Scholarly article on topic 'The Evolution of the Romanian Feminism in the 20th Century'

The Evolution of the Romanian Feminism in the 20th Century Academic research paper on "Law"

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{"Civil Rights" / Feminism / Patriarchy / "Political Rights" / Sexism / Woman}

Abstract of research paper on Law, author of scientific article — Ilie Magdalena Ioana

Abstract A woman doesn’t exist just herself and for herself; being a relative being, her existence depends on someone else, the man. The man always knew how to build a moral and a current philosophy in order to take the reins of power, making the woman eternally dependent. Therefore, women must become citizens with family and civic responsibilities, and their education should focus on economic independence, freedom and personal dignity to be able, finally, to embrace any profession and to be represented politically.

Academic research paper on topic "The Evolution of the Romanian Feminism in the 20th Century"

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Social and Behavioral Sciences

Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 81 (2013) 454 - 458

1st World Congress of Administrative & Political Sciences (ADPOL-2012)

Evolution of the Romanian Feminism in the 20th Century

Ilie Magdalena Ioana a*

aSpirn Haret University, Bra§ov, Postcode 500152, Romania


A woman doesn't exist just herself and for herself; being a relative being, her existence depends on someone else, the man. The man always knew how to build a moral and a current philosophy in order to take the reins of power, making the woman eternally dependent. Therefore, women must become citizens with family and civic responsibilities, and their education should focus on economic independence, freedom and personal dignity to be able, finally, to embrace any profession and to be represented politically.

© 2013 TheAuthors.PublishedbyElsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer review under the responsibility of Prof. Dr. Andreea Iluzia Iacob. Keywords: Civil Rights, Feminism, Patriarchy, Political Rights, Sexism, Woman

1. Introduction

The human rights are the main conditions which allow each and every person to develop and use efficiently their physical, intellectual, socio-affective, morale and spiritual qualities. They have a universal character and apply to all human beings.

Unfortunately, women's rights are usually not recognized as human rights, leading to sever consequences on the way the society looks at and considers the basic issues of the women's lives.

In order to make a connection between the human rights and the women's rights, Charlotte Bunch [Bunch, C., pp. 493 - 496] presents four types of rights as follows: political and civil rights, socio-economic rights, law and the transformation of the concept of the human rights from a feminist approach.

Focusing the attention to women whose general human rights are violated, and their violation in particular, is considered women's specific needs, which they bear only because they are women. An example is limiting women's rights based on her marital status. Although forced unwanted sexual relations are punished, the legislation of different countries refuses to take it into consideration in the case of marriage (e.g. domestic rape).

Women's oppression is identified as one primarily economic by those who consider international law or Western human rights as too individualistic. In this respect, women's rights are regarded as socio-economic rights, the focus being on the importance of eliminating women's economic subordination.

The third type of rights is the women's rights and the law, which is characterized by the new legal mechanisms to eliminate discrimination based on gender. Thus, adopted at the national and local level, the legal measures help women to be able to fight for their rights within a legal system.

Corresponding author: Ilie Magdalena Ioana Tel.: +40 745 076 939 E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer review under the responsibility of Prof. Dr. Andreea Iluzia Iacob. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.06.459

Turning the concept of human rights from a feminist perspective is the approach that relates to women's rights and human rights firstly by drawing attention to the violation of the women's lives and then trying to broaden the

concept of human rights so as to be more responsible regarding women. In the most contested forms of the feminist approach, it is required the elimination of the border between public and private, and the increase of the nongovernmental responsibility and of the state's.

2. About feminism

From persecution and contempt to being ignored, women do not have a similar political fate to men. They need an ideology, theories and policies for them and about them, thought by them, including in collaboration with men, who do not think that they lose their value as people, citizens and professionals if they treat women as partners and competitors. Thus, feminism emerged as a defensive and offensive reaction to misogyny and sexism, both universally spread in space and time. This offensive political feminism would not have been necessary if there had not been patriarchy, misogyny and sexism [Bucur, M., & Miroiu, M., p. 210].

The term misogyny has mainly psychological connotations, being linked more to prejudices, while the term sexism, being linked to discrimination, has wider connotations: legal, ethical, sociological, political. The first term shows hatred, fear or contempt towards women, their source being the ideology of the biological determinism and the interpretation of the natural differences as sources of disability, especially intellectual disability. Women are seen more emotional, unpredictable, less rational, unintelligible, illogical, and 'incomprehensible'. When it was accepted that the environment in which we live and the way we are educated counts and not biology, misogyny took another face: not the women are despised, but the feminine.

