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Rewriting Academia

The Development of the Anglicist Women’s and Gender Studies of Continental Europe

Edited By Renate Haas

From a historical perspective, the full academic establishment of Women’s and Gender Studies is a radical and far-reaching innovation. Decisive impulses have come from the United States, the European unification and globalization. European Women’s and Gender Studies are therefore intimately linked to the English language and Anglophone cultures, as the near untranslatability of «gender» shows. In this volume 25 experts present surveys for their countries with a historical and European contextualization and offer fundamental insights not only for English Studies but also various other disciplines.
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Lithuania: Pioneering Women’s and Gender Studies in the Post-Soviet Baltic Republics

Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė1

Lithuania: Pioneering Women’s and Gender Studies in the Post-Soviet Baltic Republics

1.  Introduction

Gender equality is one of the key elements of European Union policy. Lithuanian citizens as members of the European Union should perceive gender equality as an important stimulus to social change and progress. However, too many Lithuanian women still lack feminist thinking, courage and active involvement in implementing equal opportunities, changing dogmatic and stereotype-based thinking concerning genders, and expanding the concept of women’s rights as human rights.

As a result of the dissemination of gender ideology over the twenty-three years of independence, Lithuania has become more democratic and more tolerant towards those who think differently and live differently. Lithuanian women are pleased to know that the President of Lithuania is a woman, just as 34 MPs are women. However, it is necessary to continue to raise women’s self-awareness and self-confidence, to encourage women to engage in politics, to struggle for equal rights and opportunities, on a par with men, in building a modern society, to assert their voice in politics and to take the decisions important for the State.

This article first presents a historical overview of Lithuanian women’s struggle for equal rights, identifying the main stages, and reviews the emergence of gender studies at Lithuanian universities. Next, it discusses the contribution of English and American studies to the development of a modern open society in Lithuania. ← 277 | 278 →

2.  National Contexts

2.1  Beginning of the 20th Century – 1940: The First Women’s Organisations

The Lithuanian women’s movement began at the close of the 19th century along with the national movement and was an integral part of the women’s movement in Central and Eastern Europe. An organised women’s movement in Lithuania is considered to have started in 1905, when the first women’s organisation – the Lithuanian Women’s Association – was founded in Vilnius.

The first Lithuanian women’s organisations not only engaged in patronage and charitable activities, but also devoted considerable attention to women’s education, raising their awareness and promoting social activism. Moreover, the organisations addressed the political issue of equality between men and women seeking to achieve women’s suffrage, opportunities for women to participate in the legislative process and in administration, and demanding a change in the social position of women.

At that time, the Catholic clergy noticed the rising women’s movement and undertook a major action to steer it towards the Church and entrench its own influence. In 1907, the first Women’s Congress, which was of great importance for the women’s movement, was held, but due to the active intervention of the clergy and the resulting political controversy it failed to unite women in co-operation concerning their civil and political rights. In 1908, the Lithuanian women’s movement broke into two branches – the Catholic and the social-liberal.

During the years 1908–1914, the activities of the Catholic and liberal branches were most prominent, whereas the social democratic one was unable to manifest itself due to czarist repressions; but in 1918, the social democratic women’s movement started its activities. Women gained suffrage on 2 December 1919. In 1937, the second Women’s Congress was held. The first organised stage of the women’s movement ended in 1940, when the USSR occupied Lithuania.

2.2  1940–1990: Soviet Rule

The second wave of feminism, which in the United States and other Western countries emerged around the end of the 1960s, bypassed Lithuania, ← 278 | 279 → which had lost its status of an independent state and had been incorporated into the USSR. The Soviet sociology of that period, aiming at showing the process of the emancipation of women, focussed on the analysis of socio-demographic statistics and studies of the situation of women in the family, because the status of a married woman was treated as the prescriptive model. The Women’s Council, led by the Communist Party, operated in Lithuania for 50 years. In Soviet society, women were represented in government by profession and allegiance to the ideals of the Communist Party.

2.3  Situation after the Re-establishment of Independence until the Present Day

The restoration of independence in 1990 became a powerful impetus to the struggle for women’s rights in Lithuania. The women’s movement emerging at that time can be viewed as the second wave of feminism in Lithuania, which in a very short period of time developed into the third phase of feminism characterised by neo-liberalism. The revived Lithuanian women’s movement relied primarily on the experience and achievements of the USA, West European and Scandinavian countries. Approximately 100 women’s associations, clubs and centres were set up to develop the activities of women and encourage women’s self-expression.

In order to join, at the earliest possible date, that community of democratic nations, the European Union, Lithuania adopted the main laws and conventions regulating women’s and gender equality: in 1993, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was ratified; in March 1999, the Law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men was implemented (the first of its kind in Central and Eastern Europe); in 1999, the Office of Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson was established and the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson was appointed; on 7 June 2003, the National Programme on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men 2003–2004 was adopted. Society, however, was not ready for such rapid and fundamental changes. In this situation, a significant role was played by the Lithuanian Association of University Women, restored in 1991, and the Women’s Studies Centre established at Vilnius University in 1992, which became the major resources for public information and education, bringing together female researchers, public figures and politicians. ← 279 | 280 →

Yet the gap between the theoretical declaration of gender equality and the actual gender inequality, which is particularly supported by the Lithuanian Catholic Church and right-wing political forces drawing upon centuries-old patriarchal traditions and gender role stereotypes, persists up to the present day. Facts and statistical data show that there is no real gender equality in Lithuania and that sexism and hidden discrimination of women still exist.

