Introduction: Revolutions of the 20th Century
The 20th century brought about a huge amount of change in the lives of people around the world. In countries such as Russia, China, Cuba, and Iran, the entire system of government changed. One of the most notable transformations was a result of the cultural revolutions, especially in the roles of women.
The February Revolution and the October Revolution were instrumental in destroying Russia’s tsarist regime and establishing a communist system of government. In both these revolutions, women played a large role and called for more rights. Communism called for equal rights for all, and as a result, people like Lenin, the leader of the country, advocated the importance of having women participate society, rather than just work in the house. During this time, Russia began an “Equal pay for equal work” policy. Women also gained the right to easily attain a divorce, keep their own property and earnings, etc.
Beginning in 1949, China switched to a Communist form of government. Like in Russia, this change brought many rights for the women of China. One of the offices that the Communists created was the All-China Women’s Federation, which promoted the idea of land and marriage reform rights for women. In addition, women also took part in male dominated environments, such as the military, and often cut their hair and donned male clothes.
The rights that women gained during this time went against the traditional patriarchal Confucian values that Chinese society held in the past. As a result, many moral values were lost, and there was an increase of violence towards women. In addition, the decrease in morals, the traditi0onal desire for a male heir, combined with the new Communist One Child policy lead to a increase of female infanticide, and a decrease in the female population of China.
In pre-revolution Cuba, many women were often forced to work in domestic positions. However, with the communist revolution came an increase in education and jobs for women. Organizations like the Federation of Cuban Women push for equal rights in Cuba, focused on issues directly affecting women, and started many literacy and health campaigns. As a result, women in Cuba are highly educated, compromising of about 46.7% of Cuba’s workforce, 65.1% of Cuba’s professional and technical staff, 43% Cuba’s of scientists and 51% of Cuba’s doctors. In addition, women also can easily obtain divorces, contraceptives, and abortions. As Castro, the leader of the Cuban Revolution, once said, “a people whose women fight alongside men – that people is invincible.”
Unlike women in the previous three countries, women in Iran lost many of their rights post revolution. As the country switched from a government system controlled by a Shah to an Islamic Republic (ironically, a revolution with many women backers, before their rights were stripped), the woman’s rights movement was slowly silenced, with the government repealing many pro-women’s rights legislation. For example, the Family Protection Act, which gave women equal control over their marriages and children was repealed under Sharia Law. In addition, under this new system of government, strict rules about the separation of women and men are enforced, and women were forced to wear the veil in public. Fortunately, women in Iran still have access to education, showing that the change in power has not completely wiped away every form of gender equality.
Overall, it is easy to see the impact, both positive and negative, that revolutions have on many of the cultural issues in a country. This can especially be seen with the effect that the rebellions had on the rights of women and gender equality. In the countries of Russia and Cuba, the communist governments called for gender equality in order to benefit the common good on the nation. China also attempted to do this, but was unsuccessful in protecting all women due to the cultural tradition of the patriarchal society. The traditional Islamic form of government that came about in Iran also hindered the fight for women's rights. However, one continuity throughout history the increase in women's rights. Hopefully, this will keep going and humanity will eventually reach a point where all people are treated equally, regardless of gender.