Sexism is the ideology of male supremacy expressed in law, religion, myths, philosophy, institutions, politics, and daily reactions regarding the genre. In practice, such an ideology undermines all the legal changes that ensure chance equality and non-discrimination.

To perpetuate sexism we can mention the following conditions: preventing women to see their problems as group interests, not becoming political persons, i.e. having no awareness of their own power; keeping women in ignorance of the alternatives to the ideology of male superiority, to live strictly within the masculine rationality paradigm, not having as an ideological offer feminist approaches; within the same family to lead women to perceive each other as enemies and competitors; to prevent the development of the feminist movement and of feminism by keeping women separate and convincing them that their economic and political interests are the interests of their husbands, who, in fact, represent them most appropriately.

As long as sexism remains the dominant ideology on gender, patriarchy is a form of social organization that reinforces this ideology. But even if the institutional patriarchy is abolished, family and social relations remain sexist - for example, the situation in the communist countries.

There is no way the feminism loses its rationale as long as misogyny, sexism and patriarchy exist. Some ideologies and policies may implicitly favor a world less patriarchal and misogynistic, but do not intend to abolish it. At the same time, feminism seeks that female and feminine experiences are treated at the same value as the male and masculine ones. The political goals of feminism are related to the equal treatment before the norms, institutions and public and private practices, regardless of gender, equal opportunities in individual self-assertion and autonomy.

In Romania, even the usage of the term feminism has encountered many difficulties. It is treated as having a negative connotation, aggressive and strident militancy, a rather inappropriate term for a post-communist experience because during the communism the ideology of gender equality existed, including labor and equal pay and promotion.

3. Romanian liberal feminism

Liberal feminism argues and advocates, theoretically and politically, for equality between women and men, for full recognition of women's rights as human rights, including the extension of these rights in privacy. The most

important gains of the first wave of feminism were within the framework of the liberal feminist movement.

With all its limitations and hesitations, Romanian classical liberalism represented an important opening regarding the approach of the gender relations in relation to conservatism, which insists on preserving the traditional family,

the heritage linked to the male primogeniture, the treatment of women as vulnerable beings that need protection. In short, women's traditional condition should not be touched; not even by the organic type upgrades, in slow steps.

Moreover, the Romanian liberalism was beneficial in its conception of women as opposed to the nationalist thinking and especially to the Romanian legionnaire thinking, both the latter being a flagship of sexism. In the context of the nationalist approach and, especially, of the legionnaire one, females remained only with the practical attribute of giving birth to and growing up men. Their only consistent meaning was that of being 'mume' (mothers), because the country needs virile feelings and attitudes, needs men as historical agents.

It is hard to talk in our cultural space of a liberal feminist political theory, but rather of elements of this political thinking, which does not mean that these liberal positioning within the Romanian feminist space are irrelevant. Sometimes the Romanian feminists are not consistently liberal or, at least, the debuts of the Romanian political feminism were not liberal in what concerns promoting the rights, freedoms and autonomy of a person, and even less in what concerns the legitimacy of personal pursuit of happiness. In the Romanian culture, the general rhetoric was rather the one of sacrifice for a cause: the family. What the feminists could do then was to ask for having another cause outside the family.

Regarding the women's rights, the Civil Code from that time stated that they were not entitled to inherit on the parental line, could not exercise their right to manage their own dowries during marriage, and they were placed under the tutelage of their lather, husband, brother, even under their son's tutelage. I think that this latter guardianship perfectly rounds up the idea that even a son is the 'head' and the woman has the status of a child, of a minor, in the relationship between her and her own child. The 1923 Constitution circumscribes women's place among minors, idiots and criminals, that is, in short, places them in the category 'legally incompetent'. The constitution 'enshrines' women's legal infantilism.

The republican citizenship of that time is that form of citizenship in which the individual serves the polis, being a person with responsibilities and duties, and lives in order to serve the community and not his own interests. Using masculine here is correct, because women were not actual citizens. The feminist effort aimed to readjust the concept of virtue, hoping that, at the end of this process, women would have a place.

The nationalism around the year of the Union, i.e. 1918, plays a very important role. The war veteran status gave you access to citizenship, full civil and political rights, without the other ingredients linked to property. To the nationalist argument, the economic one was added in time: women need to survive independently even if they are not married! Although such an agenda began to be generalized by the League of Romanian women, the 100-year-ago feminists understood that the beginning of a nation does not lead to rights for women.

