The coronavirus pandemic affected almost all spheres of life of Russians: because of the lockdown, many lost their jobs or went into self-isolation with the whole family, routine medical care was suspended, and doctors and nurses switched to a paramilitary regime. And most often women suffered because of this. How this happened and why they are the ones who deal with crises more easily, Lenta.ru learned from the sociologist Irina Kosterina, coordinator of gender programs at the Moscow office of the Heinrich Belle Foundation.
"Lenta.ru": Are there any global conclusions about how the coronavirus has affected and continues to affect the status of women?
Irina Kosterina: The UN and some countries are monitoring this topic, my colleagues from different offices of the Heinrich Belle Foundation are also collecting and analyzing information. The first area where women's problems are most visible is the economy. Here the consequences of the pandemic are obvious, because women, and so all over the world, make up the majority of the poor population, women's salary differs from men's for equal work by about 24 percent.
During the pandemic, the situation of these women worsened even more, because in general the economy is in crisis everywhere. The first wave is also a lockdown and massive reductions. There are a lot of people who worked in the informal economy - that is, without a work book and contracts. Worldwide, 740 million women work on such conditions.
In Russia, the shadow economy sector is also very large, and many women work in it. It is these women - in low-paid jobs, without permanent employment - that have become the main victims of the economic crisis.
This applies to any service - restaurant and hotel, cleaning, nannies and governesses, hairdressers and manicurists. It is clear that when people sit in lockdown for two months, they no longer need these services, and it was the poorest women who worked in these areas.
Against the background of all this, incomes are falling. For example, I quite accidentally found out that a large Moscow chain of stores of meat products in the pandemic renewed contracts with their sellers and began to pay them for the same work that they did before, completely different money. The base salary of the sellers of this network is now 25 thousand rubles. They installed some new machines with badges for purchases and say that they made the work of employees easier, so the reduction in salaries is supposedly justified. In fact, women continue to work for exactly the same amount of time and do exactly the same things that they did before. That is, employers are using some new tricks to cut costs at the expense of women. You can see for yourself that cashiers in supermarkets are mostly women - both in small shops and in large chain stores.
Anatoly Zhdanov / Kommersant
There are, of course, male spheres that have suffered. In Russia, this is the oil and gas industry, part of the construction. Mineral extraction declined during the pandemic, and these positions are mostly occupied by men. But this, on the other hand, is a more profitable area.
Another area that is much talked about is increasing the share of unpaid domestic work. All housework for women has grown several times this year. In the first lockdown, when all family members were effectively locked at home, women had to cook much more and serve the family life.
If earlier in the morning the woman fed everyone with breakfast, the children went to school, the husband went to work, now everyone is at home together. But at the same time, the work of many women has not gone anywhere.
Only now they still had to figure out how to feed all family members three times a day, how to seat the children to study in Zoom, make sure that they obediently sit, find notebooks for each child for school lessons In general, it was a big challenge - to establish a family everyday life. Psychologists and sociologists say that during this time there have been many divorces and conflicts. Families, which could normally exist in the usual mode, could not stand the lockdown and disintegrated.
Well, and thirdly, of course, the number of cases of domestic violence has increased. For the same reasons: people are locked at home. If earlier a woman, being in a conflict relationship with a partner, could leave home - to her mother or to her friends - then during a lockdown she had to be in a confined space with an aggressive person all the time. The number of calls to the hotlines of crisis centers has increased many times over. In this regard, a big question arose of what to do if a woman needs to be evacuated, if the situation is critical.
Our police are not particularly willing to go to such calls, we had to invent new ways. An acquaintance of mine, the owner of a small hotel in Izmailovo, offered to stay there for free for those who needed it. And several women with children were sent to her at once, who ran away from a situation of domestic violence. They were able to live in peace for some time. My friend's business was at a loss, but she wanted to help humanly.