In 2012, females in Lithuania accounted for 53.6 % of the population; nevertheless only a very small percentage of them participated in state government. In 2012, 34 women were elected to the Parliament (24 %); in 2009, three women were elected from Lithuania to the European Parliament (25 %); the Sixteenth Government has only one female minister (7 %). In 2011, 342 women were elected to Lithuanian municipal councils (22 %); in the same year, women accounted for as little as 39 % of all managers (legislators, senior officials, heads of companies or organisations, and other top executives).

According to data of 2010, the gap between wages of females and males amounted to 14 % in the public sector and 19 % in the private sector. The largest wage gaps were in the financial and insurance (44 %) as well as manufacturing sectors (30 %). The average gross hourly earnings of females were lower than those of males in all major occupational groups, for example, the gap between wages of female and male service workers and sales assistants was 29 %, machine operators and assembly-line workers 7 %. Moreover, according to data of 2012, the average amount of old-age pension for females was less by one fifth than among males.

Within the European Union, Lithuania is among the leading countries as far as the sheer ratio of female to male researchers is concerned, but according to the indicators reflecting the situation of female researchers in senior scientific and management positions, it is at the bottom of the list. In 2009, in Lithuania women accounted for 19.1 % among persons holding a habilitation (post-doctoral degree), and among professors for 16 %. Of the 91 members of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences only four are women, and its Presidium consists exclusively of men. A better gender balance may be noted with regard to the Board of the National Research Council (RCL): four women out of its nine members, but the President again is male. There are 22 universities and 35 research institutes in Lithuania; however in 2010, as few as three women held the position of an institute director, nine college ← 280 | 281 → directors out of 38 were female, and no woman has yet become rector of a university.

In the 2011–2012 academic year, 313,200 females studied at the country’s educational institutions, which accounted for 51 % of all students. At higher education institutions, 59 % of the students were female, but they primarily concentrated in the humanities, medicine, pedagogy and social sciences. In 2011, 43,000 higher education professionals graduated from the higher education institutions, with women making up 65 %. The vast majority, or 87 %, of general education school teachers were women. At colleges and vocational training institutions, females accounted for respectively 70 % and 68 % of teachers, at universities for 50 %. The females engaged in R&D (public and higher education sectors) and holding a degree made up 1,600, which accounted for 45 % of all researchers with a scientific degree. Female postgraduate students reached the highest percentages in the humanities, biomedical and social sciences (59/ 58/ 57 %). A slow growth in the number of female professors can be observed, from 10.4 % in 2000 up to nearly 17 % in 2010 (Moterys ir vyrai: 2012).

3.  Lithuanian Women’s and Gender Studies in General

3.1  Stages and Forms of Institutionalisation

In Lithuania, university women were among the first to begin thinking about common and purposeful activities expressing the interests of women. They urged women to develop self-awareness and self-expression, an active social life, with a romantic belief that in a free Lithuania, it would not be difficult to achieve gender equality and mutual respect. In autumn 1991, the Graduate Women’s Union, which had functioned from 1928 until 1940, was re-established at Vilnius University. The new organisation was named the Lithuanian Association of University Women (LAUW). In 1992, the LAUW once again became a member of the International Federation of University Women.

One of the main goals of the LAUW was educational work: women’s participation in radio and television programmes, writing articles for the press, organisation of debates and conferences on the issues of gender equality, violence against women, children issues, and feminism issues. A group providing psychological assistance to girls was formed, and the Women’s ← 281 | 282 → Crisis Centre was founded in Vilnius. In 1992, the LAUW founded the Women’s Studies Centre at Vilnius University; the first of its kind in Lithuania and the post-Soviet Baltic republics. In Estonia, such a centre was only established in 1997, in Latvia in 1998. The following year, in 1993, thanks to the LAUW’s effort, the Women’s Studies Centre was established at Kaunas University of Technology; later women’s studies centres were set up at the universities of Šiauliai (1997) and Klaipėda (1998).

In developing international cooperation, members of the LAUW participated in and themselves organised various international events. In 1993, the LAUW and the Women’s Studies Centre at Vilnius University organised the first international conference ‘The Paths of Women: East and West’, which adopted an Appeal to the President of the Republic of Lithuania, the Seimas and the Government drawing attention to and emphasising the most topical women’s issues. It proposed to ratify, in the shortest possible time, the international conventions and acts abolishing all forms of discrimination against women, to enact laws designed to protect women against violence, to immediately consider and adopt health-care reform legislation, to set up, under the Government, a special body to help solve women’s work and domestic problems and monitor the observance of laws in this area. The activities of Lithuanian women and the LAUW encouraged the Seimas to ratify in 1993 the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

In 1994, members of the Association attended the Nordic Forum in Turku, Finland; in 1993 and 1994, seminars ‘Women and Democracy’ in Vilnius; in 1993, the Warsaw seminar ‘Real Women’s Rights’; in 1995, the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Together with the International Federation of University Women, a seminar of leaders of women’s organisations of the three Baltic countries was held in 1992 to discuss the organisations’ activities, experience and cooperation prospects. In 1993, members of the Vilnius LAUW translated and published Theodora Carroll-Foster’s book Successful Development of Women’s International Projects; in 1994, the Association received a delegation of the British Federation of University Women, shared experience in activities and provided for opportunities for cooperation. The LAUW developed international relations in Scandinavian countries and established contacts with women’s organisations from Poland and Germany. ← 282 | 283 →

The first years of functioning of the University Women’s Association were a period of creation and search, a period of hope, believing that a woman’s position in Lithuania could be quite easily changed. Then came the awareness of reality and the revelation that in Lithuania, both women and men lived in the constraints of traditions and that feminist ideas were viewed with irony and unwillingness to understand. The dreaming period ended upon Lithuania’s accession to the European Union in 2004, and patient and persistent work for the rights of women, children and sexual minorities began.