In the liberal spirit, Eugenia de Reuss-Ianculescu (1913) and Maria Butureanu (1913) attacked 'the huge lie about the universality of the vote' as long as it remained only male and argued that the Romanian legislation configured the women's general political incapacity and the married women's civil incapacity.

'Political rights' means the right to a private life, an individual's dignity, the women's empowerment so that they do no longer have the status of a man's annex, 'a zero having value only if it is put next to someone else'. Through the full exercise of the rights, the women want to evade men's protection. Protection 'numbs our will, paralyzes our bram and reduces our personality' (Maria Butureanu, 1919).

'In terms of political color, the woman, before being conservative, liberal, Junimist, democratic, nationalist, radical, progressive, socialist, legitimist, clerical must be «Feminist»'. Women need to unite under one flag, the flag of the feminist claims', said Eugenia de Reuss-Ianculescu.

One of the most important feminists of liberal influence is Calypso Botez. Her name is directly linked to the public discourses surrounding the debates on the 1923 Constitution, but, in some respects, her perspective is approaching a radical critical type. Botez believes that between the two sexes there is a competition in which, so far, one has done everything possible to remove the other from the game, keeping for himself/herself the decision about the resources in full.

Botez attacks one by one all the enslaving legislative issues: the woman's citizenship depends on her husband's, marriages are made with the father's fundamental consent, women are obliged to follow their husbands in order to live in the same place, wherever they go, the research of fatherhood is forbidden, but that of motherhood is allowed, a mother has limited guardianship when the father is deceased, only the husband manages the dowry and is the property's owner, a woman cannot sue her husband related to their goods, a woman cannot be part of a guild committee because she has no political rights, but instead she has to keep the children if the spouse are separated.

A really important role in influencing the public opinion and the Romanian politics to achieve civil and political rights for women was played by Princess Alexandrina Cantacuzino. Before starting her political action, she developed a complex research program of the women's problems within the Romanian Social Institute. An impressive part of Alexandrina Cantacuzino's civic and political biography is that she gave the Romanian feminism a regional and international dimension by creating the Feminine Little Understanding of Central and Eastern Europe (1923) and becoming the Vice-President of the International Council of Women, influencing the public opinion, including the League of Nations' policy on women's rights (1927).

Women have had to endure the humiliation of always being placed in the queue, behind all types of men, because they have sent a clear message: 'You will have rights when all men receive them, following the principle not even the most educated, intelligent and wealthier woman can be politically equal to the most illiterate, worst and poorest men'. Therefore, in the political history, sexism substantially surpassed both elitism and racism.

Romanian liberal politicians, those who could substantially influence the fate of women's rights, were very duplicitous. Even if they agreed in principle with the equality between people, regardless of gender, they answered the feminists about the recognition of the civil and especially the political rights with the magic formula: 'You are right, but there is not the time yet!' As the 'time' for women did not come in a democratic way, to the embarrassment of all Romanian democratic parties of the time, especially of the liberal one, in a paradoxical way it had to come through Carol's dictatorship, and then through the communism.

4. Romanian feminist socialism

In Romania, the socialist thinking was represented by Constantin Dobrogeanu-Gherea, Ion and Sophia Nadejde, Constantin Mille. As a consistent socialist, Constantine Dobrogeanu-Gherea advocated universal suffrage and the equality of women with men in law. He linked the issue of women's freedom to the development of industrial employed labor. He, along with other social democrats, also defended the cause of unmarried women to authority regarding the access to education and employment. Poor women were hardly candidates to marriage and had to have independent means of existence.

The relations between the socialist and the liberal feminism were rarely antagonistic given their common belief that being a feminist means taking a political identity that transcends other membership. A conflict however occurred between the association of the liberal feminists called The Women's Rights and the association of the socialist feminists, the Feminine Socialist Circle. The former had in its program all the major political and economic demands: voting, property, equal treatment, equal pay for equal work and was fully connected to the suffragette's movement. It proposed the latter to send together a memorandum to the legislative bodies on voting and the acceptance of the women's candidature at least in the municipal elections if not parliamentary. But the socialists refused because the liberals limited their demands for the right to vote to the literate women. In this way they excluded much of the worker women from factories and the peasants. The liberals were also right in that context. They could not be maximalist once this initiative was happening in 1914, and the male universal suffrage was still far [Mihaiiescu, §t., p. 30]. Many organizations still wore the title of associations of 'ladies', i.e. especially those which today we call the upper class and the middle class or the educated women.