Anton Vaganov / Reuters
A coalition of women's non-governmental organizations appealed to the Cabinet of Ministers with a request to allow hotel owners to accommodate women, migrants and refugees who have nowhere to live, but they cannot go home due to closed borders. They had no work, no money, no housing, and it was not clear what they should do. All these initiatives were few, grassroots, but it is still good that people organized themselves in a desire to help others.
The pandemic manifested itself this way not only in Russia, but throughout the world.
Has the violence increased only in families or on the streets too? During the first wave of the pandemic, panic messages circulated in messenger chats that migrants who were left without work were attacking women.
I don't really believe that only migrants are attacking. This is a slightly racist approach that migrants are somehow special - less cultured and more aggressive. People without work are attacked and people are attacked in a situation of despair. Who are they - native Muscovites or migrants - we do not know, there are no special statistics.
It is clear that if migrants find themselves in a situation of economic vulnerability, then, of course, crime begins. They begin to steal from stores, rob people, and dishonestly earn money.
It's like in the 90s - when everyone was robbed, and the robbers were far from migrants. It's just that in a situation of poverty and misery, crime increases, which is directed, in particular, at women, since they are weaker and easier to attack.
In our country, in general, men commit much more crimes related to the robbery of women. Women rarely rob. I'm not talking about shoplifting when a man went to steal a sausage. I'm talking about a street robbery. These are, of course, mostly men, because they are physically stronger. It is clear that it is more profitable for men to attack women. And these waves of crime begin just in times of crisis, when people have fewer opportunities to earn money in an honest way.
As for the employment of women in the pandemic, they work not only in the restaurant and hotel business. There are also many women in medicine, especially in nursing staff. It turns out that mostly women worked with covid patients?
And there is. In Russia, medicine is a very feminized area, and our nurses are 99 percent women. And who are our therapists? Women. Pulmonologists who go to with symptoms of acute respiratory infections are also women. Therefore, of course, they were the first to be hit by this blow and continue to fall. Both women work in hospitals and in covid hospitals.
Kirill Zykov / AGN "Moscow"
My mom is a doctor. I regularly ask her what is going on with them, and she says that the nurses almost all got sick, because in the first wave it was generally bad with the idea of how to protect yourself.
There weren't enough cosmonaut suits for everyone, and in general we knew little about the coronavirus. Therefore, in the first wave, the nurses and doctors who received the sick were absolutely unarmed.
Now the protocols for the treatment of COVID-19 have already been more or less spelled out, the streams of people with suspicion of the virus are more or less divided, but all the same in Russia, after all, not all hospitals are like the center in Kommunarka, where there is a "clean zone" and a "red zone" … In small towns and small hospitals, everything is simpler, so both doctors and nurses continue to get infected.
Teachers are also mostly women, and schools have not been closed for the second wave, because children allegedly do not get infected. But children are carriers of the infection, so teachers in schools also get sick without exception. Half of the parents are shouting: “Don't close schools! We do not want to sit with children again, teach lessons, we have to work. " The other half calls to feel sorry for the teachers. What are they to blame? Children bring coronavirus to school, and teachers get sick.
And how has the pandemic affected abortion, childbirth, gynecology? After all, planned operations were temporarily suspended.
Indeed, the Ministry of Health postponed all planned treatment. This, in general, is reasonable, but abortion for some reason also fell into the category of planned operations. Plus, since it is customary for us to send women to think about before an abortion, due to the imposition of these factors, many women who are entitled to an abortion under the compulsory medical insurance did not receive it. They only had to go to paid clinics. And the situation is such that mostly women who are not financially secure apply for an abortion. It's even more difficult for them. If you don't have money for contraception, where can you find money for an abortion? Therefore, it turns out to be a kind of vicious circle. I have read several materials on this topic, and those women who could not have an abortion during the pandemic are generally not going to leave these children.
If they were not allowed to have an abortion, they will send the unborn child to an orphanage.