3.2  Main Directions, Major National Schools

Vilnius University Women’s Studies Centre

As mentioned above, in March 1992, the Lithuanian Association of University Women founded the Women’s Studies Centre at Vilnius University, which was the first interdisciplinary academic and research-oriented department of this kind in the countries of the eastern Baltic Sea Region. Assoc. Prof. Dr. Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė became the head of the Centre.

As regards the preparation of new disciplines of women’s studies, the Centre was growing slowly. In the 1992–1993 academic year, students and the public were offered two courses delivered by different lecturers, namely Women and Culture, and Women and Society, and two seminars, namely, Concept of Woman in Western Culture (lecturer Karla Gruodis) and Letter as a Woman’s Way of Speaking (Prof. Viktorija Daujotytė).

In 1993, as already mentioned, the first international conference, ‘The Paths of Women: East and West’, was organised. This conference was the first scientific event in Lithuania on the topic of gender, sexuality and women. Scandinavian researchers Suzanne Lie and Berit As (University of Oslo), Hildur Ve (University of Bergen), Inger Lövkrona (Lund University) and Aili Nenola (University of Helsinki), also Elżbieta Pakszys (Institute of Philosophy, Poznan), Isabel Marcus (University at Buffalo, USA) and Bruce Nordstrom-Loeb (University of Minnesota, USA) contributed to the development of the curriculum of the Women’s Studies Centre.

In 1993–1994, when new researchers and teachers joined the Centre, a two-year curriculum was created, and effort was made each year to enrich it with an increasingly varied range of topics. This curriculum discussed ← 283 | 284 → the history and evolution of the gender hierarchy in patriarchal society, the legitimisation of gender inequality in law, the traditional concepts of male and female, femininity and masculinity. At the same time, it revealed the biological, philosophical, social, and psychological grounds for gender inequality, discrimination against women and sexual minorities. It also examined gender and sexuality in culture: the male tradition in Lithuanian and Western literature, which was juxtaposed with the female culture and literary and musical tradition.

The lecturers came not only from Vilnius University: Associate Professors Aurelija Vaitkuvienė, Irena Valikonytė, Vida Kanopienė, Giedrė Purvaneckienė, Leonarda Jekentaitė, and Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė, Assistants Audinga Peluritytė-Tikuišienė and Elena Ževžikova. They also came from other Lithuanian higher education institutions: Assistants Rima Pociūtė from Vytautas Magnus University and Virginija Apanavičienė from the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, as well as the doctoral student Saulė Vidrinskaitė from the Academy of Law. Others were visiting lecturers at Vilnius University, such as Associate Professors Gerda Baltrup and Maurice Hartmark.

The Centre’s academic activities were combined with research. In 1995, the second international conference ‘Gender and Literature’ was organised and served as the basis for publication, in 1996, of a collection of articles entitled Feminizmas ir literatūra (Feminism and Literature). The book was designed for humanitarians, teachers and all those thinking about what it meant to be a man or a woman in that day’s society, why there was a gender gap in the world, and what was the origin of the gender hierarchy in Western society. An analysis of West European, North American and African literary and some philosophical texts vividly revealed the historical and literary evolution of the concept of women’s role and the development of gender stereotypes, which convincingly justified the idea that femininity and masculinity were not merely a biological human characteristic, but a variable value formed by cultures of different centuries, a symbolic meaning of the public expression of male and female in a certain nation’s culture. The book was significant in that it was the first publication to unite the efforts of established female scholars, young feminist researchers and foreign literary critics to look at a text from a woman’s perspective through feminist theories. ← 284 | 285 →

In 1997, the nation-wide conference ‘Feminizmas, visuomenė, kultūra’ (Feminism, Society, Culture) was held, with reports subsequently compiled into a collection of articles under the same title. This collection continued the project of the Vilnius University Women’s Studies Centre, and, like the first selection Feminizmas ir literatūra, introduced Lithuanian society, in particular the academic community, to feminist theories and various feminist social and cultural interpretations, gender and family issues. The authors of the articles were full or associate professors and doctoral students of Lithuanian universities, as well as staff of other research institutions. The articles by young scholars showed that the traditional way of thinking and the concepts of gender, family and personality were changing in Lithuania.

The Women’s Studies Centre published, for the first time in the country, significant research results: concerning violence against women and children in Lithuania (1997), project manager Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė; occupational and social mobility of women (1995) and discrimination against women in the labour market (1998), project manager Vida Kanopienė.

Such books as Feminizmo ekskursai (Excursions into Feminism; 1995) by Karla Gruodis, Įžymios Lietuvos moterys: XIX a. – XX a. pradžia (Famous Lithuanian Women in the Second Half of the 19th – First Half of the 20th Century; 1997) ed. Dalia Marcinkevičienė, and Lyčių drama (Drama of Sexes; 1998) by Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė were published.

Thanks to efforts of the staff of the Centre, the traditional way of people’s thinking in respect to gender policy was changing. Lithuanian women began to more actively oppose the ideology of gender hierarchy and discrimination against women. The teachers working at various faculties of Vilnius University began to pay attention to the gender and sexuality aspect of their professional areas and encouraged students to write interdisciplinary research papers focussing on feminist theories.