The arriving of communism gave prevalence to female workers and peasant women. Educated women, intellectuals, could not have prominence. Communism enshrined the multiple debt policy for women, become universal 'comrade' amid the burial of individual rights, individualism and self-interest. History has so evolved that the 'ladies' demanded rights which were not fully given and the 'comrades' entered the multiple duties era.

Far from having been a solution to alienation, communism was a generalized alienation. Family partnership did not exist. Women were subjected to double working day. The ideological project of the 'new man', without gender features, meant a homogeneous education, denying diversity, attacking male and female values and allocating the party-state discretionary patriarchal power in both spheres. There were also gains regarding the women's treatment, the gender relations and child-rearing. Communism encouraged a kind of egalitarianism, involved the state in childcare, generalizing nurseries and kindergartens, decreased dramatically the income gap, encouraged women's participation in the decision-making bodies through the quota systems, but it did all these by counter-selection. The female choice criterion was their loyalty to the party, and not their professional qualities; this procedure was applied to men, too. At the same time with taking care of education and children, it imposed an ideological and cultural

monopoly. The lack of economic performance produced a society of scarcity, where survival, by impoverished means, was left especially in the women's care. Later state control reached an absurd level, such as the pro-natal policy, when women lost the freedom to decide on sexuality and reproduction. Thus, since 1966, in Communist Romania, abortion was banned, leading to the death or imprisonment of many women who had illegal abortions, as well as to a large number of abandoned children and orphans.

5. Radical feminism in Romania

The feminist radicalism focused on a very important issue in the development of feminism, especially on the patriarchy as an endemic form of power and on the political nature of hierarchies and gender behavior [Miroiu, M., p. 151].

This power is exercised both in public relations and private ones. Power does not stop at the door of the house, on contrary, it is prominently manifested in private relationships. If power also characterizes private interpersonal relationships it means that 'what is personal is political' and that issues such as: marital rape, and in general, in the couple, family beating, abuse, sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexually forced orientation cannot be regarded as private matters only once they imply power relations. They need to become political issues and their regulation should lead to their elimination, for, alongside prostitution and pornography, all the above mentioned issues serve to humiliate women, keeping them in fear. Women's humiliation and terror are the necessary ingredients of patriarchy.

In Romania, as in other Central and Eastern European countries, radical feminism could not develop. At the time of occurrence and development of the radical elaborations, in Romania the totalitarianism was intensifying through a nationalist communism (the 1970s). In this context, the state was, for both men and women, the absolute patriarch who controlled in details the individuals' private life; it was more oppressive than any sexism. For women though, of course, the state was even more oppressive once it had control over sexuality and reproduction. Not even in the underground could the radical feminism develop in such conditions. Only when totalitarianism was abolished, the phenomena claimed by the radical feminism became visible in our space. Moreover, there is reason to accept that it is possible an analogy between the reactions of the women who suddenly got out of a patriarchal system and the ones who got out of totalitarian regimes. In other words, we have to also recovered this way of thinking about what is political.

6. Conclusions

No matter the reservations and terminology, feminism has had a substantial contribution to changing the women's situation and the gender relations. Through the fight of feminists the civil and political women's rights

were recognized. Within feminism a critical theory was created, new areas of research emerged, there were political movements with a major impact in politics, in social and private life and in the media. The opportunities for women increased enormously, so they had access to all the areas, to self-assertion and independence.

In the Romanian society, marked by deprivation for most people, feminism seems to be a 'luxury' of self-affirmation, representative of the interests of many women who are building a life in politics and professional under concurring circumstances.

So women need feminism because their way to evolution goes through the radical feminism, the way to safety goes through the socialist one, and the one towards autonomy needs both, but it is compulsory to go through the liberal feminism, too.


Bucur, M., & Miroiu, M. (2002). Patriarchy and emancipation in the history of Romanian political thinking. Ia§i: Polirom Publishing House. Bunch, Ch. (1990). Women's rights as human rights: Toward a re-vision of human rights, Human Rights Quarterly, 12. Mihailescu, §t. (2002). From the history of Romanian feminism. Anthology of texts (1838 - 1929). Ia?i: Polirom Publishing House. Miroiu, M. (2004). The way to autonomy: Feminist political theories. Ia§i: Polirom Publishing House.