More than two decades have passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of 20th century East European communism, but the long-term impacts and modern legacies of the state socialist experiment are only now beginning to be understood. Of particular importance are the effects that Eastern Bloc communism had on international feminist politics. Cold War tensions between East and West fueled ideological competition over which political and economic system was most conducive to sex equality and women’s liberation from patriarchal oppression. Directly and indirectly, women in all countries benefitted from this superpower one-upmanship, and leftist ideologies about the role of the welfare state, the importance of wealth redistribution, and the historical imperative of women’s emancipation catalyzed progressive women’s movements across the globe.
Our exploratory seminar, “Gender, Socialism, and Postsocialism in the European Union Today,” will examine the theory, practice, and contemporary legacies of the 20th century experiment with state socialism in the countries that are now full members of the EU. Using the prism of gender and shifting gender relations to discuss the impact that the tumultuous events of 1989 had, we propose to narrow in specifically on the ways that socialist feminism affected, and continues to affect, international feminist politics.