Pregnancy, Motherhood And/as/or Dissent: The Soviet Micro-rhetorics of Gender

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Department of Humanities


Scholarship on the rhetoric of reproduction, childbirth, and motherhood has mostly focused on a U.S. context. Drawing on oral histories that we collected from a small group of Estonian women who gave birth during the Soviet occupation of Estonia, we argue that women’s experiences of childbirth in Soviet maternity hospitals and during the postpartum period can be interpreted as micro-rhetorical interactions through which arguments about the worth or value of a particular identity are communicated implicitly and intangibly. The gendered nature of these micro-rhetorical interactions helps to explain the often observed-upon gap between the official Soviet rhetoric of gender equality and the persistently patriarchal nature of Soviet society. Ultimately, we argue that examining the rhetoric of pregnancy and childbirth in an authoritarian political context also necessitates rethinking the functions of and possibilities for rhetorical agency.

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© 2021 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.1080/07350198.2020.1805575

Publication Title

Rhetoric Review