BASEES Annual Conference 2022

Factory Workers, Socialist Organizers, Givers of Life, Symbols of Beauty: On the Union of Czechoslovak Composers’ Attitudes Towards Women in Music

Fri8  Apr02:40pm(20 mins)
Umney Lounge


Barbora Vacková


Despite women’s mass entrance into paid employment, and the perception of gender equality as automatically achieved under state socialism, data about women’s employment in communist Czechoslovakia reveal strong horizontal and vertical gender discrimination. Music composition belonged among the most male-dominated professions; throughout the whole 41-year socialist period (1948-1989), the membership of Union of Czechoslovak Composers consisted of about a dozen women composers compared to hundreds of men.

In my paper, I will map the union’s attitude towards this striking disproportion. Drawing on my research in the previously unexamined archives of the union, and the study of period print, I will analyse the nature and frequency of discussions around equal representation within the authoritative discourse of the time (Yurchak, 2005). Special attention will be paid to the union’s specifically women-focused activities, namely the musical celebrations of the International Women’s Day and the International Year of the Woman (1975).

Drawing on themes such as the persistence of stereotypes about women as creators, the state’s disinterest in women’s work that did not yield immediate economic benefit, and the negative consequences of a pervasive gender blindness, this presentation seeks to contribute to our understanding of the androcentrism of the state socialist regimes in the Eastern Bloc.