In general, nothing good happened from these prohibitive measures, of course. Women who were not going to have an abortion, but planned to give birth, also faced difficulties, because in the first wave everyone had a nightmare feeling of fear and uncertainty. My mother works in a women's hospital, they have a maternity hospital on site, and she says that the women in labor shouted: "We will not give birth in the same ward with the covid ones!" These pregnant women were in a shock situation. Now, of course, everything has already been regulated, but due to the fact that all this is still little researched, stress and fears in pregnant women persist.
Can we say that the situation with abortion played into the hands of fighters for traditional values?
If a woman is not allowed to have an abortion, she will not leave a child. Is this an ideal scenario for the Russian Orthodox Church? It seems to me that there should be reasonable measures. It must be admitted that the situation is extraordinary, now it’s still not time to fight for traditional values. Demographics will definitely not improve at the expense of unaborbable children.
Alexander Avilov / AGN "Moscow"
Is it true that during the pandemic, women were also cut more than men?
First, from a gender point of view, employment is basically structured differently for men and women. Top positions are always mostly men, women usually occupy executive positions. It is clear that if they cut, then they cut the performers. In addition to the economic factor, there is also a psychological one. Many studies show that women often simply cannot stand up for themselves, and if they are pressured, offered lower wages or part-time employment, they will agree. Men don't. They argue with the employer if they are offered unfavorable terms. And both of these factors - economic and psychological - play against women.
Single mothers are considered the most socially unprotected group of women in Russia. How has the pandemic affected them?
Considering that in Russia there is a huge number of families headed by single mothers, namely about a third, I believe that this is one of the most vulnerable groups. I can hardly imagine how these women survived. Interestingly, when talking about single mothers, officials often say: "Well, there are grandmothers - they will help." But the situation has now changed a lot compared to Soviet times. Many grandmothers work themselves, some live in another city.
So, of course, single mothers were just heroines in a pandemic. Some could not afford to stay at home with their children, they still had to go to work. It would be nice to extend some measures to this group of citizens too, but single mothers with us found themselves in such a blind spot - they were forgotten.
Jenna Norman / Unsplash
Moreover, now the grandmothers are at risk for coronavirus …
Generally, yes, but the demographic aspect is also important here: we belong to the sandwich-generation (sandwich-generation - approx. "Lenta.ru"). What does it mean? Previously, women gave birth to children, say, at 22 years old. Accordingly, when the woman turned 44, her mother was no more than 65 years old. Now women give birth much later - at the age of 28-30. And it turns out that a woman who has just given birth is forced to look after her children and take care of her aged parents. These are not the same grandparents who can babysit their grandchildren.
In a pandemic, women were forced to simply break apart: with one hand to feed a three-year-old child, with the other hand to do homework with an eight-year-old, and also send food and medicine to disabled parents. Our home care is mostly taken over by women.
And this happens wherever a conservative culture has developed. How many men do you know who can wash their elderly parents and spoon feed them? The fact is that in our mentality there is a common misconception that women do it better by nature, so they should be doing it.
It's the same with children. In fact, in order for a child to change a diaper or to bottle feed him, you do not need to have any special natural talents and brain compartments, but it is believed that a woman should do it. Therefore, the sphere of care is also included in the problem of the “third shift” in the pandemic: women had to not only cook borscht, but also take care of elderly relatives and children. In some families, on the contrary, men finally noticed how much invisible housework their wives were doing and began to turn on, but the general trend is still different.
Even if both - a man and a woman - sit at home, the sphere of care falls precisely on the woman. This happens by default, regardless of whether the woman is working or not.
And this can also affect the professional sphere of women if we are talking about some average positions. Research shows that in business corporations, where employee performance is taken into account, companies come up with any conditions so that a woman in a top manager position remains in her position: pay for a nanny, kindergarten, and so on. It is in progressive corporations that this is more flexible, but there are not so many women in them either.
That is, in many respects it is also a psychological factor. It is believed that for men the pandemic has become more of a psychological blow, while women are experiencing the crisis better, although they are more aware of its real consequences. Is it really so?