Vilnius University Gender Studies Centre

In 2002, the Women’s Studies Centre changed its name to Gender Studies Centre, and on 16 December 2003 the Vilnius University Senate granted to the GSC the status of a core academic department. Dalia Marcinkevičienė / Leinartė was and is till now the head of the Centre. Today the Vilnius University Gender Studies Centre operates as an interdisciplinary centre for gender studies and research. ← 285 | 286 →

The GSC is also involved in the formation of gender policy in Lithuania. One of its main objectives is the integration of gender studies into the mainstream curriculum of Vilnius University. Every semester, the GSC offers undergraduate and graduate elective courses that are open to all students of Vilnius University. The courses cover several academic subjects: feminist philosophy, gender sociology, visual culture, feminist literary criticism, feminist theology, personal law, women’s history, gender and information technology, masculinity studies and women’s health. These courses are not merely an introduction to gender studies, but provide an opportunity to incorporate the gender aspect and gender issues into the main curriculum. Every year, the GSC elective courses are chosen by approximately 400 students from various departments of Vilnius University. Lecturers specialising in different academic fields both from Vilnius University and other research institutions are invited to give courses at the GSC. It is fully financed from the Vilnius University budget.

Currently, the GSC courses at Vilnius University are as follows: Gender Studies; Women, the Family and the State since 1800; Family History in Western Europe and North America in the 17th–20th Centuries; Family Policy; Gender Sociology; Introduction to Gender Studies; Literature and Gender; Gender in Western Culture; Gender and Communication; Feminist Film Theory; Gothic (Horror) Literature and Arts; Classical Hollywood Cinema: Constructing and Subverting Gender Stereotypes; Contemporary Art and Mass Culture: Feminist Perspective; Queer Images in Art and Popular Culture; Introduction to Masculinity Studies; Sociological Aspects of Contraceptive Practices.

Every year the Centre arranges national and international seminars on different topics, like, for example, ‘Lithuanian Women Parliamentarians: What Happens and How, When Traditions and Organisational Structures of Political Representation Undergo Big Changes’ (Prof. Irmina Matonytė, ISM University of Management and Economics, Kaunas-Vilnius, 2010), ‘The History of Feminism in the Academy and Future Gender Studies’ (Prof. Sidonie Smith, University of Michigan, USA, 2010).

The GSC has also organised various international and national conferences: ‘Family Policy in the European Union’ (2004), ‘Gender and Identity’ (2005), ‘Film Identities’ (2009), ‘Women’s Entrepreneurship in the OSCE ← 286 | 287 → Region: Trends and Good Practices’ (2011), ‘The Soviet Past in the Post-Soviet Present: Ethics of Oral History and Memory Studies’ (2012).

Finally, the GSC has contributed as partner to several international projects: ‘International Sexuality Description Project’ (proposed by David P. Schmitt, Department of Psychology, Bradley University, USA, 2001), ‘Nordic Research School in Interdisciplinary Gender Studies’ (proposed by University of Linkoping, Sweden and Nordic Institute of Women’s Studies and Gender Research, 2003), ‘Children and Youth Experiencing Sexual and Gender Violence’ (DAPHNE II 2004 project, coordinated by the University of Oulu, Finland), ‘ATGENDER’ (Advanced Thematic Network of Activities in Women’s Studies in Europe, coordinated by Utrecht University, Netherlands, 2008).

Gender Studies Centre at Kaunas University of Technology

The Gender Studies Centre in Kaunas was established in 1993. Its first director was Assoc. Prof. Dr. Irena Leliūgienė, her successors Dr. Nijolė Čiučiulkienė and Dr. Aistė Urbonienė. The Gender Studies Centre sought to encourage dialogue between the sexes; to stimulate critical thinking among students and the academic community by viewing one’s academic education from the gender perspective; to become a champion of equal rights and opportunities for women and men by drawing attention to gender discrimination in society and enhancing public awareness. It carried out educational and academic activities, but has now discontinued them.

Šiauliai University Centre for Gender Studies

The Šiauliai University Women’s Studies Centre (WSC) was established in 1997 by a decision of the Senate of the University. In 2005, the Women’s Studies Centre was reorganised into the Gender Studies Institute (GSI). In 2008, the Gender Studies Institute, by another decision of the Senate, was changed to the Centre for Gender Studies (CGS). Previously led by Associate Professors Ivanauskienė, Dr. Čepaitienė, Dr. Akimova, and Dr. Karavajeva, the Centre’s current director is Senior Researcher, Doctor of Social Sciences, Assoc. Prof. Virginia Šidlauskienė.

The Centre has a strong research emphasis. These activities are focussed on the following topics: the impact of the gender factor on the development of personality in the Lithuanian education system; the cultural, educational, social and economic situation of women and genders in the transitional ← 287 | 288 → period; empirical studies of the social exclusion of women and genders; the gender factor in speech and communication.

The Centre actively participates in the projects funded by the European Union. During the period 2004–2008, it implemented the project ‘Family Universe: Family-Friendly Organisation under the EU EQUAL Initiative’, during which international experience was tapped to develop and test innovative methodologies and tools for university students and employees to combine work and family life and promote a change in stereotypical gender roles at home and at work.

