Caring for men in contemporary Russia: Gendered constructions of need and hybrid forms of social security

Rebecca Kay
2007 Focaal: Journal of Global and Historical Anthropology  
The rapid and frequently disorienting nature of social and economic transformations in post-Soviet Russia have led to multiple and often contradictory pressures for men. A renewed emphasis on rigidly gendered roles and responsibilities has offered some men privileged opportunities for the accumulation of economic, political, and personal power. On the other hand, many men have not been able to excel at the roles of providing and leadership most frequently ascribed to them and have found
more » ... es instead in increasingly marginalized and vulnerable positions. This has impacted on their status in both the public world of employment and the private sphere of home and family. As a result of shifts in the labor market, many men have lost their jobs, have seen the value of their wages fall, have experienced prolonged periods of delay and/or non-payment of wages, or have had to move into less skilled and more insecure patterns of employment (Round 2004) . In addition to the economic, social, and psychological consequences experienced by men as individuals, these labor market insecurities have inevitably impacted on their ability to provide for their families. Since this ability is defined, by both men and women, as the lynchpin of men's contribution to family life, men in this position may find themselves marginalized as husbands and fathers as well (Ashwin and Lytkina 2004) . Those men who resolve problems arising from labor market insecurities by combining multiple forms of employment, working away from home, or engaging in timeconsuming and emotionally demanding forms of self-employment often also find that they are, at best, distanced from the intimate heart of family life and the relationships of care that sustain it (Kay 2006: 166-70). These multiple processes of marginalization are often interpreted in terms of a range of essentialist definitions of men and masculinity, which are made publicly visible in media discourses. My research with both women and men in Russia over the past fifteen years, however, has suggested that they are also strongly reflected in more personal understandings of and attitudes toward gender. 1
doi:10.3167/foc.2007.500105 fatcat:5epwoe34prg6vcwwksxejf4mdy