Women are really more stress-resistant. There are consequences in the material world, where women suffered more, in the mental world, men. There is such an English word resilience, it means special resistance to stress, but not such when you were hit, and you did not break, but such when, after being hit, you, like a tumbler, stand up again. How quickly a person can return to normal after stress is the resilience indicator, which is much higher in women. Stress affects everyone, but women return to normal faster.
Vladimir Chuchadeev / Kommersant
And we have already seen this in the 90s, when in Russia there was a collapse of the entire accepted world order and economic system, when statehood practically collapsed, when people without exception were left without work. What did the men do? Suffer, drink and die on the couch. Women ran to the market to buy and sell something, went to Turkey, Poland and so on to buy goods. They very quickly found survival strategies and understood how to feed their children and how to change something for something in barter. It's the same now.
Men look at this situation as a nuclear explosion taking place under their noses and do not know what to do. Women fuss, do something, figure out how to organize home life so that no one kills each other while living together, so that everything will somehow work …
But this does not mean that the position of women will improve dramatically later. A crisis situation is a temporary circumstance. Then we will return to something more or less similar to the old world, only with a worse economy. The trend is always that if the economy is bad, women are even worse off. An elementary example: if in some countries men work as retail sellers, it means that this is an average-paid job. If there are women behind the counter, this is a low-paying job. As soon as it gets a little better, men immediately come to these places. I noticed this when I was traveling - in the Middle East and Africa, for example, the sellers are mostly men. Where they pay less, women sell. And we will have about the same.
Another economic trend is the increase in precarious work. A precariat is a casual job, no work record book or freelance. In the precariat, the majority are women, so they are vulnerable - they have no stability. And psychology here plays in the opposite direction, because men at such a job simply cannot stand it. They need guarantees for the future and stability.
But the list of professions prohibited for women will soon become smaller.
In principle, there are not so many highly paid and prestigious professions on this list. The specialties that are there are, in fact, disappearing. Of course, I am in favor of removing this list, but it does not make the difference, because there are some exotic manual labor and rare industries, most of which are mechanized. On the other hand, in the studies I've read, men in conventionally male occupations such as truckers, longshoremen, and taxi drivers are also at risk. The point is that manned cars will be introduced soon, and their labor will not be needed. There is a risk of layoffs and workers in the plant, which can be replaced by robots. Many men will also be unemployed.
It turns out that in a crisis, all those problems that we are talking about in the context of achieving gender equality are aggravated, and women in this case serve as an indicator.
This is a tricky category. There is equality, which is enshrined at the level of legislation, and in Russia it is not bad. In our Constitution, in the labor code, and in the family code, there are many norms in favor of women. In Russia, the problem is more in culture and stereotypes. We have a lot of prejudices and prejudices about the "fairer sex".
People think of women as bad leaders, they think that they should be housewives by nature. It is these prejudices that prevent women from developing and living harmoniously for families.
In Russia, women are assigned an additional amount of housework - this is how people's heads are arranged. But men also need gender equality. Denise Candiotti's essay "The Patriarchal Deal" describes that patriarchy not only pays dividends in the form of power and free time, but also brings costs. And these costs are manifested in the fact that men are more stressed, chase after achievements, they all the time need to prove that they are successful and successful, as a result, men's health is worse, because there is a stereotype that a real man does not immediately run to the doctor. as soon as he got sick. Snot and stomach ache - no, nonsense; the hand fell off - well, yes, I probably should go to the hospital. And men do not go with a stomach, and then they fall down with oncology and cardiovascular diseases. Men also die from alcohol, drugs, road traffic accidents, fights, suicides - which are external causes of death. This is all a direct consequence of gender stereotypes. Because if life were built more harmoniously, men would not have to constantly prove something to someone.
Now everyone is bad, and in order to understand this, one does not even need to analyze the situation of women. What will happen at the bottom of this rabbit hole - we do not yet know. But women are always worse off in a bad economy.