in which she has reduced them to a level of disadvantaged cowed subservience – and infantile behaviour in an attempt to present themselves as children entitled to the protection of the maternal instinct.

    The ‘Mad Maternal Instinct’ – the all powerful evolutionary force in women that regards masculine Men as simple mating objects when in lust, and when not, as dangerous predators to be avoided or driven off and away from the precious family group.

    The Decline of Dominance and Re-establishment of Equality –

    The timing of the 1960’s pill and ten years later, the recognition of the feminist movement is an incident that supports the view that they are connected in a cause and effect relationship, but via a third factor.

    I would argue that the dominance by women is not a result of feminism, but of the 1960’s pill. Feminism developed out of this dominance. Once the dominance is removed, feminism will dwindle and demise.

    The 1960’s pill does give an advantage and dominance via the reward of sex to men. But with an equivalent male contraceptive pill, men can make it quite clear that they are not prepared to have children unless they want to, and are offered a satisfactory position in the family group and society – enforced by law. This would equalise the woman’s power over men’s sex drive with the man’s power over the maternal instinct; and the need to breed. Hence the counter balancing of the power given to women – ironically by male scientists! – by the 1960’s female contraceptive pill.

    Once the power of the 1960s female pill is counterbalanced – equalized – by the male pill this yoke of female dominance is likely to be flung off with surprising speed, and retribution and revenge on the British feminist female – and feminist male – is likely to be wreaked, as some wiser and more sensible women have been aware of for some time.

    Today belongs to feminism, but tomorrow belongs to Men.


  2. The male sex drive is an extremely powerful force…

    Something tells me that in your case, honey, that’s more like wishful thinking.

    Cool interview, Nat. I liked the part about rich husbands the best, I think.

  3. Something tells me that in your case, honey, that’s more like wishful thinking…

    Thinking?, something tells me that is a wishful thought for you.

    Nice last paragraph Nat – golden divorces huh.

  4. Blimey Saga did you get your heartbroken? You seem quite bitter about something. I’m not sure about this ‘Woman’s dominance.’

    The young women I encounter everyday in my school by and large have terrible self-esteem issues-even those who on the surface seem strong and full of character. You can guess the reasons too-cocks like yourself filling their heads full of crass statements you garnered from Tom Cruise’s character in Magnolia.

    I’m going to read your nonsense to them when I get back to work and see what they say.

    The TV programmes you mention are from the 90s-have you noticed we are 10 years into the 00s? Whilst I agree some shows fuck me off how they portray men I think women have it lot worse than us. Representation of gender, sexuality, race, age etc is governed by white middle class middle aged men so who do you blame for the “infantile manner” men behave in these shows?

  5. Please show the following to your pupils as well.

    “The young ‘women’ I encounter everyday in my school”

    I assume you mean the children – girls. As I address the adult world perhaps you should restrain your self confidence a little, and remember that you are addressing an adult who might just have more experiences of the real adult world than you. Who might actually know more of adult life than you.

    The presentation of Men in the media is there for all to see, so your statements are self evidently inaccurate.

    The feedback to my comment is, as usual, abuse with no substance – so I assume that my description of the social issue must be correct; or I would have been corrected. I am very surprised that a social event on par with the 1960s social revolution is within a few years, and the media and others have not noticed.

    So your not sure about the dominance by Women –

    Tom Dec 2009


    For anyone who is growing up in today’s America: it is clear that the country is a female-dominated matriarchy: men have no reproductive rights (women get pregnant and can just drop the baby at the nearest hospital, but men are stuck with 18 years of child support, whether they want it or not), no property rights (ask anyone who is paying alimony or child support to the tune of several thousands $ per month), no parental rights (men are de-facto sperm donors in today’s family law), and no rights to due process (ask anyone who has been arrested and detained on fake, unsubstantiated domestic violence charges, usually just before a divorce).

    In addition, cuckolding (adultery) is not only tolerated but also rewarded by requiring the duped father to pay child support. Personally, I consider cuckolding as a crime equivalent to rape (you may not agree with it, but I am sure that many men feel about it the same way). Not only is that crime tolerated, but the very victim of it is punished and humiliated by our feminist judicial system.

    In addition our culture is predominantly anti-male: men’s sentences for the same crime are ~200% higher than women’s. Look no further than Chris Brown vs Tiger Woods to see the double-standard and hatred against males. Chris Brown beat up Rihanna and got ostracized by the entire country. Tiger’s wife beat Tiger up and got praised and acclaimed by nearly every media outlet in the country, while domestic violence was barely mentioned and the police didn’t bother investigating it (even though, they are technically obligated to do so); finally Tiger ended up apologizing and topping-up his pre-nup with a few millions because he cheated (how does cheating justify domestic violence? weren’t we told that domestic violence was always wrong? should we not arrest all the men who beat up their wives because she cheated on them, from now on?)

