CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

In the authoritarian Soviet regime of the Brezhnev era, there were no feminist or patients’ mobilizations around women’s healthcare similar to those seen in the West. However, in the early 1980s, some feminist dissidents addressed this issue in underground publications (samizdats) that remained extremely clandestine in the USSR. Later on, during perestroika, the popular women’s magazine Rabotnitsa published a great number of letters to the editor that conveyed testimonies and claims extremely similar to those expressed by the feminist dissidents. This article is based on those two sources. The feminist dissidents and the readers of Rabotnitsa protested against the scarcity of contraceptives resulting in repeated abortions, and the lack of anesthesia during abortions and childbirths. They also targeted the indifference and “cruelty” of understaffed, overwhelmed healthcare workers, providing “assembly line” care. Some wrote about gynecological “tortures”. More generally, these ordinary and feminist criticisms dealt with the underfunding of the healthcare system. After examining Soviet sexual and reproductive health policies, the article analyses how frustrations commonly shared by gynecology patients were incorporated into sustainable discourse and politicized. Furthermore, international comparisons allow us to put these discourses into perspective, and to further explore overlooked aspects.

Mona Claro
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
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