Ukraine’s Women Fighters Reflect a Cultural Tradition of Feminist Independence


Ukrainian girls are serving within the armed forces, confronting Russian troopers with sharp tongues or tomatoes, and volunteering on the entrance strains.

Tens of hundreds of Ukrainian girls have taken up arms throughout the war sparked by Russia’s invasion. In accordance with media experiences, girls represent as a lot as 15 percent to 17 percent of the Ukrainian fighting force.

Within the first two weeks of the battle, social media was replete with photos of Ukrainian girls training for combat. On March 15, CNN reported that after dropping off their mother and father and youngsters within the border city of Przemysl, Poland, some Ukrainian girls are turning round to return to the battle.

“They view returning residence to a conflict zone as an act of symbolic resistance to Russian aggressors,” CNN reporters Ed Lavandera and Cristiana Moisescu wrote.

As specialists on women and extremismwe imagine Ukraine provides a singular perception into the roles that ladies can play in defending the nation and as leaders in their very own proper.

Distinctly Ukrainian Feminism

Ukrainian girls have traditionally loved independence not widespread in different elements of the globe.

One motive for that is Ukraine’s geography. A temperate climate and fertile land mixed to allow independence for hardworking people. Fathers didn’t have to commerce their daughters for dowry to until the land, nor had been they indebted like serfs to wealthy landowners. A widow may stay single if she selected to and thrive by cultivating her backyard and tending to her animals. In Ukrainian folklore, there’s a recurrent character of a single lady, usually a widow, who can survive and thrive without a man.

Little doubt, the actual lifetime of Ukrainian girls was no fairy story, and their experiences won’t universally match into this narrative. Nevertheless, from a variety of human expertise, a tradition retains these tales that resonate with most of its members as a super upon which they will agree. In Ukraine, this ultimate consists of fiercely independent women.

Ukraine’s geographic circumstances additionally gave rise to a feminist culture during which girls had a say in marriage, quite than being “given away” by their fathers or male kinfolk.

Within the fall, when marriage proposals had been historically delivered by way of “svaty”—a delegation from the groom’s household—the bride may refuse the supply by giving the family a pumpkin as a consolation prize. The Ukrainian phrase “to catch a pumpkin” means to be rejected by a lady. A Ukrainian woman’s magnificence was typically gauged as having “a closetful of pumpkins,” implying she may anticipate to have many suitors.

Such narratives have formed Ukrainian cultural psychology and, in consequence, attitudes towards girls.

For the reason that starting of the 2022 Russian invasion, the web amplified a number of outstanding movies depicting Ukrainian girls opposing armed Russian troopers. One lady was famously proven providing sunflower seeds to the troops, instructing them to “at least put these seeds in your pockets, so sunflowers will grow when you all die here.”

One other video confirmed a woman yelling at a heavily armed Russian soldier atop his tank in Konotop, “Don’t you already know the place you’re? You’re in Konotop. Each different lady here’s a witch. You’ll by no means get an erection, beginning tomorrow.”

There are movies from cities throughout occupied Ukraine the place girls yell at Russian troopers, disgrace them and inform them to “take into consideration their moms and wives.” Who can neglect the story of Olena in Kyiv, who reportedly took down a drone by throwing a jar of her homemade canned tomatoes at it?

A screenshot from a posting on Feb. 26, 2022, by the Lviv, Ukraine, Regional Administration government website. (Lviv Regional Administration)

Grandmothers Making Flak Jackets

Ukrainian girls who will not be already within the armed forces or confronting Russian troopers with sharp tongues or tomatoes have been volunteering on the entrance strains.

This volunteering practice traces its roots to the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, when volunteers created a de facto “second state” whereas the official state failed, crippled by Russian-led corruption and cronyism.

In 2014, feminine volunteers delivered meals, garments and gasoline to the boys who defended Maidan – Kyiv’s Independence Square, which became the stage for monthslong protests towards riot police and pro-Russian mercenaries employed by the federal government of then-President Viktor Yanukovych. Volunteers equipped hospitals and ambulances with medicines; they assembled rapid-response protection groups to defend places the place assaults had been imminent; girls wove camouflage nets and hid the wounded from persecution.

In 2022, some of the same Ukrainian girls stepped into what at the moment are acquainted roles, working day and night time to handle the needs of the army and of the volunteer Territorial Defense Forcesstranded civiliansthe disabled and elderlymedical practitioners and even abandoned pets.

Grandmothers are using their sewing machines to make flak jackets and navy uniforms. A joke on Ukrainian social media is: “In case you inform Ukrainian volunteers {that a} nuclear warhead is required, it would take them about two hours to place one collectively and ship it to the required tackle. Together with tea and cookies.” Whereas not each volunteer in Ukraine is a lady, for the duties of supplying meals, garments, medicines, protecting gear, figuring out and serving to susceptible people, girls reportedly type the vast majority of the volunteer power.

On a extra severe be aware, the official Fb account of the Ukrainian navy’s head of protection posted a note of gratitude to the volunteers, which reads in part:

“Thanks, our VOLUNTEERS. Sure, at this time the Military is significantly better geared up than in 2014. However First Support kits, bulletproof vests, helmets, medicines, hygiene merchandise are at all times wanted. However most vital for us is to know that you simply exist. 24/7. You name, write, supply assist, convey one thing, create, assist us, joke with us. You make us really feel our unity and invincibility. To really feel that there’s a nation, that you’re amongst yours and for them you maintain this nation in your shoulders. … Collectively to victory!”

As with the Kurdish girls referred to as the “Daughters of Kobani” who fought in Syria and Iraq, there are highly effective psychological results when girls take up arms.

Troopers who understand they might lose towards girls would possibly really feel emasculated, which was the impact of YPJ, the Ladies’s Safety Models of the Syrian Democratic Forces, on Islamic State group fighters 2014-2016. Like Ukrainian girls now, these girls rose to the event. They had been brave and lethal efficient.

The well-known saying goes, behind each profitable man is a lady. The Ukrainian conflict reveals that, maybe, behind the success of the Ukrainian military is a military of Ukrainian girls.

This article initially appeared on The Dialog.

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