During the period 2005–2007, together with foreign partners (University of Klagenfurt, Austria; University of Helsinki, Finland; Federation of Schools of Engineers and Executives / FESIC; National Institute of Applied Sciences of Lyon, France; University of Wuppertal, Germany; Technical University of Košice, Slovakia; the Centre for the Study of Women and Society, Spain; University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom) the Centre was engaged in the PROMETEA project ‘Empowering Women Engineers in Industrial and Academic Research’. Its aim was to enhance the understanding of gender problems in engineering and technological research in order to propose effective measures that will enable women to pursue engineering careers in the area of European higher education and industrial research.

During the period 2006–2008, the Centre carried out the project ‘Implementation of Equal Opportunities in the Area of Employment: Measures, Practices, Changes’, seeking to achieve effective implementation of equal rights for women and men in employment at the municipal level.

During the period 2011–2012, the Centre implemented the national project ‘Promotion of Gender Equality in Sciences’ (LYMOS) under the measure VP1–3.2-ŠMM-02-V ‘Improvement and dissemination of knowledge about science and technology among pupils and young people and promotion of gender equality in science’.

In addition, the Šiauliai University Centre for Gender Studies coordinates at the national level the implementation of the research projects ‘Institutional Transformation for Effecting Gender Equality in Research (INTEGER)’ 2011–2015; ‘Immersion in the Science Worlds through the Arts (ISWA)’ 2011–2013 under the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Community for research, technological development and demonstration activities. Before, during the period 2009–2011, the Centre ← 288 | 289 → coordinated the implementation of the research project ‘Higher Education Leading to Engineering and Scientific Careers (HELENA)’ also under the Seventh Framework Programme.

In 2005, Šiauliai University launched the interdisciplinary scientific journal Lyčių studijos ir tyrimai (Gender Studies and Research). The series Feminizmas, visuomenė, kultūra (Feminism, Society, Culture), published by the Vilnius University Women’s Studies Centre in 1997–2002, can be considered as its predecessor. A publication like Lyčių studijos ir tyrimai is not new on a global scale, but in Lithuania it is one of the few attempts to link feminism, gender theories and practices with a specific analysis of cultural and social phenomena and to dig deeper into the gender system discourse in the context of globalisation, internationalisation, citizenship, technology development, quality of life and development.

The goal and purpose of the publication is to promote and develop original gender research and methodological innovation in Lithuania and the European Union. By improving the quality of its articles, the focus is on attaining the international scientific level and attracting papers of high-level foreign researchers. There have already appeared some articles which continue the topic of others, then even joint articles of Lithuanian and foreign researchers. Lyčių studijos ir tyrimai presents the activities of knowledge creation and applied research that analyses the structural and cultural causes of social gender inequality and provides political and strategic proposals for the reduction of social inequality and exclusion in contemporary society in the post-communist transformation, in national and geopolitical contexts. The journal publishes (in)equality and discrimination monitoring results, examples of good practice and social innovations in the area of gender mainstreaming.

The Šiauliai University Centre for Gender Studies also provides expertise at the international and national levels. It participates in the Experts’ Forums of the European Institute for Gender Equality and the Working Group for Monitoring the Implementation of Horizontal Priorities at the Ministry of Finance.

As far as teaching is concerned, the Centre for Gender Studies has developed elective modules on the gender topic that are offered to students of Šiauliai University: Women’s Professional Career, Image Studies, Feminism Studies, Psychological Aspects of the Coordination of Family and Career ← 289 | 290 → Roles, Comparison of Gender Images in Western Culture and in Lithuania, Psychological Aspects of Gender Identity, Gender Dilemmas in Social Work.

Klaipėda University Women’s Studies Centre

The Klaipėda University Women’s Studies Centre was established in 1997. It was a public organisation uniting researchers, entrepreneurs, artists, educators, agricultural professionals, students, and other committed women who pursued activities and engaged in creative work in various areas of socio-cultural life.

The goals of the Women’s Studies Centre were identified as an attempt to harmonise relationships between people, foster tolerance, national culture and traditions, and improve communication and conduct culture. The Centre’s activities mainly relied on the traditional Christian culture. Until the spring of 2005, scientific and practical conferences ‘Woman and Traditions’ were held each year to survey, from various perspectives, the socio-economic role of women, women’s vision and mission in the third millennium. The papers of the conferences held during 2000–2005 were published in the series ‘Woman and Traditions’. In 2005, the Centre ceased its activities. After Assoc. Prof. Dr. Aušrinė Zulumskytė assumed management of the Women’s Studies Centre at the Faculty of Pedagogy in 2009, an attempt was made to revive its activities by holding, in 2010, the traditional scientific and practical conference ‘Woman and Traditions’. The proceedings of this conference were also published. Nothing else has followed.

4.  Creation of New Traditions

This part of the chapter discusses literary studies, which from the last years of Soviet rule onwards played an important part in introducing new ideas, images, and expressive forms.2

After the country regained political independence, activists of the women’s movement and women academics engaged in interdisciplinary gender ← 290 | 291 → research with a view to enlightening the liberated Lithuanian society about women’s history, women’s discrimination and exploitation. Lithuanian academic feminism was shaped by different scholars who structured it out of the fragments referring to West European, Scandinavian and American feminist theories.

Literature was that fertile soil in which feminist ideas could be easily traced, revealed and explained. The Rector of Vilnius University, Rolandas Pavilionis, was among the first university authorities to acknowledge the significance of feminist theories for Lithuanian society, which had to implement democratic principles in a traditional country. The feminist theories were introduced to VU faculties and departments by enthusiasts of the women’s movement.

