Femininity and Radicalism

Vera Figner presented an interesting rendering of gender stereotypes in relation to ideals of radicalism. We touched on this a bit in class, but it would be useful to think further about the gendered implications of the split of Land and Liberty into The People’s Will and Black Repartition. I noticed that characteristically “feminine” traits were deployed by Figner when she was describing her actions in the village in which she worked and in her description of Parovskaya’s relationship with workers, “Tender, tender as a mother with the working people, she was exacting and severe towards her comrades and fellow workers, while towards her political enemies, the government, she could be merciless”(Figner 1991,108). The by-laws of the Executive Committee espoused ideals such as the renunciation of desires, sympathies, and kinship ties, which can be described as more rational and “masculine” traits (Figner 1991,76). “Feminine” traits are thus seemingly incompatible with The People’s Will and when such split from Land and Liberty, and Figner and Parovskaya moved to the city to support the revolutionary cause, their maternalistic relationship to the working people was replaced by a more “paternalistic” one.

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