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Historical Tradition and Transprmation In Bulgaria: Women's Issues or Feminist Issues? Maria Todorova The changes of 1989 in Bulgaria, which elsewhere were more grandiloquently caUed revolutions, rdeased many suppressed voices and many ghosts from beneath the tight and uniform cover of communism. The most notorious among them is undoubtedly nationalism, but there is an abundance of other "isms," too: monarchism, conservatism, Uberalism, sodaUsm, fasdsm, pacifism, environmentalism, and postmodernism, among others. However, feminism does not seem to be one of them. Indeed, there has been no feminist discourse in Bulgaria dther before or after 1989.1 Moreover, the potential leaders of women's movements have not adopted the ideology and discourse of feminism. Feminism is one of those notions which, at best, evokes a sneer, and is being avoided even by individual women who are otherwise weU-versed in feminist language and theory and who would describe themselves as feminists only off the record. This artide examines some of the specific charaderistics of the Bulgarian case, primarily to what extent the historical context has influenced both women's positions and women's attitudes. In a model of a multi-stage evolution of equaUty, which is independent of the poUtical regimes (communism, capitalism, etc.) but a function of the industrialization of society, Barbara Janear proposes four consecutive phases shaping women's status.2 In traditional society the roles of women and men are complementary but women have inferior status. In industrializing sodeties women attain male roles by being integrated into the industrial paradigm but stall retain their traditional female roles. In industrialized societies women are primarily concerned with consumer satisfaction and their attention is focused on the nuclear farrdly. This increases the sex-role differentiation but still women make some advances toward equaUty during this phase. FinaUy, in postindustrial sodeties, exemplified today by the United States and some countries in Western Europe, women have leisure time to consider personal fulfillment, and demand androgyny, i.e., the disappearance of sex-role differentiation. Using Jancar's model as a framework, this artide also attempts to put the Bulgarian case in a comparative context. It has been widely asserted that sodaUsm imposed a double burden on women by throwing them, on one hand, into the labor market which was supposed to have an emandpatory impad and, on the other hand, by not reUeving them of the traditional work load of housewives. The problem © 1994 Journal of Women-s History, Vol 5 No. 3 (Winter) 130 Journal of Women's History Winter with this is not to deny the final result but to question whether, indeed, the period after 1945 in Bulgaria has witnessed such a drastic transformation and deterioration in the position of women. In a word, do we blame the system for what it has done or for what it has not achieved? On the eve of the Second World War Bulgaria was a country with an agricultural population of over 85 percent. The sodological, statistical, agricultural, and ethnographical Uterature of the nineteenth and twentieth century up until the 1940s is unanimous in viewing women as active partidpants in the mainstream of agricultural labor.3 In the interwar period 90 percent of agricultural farms in Bulgaria were classified as smaU (70%) and medium (20%), the criterion being that they could not afford to hire agricultural laborers but used the avaüable work force of the famüy.* In fad, the statistics of the period show that haU of the agricultural laborers were women.5 Descriptions of vülage women by agronomists, soriologists, ethnographers, and folklorists attest to the fact that the role and status of these women was a function of being perceived first and foremost as producers and partners in the labor process.6 Male and female roles were not, in fact, so markedly segregated. This had been noticed and described by many foreign observers during the nineteenth century. They contrasted the relations between men and women with other Balkan regions, where women had a much more subordinate role, and where they were confined almost exdusively to the house. Lucy Garnet, among many others, in her famous work on women in the Near East stressed the relative freedom of Bulgarian country women...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2036
Print ISSN
1042-7961
Pages
pp. 129-143
Launched on MUSE
2010-03-25
Open Access
No
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