Men and women in postmodern society, a psychologically complicated individual search for inner freedom and self-realisation, as well as new forms of literary expression were presented in a collection of articles under the title XX amžiaus visuotinė literatūra (20th Century World Literature; 1992), a manual composed by researchers of the World Literature Department of Vilnius University, which after teaching Soviet ideological disciplines opened to students new horizons of the freedom of thinking and the area of literary experiments and original self-expression. Works of John Fowles, Iris Murdoch, Muriel Spark, Doris Lessing, Angela Carter, Emma Tennant, Kazuo Ishiguro, Joyce Carol Oates were analysed by Regina Rudaitytė; new American dramatists (Murray Schisgal, Paddy Chayefsky, Arthur Lee Kopit, Sam Shepard) by Undinė Uogintaitė; the Beatnik movement and Jack Kerouac’s works, the novels of John Updike, Saul Bellow, and William Styron by Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė; the Southern School of American Literature and Carson McCullers’ novels by Kornelija Jurgaitienė.

New attempts to go deep into works of literary classics, modernists and postmodernists were disclosed in two manuals published by the same department, XX a. Vakarų literatūra 1900–1945 (20th Century Western Literature 1900–1945; 1994–1995), in which psychological novels by James Joyce and William Faulkner, intellectual novels by Herbert George Wells and Aldous Huxley, literature of the Lost Generation (Richard Aldington, Ernest Hemingway), poetry of William Butler Yeats, Thomas Stearns Eliot, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, also intellectual (George Bernard Shaw), social (Arthur Miller), absurd (Edward Albee), and psychological (Eugene ← 291 | 292 → O’Neill, Tennessee Williams) dramas were discussed by Galina Baužytė, Elena Kuosaitė, Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė, and Irena Varnaitė. Post-war English plays (John Osborne, Harold Pinter, Edward Bond) were examined by Loreta Višomirskytė. Much attention was devoted to the complex presentation of women in William Faulkner’s novels and in G. B. Shaw’s dramas, with a critical evaluation of ‘man’s world order’ and focus on spiritually strong female characters (Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė).

The collection Feminizmas ir literatūra (Feminism and Literature; 1996) showed that the foundations were laid for feminist Lithuanian research on English and American literature. Typical feminist themes, women’s images, stylistic peculiarities of women‘s literature, new traits of women’s portraits in ‘men’s literature’ were underlined in works of Jane Austen, George Gordon Byron, Virginia Woolf, Gertrude Stein, in lesbian poetry and drama (Danytė, Bartnikaitė, Rudaitytė, Dadurkevičienė, Žindžiuvienė, Pavilionienė).

The monograph Lyčių drama (Drama of Sexes; 1998), by Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė, was one of the first works of interdisciplinary research on Western literature in Lithuania, presenting the traditional and feminist understanding of sex, gender, family, marriage and personality. The use of the biographical approach helped to disclose the lives of three playwrights, namely, August Strindberg, Henrik Ibsen, Eugene O’Neill, and their stereotypical gender understanding, together with the attempts to reveal a woman’s complicated interior world and her revolt against the patriarchal order.

The book stresses the idea that dramas of the sexes are not conditioned by the biological differences of individuals alone. Differences in the intellectual, spiritual maturity of partners, their belief in ‘eternal’ gender, and legal, religious, moral norms of patriarchal society are the real causes of gender conflicts and opposition of masculine and feminine.

Strindberg can be considered as the first feminist who introduced feminist issues into men’s literature. His analysis of family life and gender conflicts shows that the drama of sexes leads partners to spiritual or physical death. Although the writer believes in the superiority of the masculine sex, his prose and plays reveal an alienated and helpless man who dreams of a woman’s understanding and care. The feminist reading of Strindbergian texts discloses the aggressiveness put by the author into female characters. ← 292 | 293 → However, this aggressiveness can be interpreted as women’s revolt against legal norms of the patriarchal world, which limits their existence, their rights and humiliates them.

Revealing his views on marriage, Strindberg underlines the reciprocal influence of partners, shows how marital obligations clash with an individual’s freedom, how sexual harmony contrasts with the spiritual antagonism of partners. Having gone through three marriages and divorces and having experienced psychological tensions of gender conflicts and the pain of loneliness, Strindberg in his plays begins to assert the tolerance and harmony of sexes.

Ibsen’s works inspired and continue to inspire women to rise against patriarchal social rules. His plays stimulate the individual quest for freedom, women’s self-confidence and self-expression. They destroy myths of masculinity and reveal the discrepancy between gender roles and the inner personality. Although the writer speaks ironically about sex hierarchy, criticises marriage-related transactions, one can find a misogynistic attitude in his works. Ibsen considers man to be woman’s life guide and educator; therefore he makes it clear in his works that women should sacrifice their lives for men.

Ibsen never acknowledged his conscious support of the women’s emancipation movement, though at the end of the 19th century women viewed him as their liberator. In his private life, he was a man of compromises, protected his image of a famous writer and drama reformer, but in reality was a lonely person, who embodied his spiritual and sexual longings in the characters of his plays.

The majority of O’Neill’s works are based on biographical data of his family and his own personal experience. In his early plays, the female protagonists are biological beings driven by instincts, who have no personal identity and depend upon men’s authoritative ambitions. In later dramas, they are depicted as decisive and active individuals, who exert considerable influence on other people. The spiritual quest, interior contradictions, the analysis of extrovert and introvert types of an individual are linked with the image of a man, who is an autobiographical personage.

