Part I The Women’s Movement in Bulgaria

1.4. Conclusions

The historical review of the women’s movement’s demands and actions in relation to intimate life has revealed that there have been three main shifts in discourses about intimate life. These shifts correspond to three different stages of historic development of Bulgaria and of the Bulgarian women’s movement. The first period started at the mid 19th century and continued until 1945 when the movement was unified under the control of the state. The main issues and demands during this first period related to political and economic citizenship. For example, the earliest demands were for education (especially access to high school and university), for voting rights, access to some of the prestigious professions, for equal pay, and the political representation of women. The intimate citizenship demands during this period were not central concerns for the women’s movement. However, their role in defining women’s position within society and within intimate relationships was very important. The intimate citizenship demands aimed at achieving greater equality for women within marriage and independence within relationships. This is expressed through claims for entering marriage in free will, keeping one’s nationality and surname within wedlock, equality of children born within and outside a marital union.

The claims and demands of the movement quickly changed with the start of the socialist period in the country (1944-1989). The prompt adoption of the Decree on the Equality of Women and Men in 1944, which officially granted equal rights of women in all areas of life, meant that the agenda of the movement was to change. The unification of the existing organisations, their dependence on state policy, and the commitment to the idea that the women’s ‘question’ was solved, resulted in a restriction of the demands and actions that organised women could undertake during socialism. The focus was on economic rights, work-life balance, the promotion of motherhood, and the creation of a ‘socialist mentality’. The focus was on individual obligations and responsibility, rather than on rights and freedoms, and intimate citizenship entered the spotlight for organised women, with key issues on their agenda including marriage and relationships between intimate partners, motherhood, fatherhood, and parenting.

The women’s Committee, being close to state policy, was involved in the creation of new morality and new type of personal relationships based on proclaimed gender equality, or the so-

called ‘socialist way of life’ (Brunnbauer, 2008). This involved the creation of a new ethics of intimacy through a patronising and moralising discourse of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ that intervened in the intimate individual world. The body was considered not individual but public property, as Popova (2004) suggests, and all practices related to the body, including sexuality, reproduction, and beauty, were politicised, regulated, and became part of the ‘new socialist way of life’. The Women’s Committee raised demands for support of the marital institution, which was seen as protecting women’s interests. These intimate/marital relationships were related to ideas of the independent selfhood of individuals – including women – of financial autonomy, and autonomy within relationships.

The promotion of motherhood as a ‘social duty to bear and rear the ‘socialist citizens of the future’ (Einhorn, 1993: 40) was emphasised as in other socialist countries. Motherhood was seen as a ‘substantial condition for complete fulfilment of women’s personality’ (Committee of Bulgarian Women, 1973: 4) during the whole socialist period, but even more so from the beginning of the 1970s (Popova, 2004; Vodenicharov, 2004). Fatherhood was much less discussed separately from the general discussions about responsible parenting. In this way organised women during socialism replicated the egalitarian discourse of the government and contributed to the creation of intimate life as a politicised sphere. Even though ideas about intimate relationships did not reproduce the traditional male breadwinner/female homemaker model, they were still focused on the heterosexual couple with children, which was the main pillar of intimate citizenship during socialism.

The final period of women’s activism in Bulgaria started in 1989 with the ‘NGOization of feminism’ (Lang, 1997) and a shift away from the preceding collective mobilisation. The actions of the women’s organisations became less dependent on the state and more enmeshed in the European and global women’s agenda. The focus of Bulgarian women’s organisations during the last period has been on gender-fair citizenship, and intimate citizenship is increasingly addressed as part of this. The most important process here is the general reshaping of ideas about family forms and intimate relationships, in which women’s activism has taken part. One of the most significant shifts in discourses about intimate life of the women’s organisations has been the inclusion of children’s rights and fathers’ rights in the discussion of parenthood and the

redefinition of gender and sexual violence as an important social intimate citizenship issue, rather than as a personal matter.

In conclusion, I want to suggest that from the four dimensions of intimate citizenship, the ones that have been important for the Bulgarian women’s movement are partnership, reproductive rights and parenting, and gender and sexual violence. The issues that have been addressed most thoroughly and consistently during the period under study are partnering and parenting, although different aspects of these were important during different stages. Better welfare protection for women, state provision of childcare, and the socialisation of domestic labour were the most central issues during socialism, while during the post-socialist period the protection of children’s rights, participation of fathers in childcare, and overall gender equality provisions were the key issues after 1989. Gender and sexual violence, on the other hand, appears to be a predominantly post-socialist phenomenon and is the dimension where women’s activism has had the greatest contribution to legislation and policy. The language in which the women’s ‘movement’ spoke is also considerably different: it shifted away from rights and responsibilities towards equality, non- discrimination, and human rights.

Sexual politics is the only dimension that has not been addressed by the women’s movement, and has only recently been raised by other movements for gender and sexual equality and change. The women’s activism so far has not taken on board any issues related to the rights of same-sex couples to partnership recognition, parenting (adoption, assisted conception), non-discrimination, and so on. Therefore, the Bulgarian women’s movement has remained exclusively occupied with heterosexual relationships, and children have played an important part in the women’s movement’s demands and actions in relation to intimate life.

1.5. Organisations of and for Roma and Turkish Women and

In document Changing cultural discourses about intimate life: the demands and actions of women’s movements and other movements for gender and sexual equality and change (Page 68-71)