Gendered Protests: Mothers’ Civic Activism and the War in Ukraine

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Olena Strelnyk


The dramatic events of the Euromaidan protests, from November 2013 to April 2014, and the consequent armed conflict in the east of Ukraine have led to civil society activation, including women’s activism. I focus on how ideas and expectations about women’s roles as mothers frame mothers’ activism related to war issues and the image of mothers during wartime in general. The structure of the article is as follows: In the first and second sections of the article, I examine the theoretical background and the sociopolitical context of mothers’ civic activism in Ukraine. I evaluate how ideas about femininity and motherhood are represented in the form of public gender ideals and expectations and how they were (re)constructed during the Euromaidan protests, which were the immediate precursor to the armed conflict in the east. In the third and fourth sections, I analyze how the activism of soldiers’ mothers’ groups, as well as discourses and media representations of this activism, constructs ideas about women’s roles as mothers. Applying the concept of gendered social movements developed by Rachel Einwohner, Jocelyn Hollander, and Toska Olson, I evaluate how this activism is gendered. First, it is gendered by common identities as mothers and by maternal images, as in the names of their organizations, all of which include references to “mothers.” Second, it is gendered implicitly in its goals and, more specifically, in its reflection of traditional gender stereotypes and expectations about care as women’s primary responsibility. Third, it is gendered in its tactics, through the use of slogans highlighting motherhood as the basis for the claim to be active in the public space. Fourth, this activism is gendered by the rhetoric that activists use, with their claims that, for instance, “women are natural peace builders.” Finally, this activism is gendered in the ways it is represented and reported in the media. Thus, the images of “good” and “bad” mothers are constructed in the media as related to women’s “roles” during war.

Article in English

DOI: 10.25285/2078-1938-2019-11-2-103-124


Gender Ideals and Expectations, Civic Activism, Motherhood, Maternal Activism, Gendered Social Movements, War, Ukraine

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