All in all, Lyčių drama aimed at diminishing the fear of feminism in Lithuania. It stressed the necessity of re-evaluating women’s history and of introducing a new point of view on gender communication, which would ← 293 | 294 → underline the value of both men and women as personalities, not only as biologically determined creatures.

The research journal of the Faculty of Philology of Vilnius University Literatūra also played an important role in spreading feminist ideas and methodology in the academic community. Doctoral students (Milda Špėlytė, Eglė Kačkutė, Audronė Uzelienė) widened feminist research and published their articles on Angela Carter’s works, American multiculturalism and the formation of Afro-American literary tradition. Professors of the World Literature Department published results of their own research on Afro-American drama, Black Americans’ right of self-determination, race and gender in Toni Morrison’s works (Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė); narrator, character and story in John Berger’s novels (Regina Rudaitytė).

A special role in instilling feminist research into English and American studies was played by the journal Feminizmas, visuomenė, kultūra (Feminism, Society and Culture), published by the Vilnius University Women’s Studies Centre. It is a pity that after the death of Rolandas Pavilionis, new university heads cut its financing, thus demonstrating a lack of understanding of the historical role that the journal played in developing a new worldview in post-Soviet Lithuania, because at that time it was the only publication popularising feminist criticism.

In these volumes, researchers from various universities and different high schools of the country, at different study levels, published their work on feminist theory, women’s studies as an academic discipline, on feminist values, gender stereotypes, on women’s conception of space in contemporary art studies, on the social construction of sexuality and on studies of violence against women in the family, on sex and gender in the English language (Česlovas Kalenda, Patricija Droblytė, Lijana Stundžienė, Leonarda Jekentaitė, Margarita Jankauskaitė, Aušra Maslauskaitė, Jolanta Reingardienė, Brigita Palavinskienė, Saulė Vidrinskaitė, Dalia Masaitienė, Nijolė Bražėnienė). Researchers discussed authors that were little known in Lithuania, such as Sylvia Plath (Irena Ragaišienė), Zora Neale Hurston, gay drama – William Hoffman, Tony Kushner, American feminist drama (Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė), Margaret Atwood, Lorna Sage (Regina Rudaitytė), and Jeanette Winterson (Eglė Kačkutė).

The monograph entitled Gyvenimo ir teatro vaidinimai: XX amžiaus Vakarų drama (The Plays of Life and Theatre: Twentieth-Century Western ← 294 | 295 → Drama; 2004), by Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė, holds a special place in Lithuanian studies of English and American literature on account of the scope and variety of writers covered, and the depth of analysis. It introduced to Lithuanian modern society the theme of human life as a kind of drama, in which one plays different social roles, changes individual and social masks in order to hide one’s facelessness, covers inner fears or psychological complexes and attempts to adapt to new situations. Life as a theatre also discloses the revolt and protest of an individual or representatives of different races, ethnic groups, sexes, and sexual minorities against stereotypes of the patriarchal order, against aggression and domination of one nation, race, and sex over another.

The book consists of European and American theatre theories and analyses of specific plays, which illustrate the above mentioned topics. Here I will name only the research which belongs to English and American studies: Edward Bond’s Theatre of the Event; Harold Pinter’s Theatre of the Absurd; the Native American Theatre (Lisa Mayo, Gloria and Muriel Miguel, Gerald Vizenor, Hanay Geiogamah); El Teatro Campesino of Mexican Americans (Luis Valdez); Afro-American drama, seen from the race and gender perspectives (LeRoi Jones, Bernard Jackson); Afro-American women’s drama (Alice Childress, Lorraine Hansberry, Glenda Dickerson, Breena Clarke, Ntozake Shange); Amerasian drama – Japanese American and Chinese American plays (Velina Hasu Houston, Lane Nishikawa, Victor Talmadge, David Henry Hwang).

The book also discusses European and American gay and lesbian dramas associated with the historical background of the development of the LGBT social movement; stand-up plays of William Hoffman, Tony Kushner, the works of Lillian Hellman, Jill Posener, Claire Dowie, Cheryl Moch, and the plays of Euro-American women playwrights with the focus on feminist drama (Megan Terry, Tina Howe).

Gyvenimo ir teatro vaidinimai reminds the reader that in postmodern society, drama and theatre continue their mission, wake up human minds and feelings, thus destroying the culture of simulation and tearing off the mask of human hypocrisy. It helps to understand the ideas of democracy and equality of people and social groups. ← 295 | 296 →

5.  Continuation of the New Traditions

The younger generation of English and American literature scholars of Vilnius University successfully continues the teaching of women’s writing. Laura Petkutė teaches two courses: Women’s Literature of the 19th Century and Women’s Literature of the 20th–21st Centuries. The first course covers the historical and cultural background of women’s writing, the characteristics of Victorian society and women’s position in it; Victorian Gothic literature and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; Jane Austen’s aesthetics, the analysis of the patriarchal structure of a British household (Mansfield Park); Bildungsroman and the Brontë family; the place of a governess (Brontë’s Jane Eyre); pre-Raphaelite aesthetics and the poetry of Christina Rossetti; awakening of a woman as a personality in American literature (Emily Dickinson, Kate Chopin).

Using feminist, post-colonial, psycho-analytical methods and queer theory against the general background of modern and postmodern literature, Laura Petkutė examines the works of Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Doris Lessing, Jeanette Winterson, Sylvia Plath, Margaret Atwood and Alice Walker.