    Men make 80% of people who commit suicide, 90% of the homeless, and over 80% of prison inmates. They account for the bulk of workers who lost their jobs during the last recession as well as high-school drop-outs.

    I am very suspicious about the claims that women were oppressed in the past. We were lied to, about domestic violence (men are just as likely to be victims), the rape epidemic (no, 1 in 4 women will not be raped on campus, not even remotely close), sex trafficking (it doesn’t exist), the wage gap (it disappears after controlling for women’s own choices). Why should we trust the same people who came up with all those vicious lies and believe their interpretation of what happened hundreds of years ago?

    I have had this conversation with many feminists and I haven’t seen any proof yet that women were discriminated against: yes, there were some anachronistic laws at the beginning of the Industrial Age, but they were a left-over from the previous age, not some kind of anti-female conspiracy. As a matter of fact: at every time of history, it seems that women were always favoured, protected and provided for by men; the kitchen was the safest and best place to be a few hundred years ago – I would gladly invent a time-machine and send some feminists back into the 17th century and watch them enjoy their “career” working in a mine, fighting wild animals and working all-day in a field.

  6. Fantastic site for insecure men Saga who like to be bamboozled by hokey facts and figures. I’m glad I’m not ‘adult’ enough to be taken in by it all.

    I will gladly send it as a link to all the well adjusted males I know who love our mums, sisters, wives, and girlfriends and who aren’t scared of intelligent, powerful women.

    I don’t know what ‘real adult world’ you live in but boy I’m glad I’m not part of it.

    regards Mark

  7. @ Mark Farnsworth

    Something else you can show to your children –

    Again your feedback to my comment is, as usual, abuse with no substance – so I assume that my description of the social issue must be correct; or I would have been corrected. I am very surprised that a social event on par with the 1960s social revolution is within a few years, and the media and people in general have not noticed.

    I do not intent to attack women in general, but sound an alarm as to what appears to me to be in the future.

    It appears to me that the combination of –

    1 a general grass roots resistance and resentment by modern men to the unfairness of feminism

    2 the coming worsening economic decline and worsening male unemployment

    3 the problems of over population

    4 the balancing of the 1960s female pill with an equivalent male pill

    will result in a complete reversal of the present situation and the subjugation of western women to exploited work units with little or no rights at all – and given their attitude to Men over the last fifty years, I would have little sympathy for them; and I doubt if many Men would.

    Today belongs to feminism, but tomorrow belongs to Men.

    As you have no relevent comments I shall not make any further reply.

  8. Hmph. Personally, I wouldn’t reply with any “relevant” comments, simply because I don’t take your arguments seriously.

  9. @ Saga 1916
    I would just like to point out that your argument does have some serious limitations in terms of logic and validity. You have conflicted your own argument several times. For example, you say that adultery should be a crime equal with rape, and yet choose to minimize Tiger Woods’ adultery. I could cite a few other blatant contradictions such as identifying both overpopulation as a problem and the birth control pill as problems contributing to the domination of the western world by women.

    You also state that the complainant in rape cases should be required to account for their part in the offense (and you imply that this is the norm in all criminal cases), which is nonsensical in a court of law. In literally no other circumstance would the complainant be required to offer that they are responsible for the crime they were the victim of. Does the victim of theft ever say “That is the person who robbed me… but I did take my wallet out in public so it’s my own fault”. You also assert that, when men’s sex drives are provoked, they are no longer fully responsible for their actions. Kleptomaniacs have a strong urge to steal- does that mean they are less accountable for their actions when they do?

    In addition to this, you appear to have used in defense of your argument an opinion piece that literally does not contain (or at least cite) one single fact. You have done this in a very confident way, almost as if you believe the article itself is a fact. Let me refer to just one paragraph in this article you presented, where several claims are made, including sex trafficking does not exist and domestic violence is perpetrated by women as often as it is by men. I am interested in knowing where to find the statistical information that this assertion is based on, since merely saying “This is true” obviously does not make something true.

    At this (admittedly late) point in my rebuttal, having taken into consideration the many flaws in your argument, I realize that your argument is probably not based on facts or logic and this might be utterly pointless, but if nothing else perhaps it will teach one person (even if that person is not you) about critical thinking.

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