Young researchers find provocative and unexpected aspects of literary analysis combining classical English literature (18th and 19th centuries) with socio-historical, cultural, philosophical, and religious contexts or zooming in on a very specific theme. Linara Bartkuvienė, for instance, pays special attention to madness and gender, looking for this correlation in Shakespeare’s tragedies, Woolf’s novels, Ginsberg’s and Plath’s poetry, Williams’ plays, and Kesey’s novels.

Rūta Šlapkauskaitė innovatively combines in her teaching the analysis of multiculturalism and literature, the past and present-day relationship between art, politics and culture while concentrating on American and Canadian literature. She selects different literary genres: novel (Joy Kogawa), short story (Thomas King), poetry (David Dabydeen) and drama (David Henry Hwang). In her course History of North American Literature, she pays much attention to American modernist poetry (Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, E. E. Cummings, Amy Lowell), novelist experimentalists such as Gertrude Stein and William Faulkner, postmodern writers like John Barth, Susan Sontag and female innovators, such as Toni Morrison, ← 296 | 297 → Margaret Atwood, and Linda Hutcheon, for whom a woman’s personal identity is an important theme.

6.  Concluding Remarks

It is pleasant to state that much has been done in Lithuania in the spheres of gender studies and research, English and American literary studies. The new trends and traditions started by scholars who introduced them at Vilnius and other Lithuanian universities, are alive. They reveal the potential of Lithuanian researchers and women’s NGOs, their wide interests and close links with the latest world gender studies and investigations in literature. The present contradictory political life in Lithuania – still existing gender inequality, lack of laws which defend women’s rights, reproductive rights, children’s rights – remind us how important gender studies and research are in a changing society, how the embodiment of ideas of gender theories into various fields of studies and science brings a new quality of social life. Therefore gender studies should be constantly renewed and the results of gender studies and research spread to society: to politicians, to mass media, to educators; gender studies and research help to form a progressive mentality of people.


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Feminizmas, visuomenė, kultūra (Feminism, Society, Culture) (Vilnius: Vilniaus universiteto leidykla, 1999/2001/2002).

Gibavičiūtė, Eglė, comp., Žmogaus teisės Lietuvoje, 20 metų kelias (Human Rights in Lithuania, the Way of 20 Years) (Vilnius: Valstybės žinios, 2010).

Jurėnienė, Virginija, Lietuvių moterų judėjimas XIX amžiaus pabaigoje, XX amžiaus pirmojoje pusėje (The Lithuanian Women’s Movement from the End of the 19th to the Middle of the 20th Century) (Vilnius: Vilniaus universiteto leidykla, 2006).

Literatūra. Mokslo darbai (Literature. Research Papers), series 4, vols. 42 and 44 (Vilnius: Vilniaus universiteto leidykla, 2000/2002). ← 297 | 298 →

Moteris postmodernioje visuomenėje (Women in Postmodern Society; conference papers) (Kaunas: Kauno Technologijos universitetas, 2006).

Moterų studijų centras (Women’s Studies Centre), ed., Smurtas prieš moteris ir vaikus Lietuvoje (Violence against Women and Children in Lithuania) (Vilnius: Vilniaus universiteto leidykla, 1997).

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Pavilionienė, Marija Aušrinė, Gyvenimo ir teatro vaidinimai: XX amžiaus Vakarų drama (The Plays of Life and Theatre: Twentieth Century Western Drama) (Vilnius: Charibdė, 2004).

–, Lyčių drama (Drama of Sexes) (Vilnius: Vilniaus universiteto leidykla, 1998).

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–, ed., Feminizmas ir literatūra (Feminism and Literature) (Vilnius: Vilniaus universiteto leidykla, 1996).

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–, ed., XX amžiaus visuotinė literatūra (20th Century World Literature) (Kaunas: Šviesa, 1992).

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Šlapkauskaitė, Rūta, ‘Comparing Mythologies: The Postmodern Voices of Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad’, in Postmodernism and After. Visions and Revisions, ed. Regina Rudaitytė (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008), pp. 182–97.

–, ‘Story of Identity, Identity of Story: Hiromi Goto’s Chorus of Mushrooms’, in Embracing Otherness. Canadian Minority Discourses in Transcultural Perspectives, eds. Eugenia Sojka / Tomasz Sikora (Torun: Wydawnictwo Adam Marszalek, 2010), pp. 210–23.

Tereškinas, Artūras, Vyrai, vyriškumo formos ir maskulinizmo politika šiuolaikinėje Lietuvoje (About Men and Masculinities: Forms and Politics of Masculinity in Contemporary Lithuania), Lyčių studijų centras (Gender Studies Centre) (Vilnius: Vilniaus universitetas, 2004). ← 298 | 299 →


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Matonytė Irmina / Mejerė Oksana, Politinio atstovavimo galimybių plėtra. Lietuvos parlamentarų požiūrio į moterų kvotas analizė (Expanding Opportunties for Political Representation. Analysis of the Views of Lithuanian MPs on Gender Quotas), <> (11/08/2013).

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[Received September 9, 2013] ← 299 | 300 →


← 300 | 301 →

1 I express gratitude to my assistant Danguolė Ona Mikšiūnienė, who helped to sort out and compile the article material.

2 The series ‘Library of World Literature’, for instance, issued by the Vaga publishing house from 1987 to 2009, proved very popular and mind-opening. The translations – many of them of US or British authors – were accompanied by research articles, written as a rule by university lecturers.