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Posted on April 19th, 2012, by

The contribution of women in the victory of the Allies in World War II can hardly be underestimated. At the same time, World War II produced a profound impact on the position of women in the society and their role had started to change after the end of the war. In actuality, the post-World War II period was very important in the development of feminist movement and laid the foundation to the emergence of feminism in the 1950s 1960s. The emergence of feminism was one of the major effects of World War II and post-war changes that occurred in the society in regard to the position and role of women. In such a context, it is necessary to lay emphasis on the fact that, basically, the position of women had changed for better because after World War II the role of women in the society had increased substantially and women grew more and more conscious of their rights and liberties which they wanted to exercise being equal to men. This is why it is possible to estimate that the post-World War II period may be characterized as the period of liberalization of relations between men and women and increasing role of women in social life. At any rate, it is obvious that after the end of World War II, women had changed their role and they were unwilling to remain retrained in their rights and liberties being totally oppressed by men.

In order to understand the change of the role of women in the post-World War period, it is necessary to briefly dwell upon the role of women during war time, because this period laid the foundation to the post-war changes in gender roles and relations. First of all, it should be said that during the war the role of women in the society had changed dramatically because a large number of men joined the army and were sent to war. In such a situation, the national labor market and national economy at large suffered from the shortage of labor force (Keegan, 193). In such a situation, the qualification and professional level of employees were not as important as they used to be before the war and many companies were forced to employ women, even they would have never employed them before the war or if there were men to close the gap in the labor force shortage.

As a result, since World War II, women had started to enter jobs, which were traditionally considered to be male jobs, unsuitable for women or, to put it more precisely, it was women, who were considered to be unsuitable for these male jobs. In such a way, the gender differentiation of jobs had started to disappear and this trend grew stronger after the end of World War II (Keegan, 351). In addition, women’s social role increased consistently because it was women who provided a backup to the military and they contributed to the maintenance of the national economy. Moreover, women entering new jobs ensured the stable supply of munitions, supplies, equipment to the frontline. Otherwise, the national military forces could not afford the war, if they did not have stable supplies.

In such a situation, it was quite natural that after the end of World War II, women were unwilling to refuse from the gains in their social status and socioeconomic position which they got in the result of the war. To put it more precisely, women understood that they could perform social functions and do jobs which used to be considered male social functions and jobs. Women grew more confident of their ability to compete with men in practically all domains, but what was probably the most important was the fact that they were unwilling to lose their positions which allowed them to maintain hire standards of living without the assistance of men (Keylor and Bannister, 214).

What is meant here is the fact that the increased revenues of women, especially those who performed male jobs, allowed them to live independently from men. Hence, they felt they were equal to men and, therefore, they demanded to preserve this equality in all fields, including not only socioeconomic sphere but also politics.

Eventually, this strife for equality resulted in the emergence of the feminist movement in the 1950s 1960s which aimed at the legal protection of female rights and liberties and insurance of their legal protection along with the elimination of gender discrimination (Keylor and Bannister, 281). The emergence of feminist movement was a natural effect of the role of women that had changed consistently. As women could be more independent, economically above all, from men, they felt the injustice of the existing social system, where they used to play a secondary role.

Also, it is necessary to point out that the role of women had changed not only in socioeconomic and political sphere.

In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the considerable change of the role of women within their families.

To put it more precisely, during the war, women had to replace men not only at work but also within their families.

In such a way, they often became the only breadwinners in their families, while their husbands took part in the war.

As a result, women were perceived as heads of the family, though, traditionally this role was solely destined to men.

Obviously, after the end of World War II, which lasted for over five years, it was difficult to change the role of women in their families. In fact, it is possible to speak about a considerable shift of gender roles within the family. Instead, of the total dominance of a man in a traditional family, in the post-war family, the role of a man was challenged by a woman. In other words, women felt being responsible for their families but they also felt their ability to maintain their families as well as men did. As a result, women naturally attempted to establish equal relations within the family between men and women. It proves beyond a doubt that such a strife for equality of gender roles was determined by objective factors, but, at the same time, it often led to conflict between men, who were unwilling to deny patriarchal traditions, and women, who were unwilling to play a secondary role family which they maintained for years, while their husbands fought far away from their homes.

In this respect, it is possible to speak about certain side-effect of the changed role of women within the family. Their strife for equality could lead to conflicts between men and women.  The conflicts, in their turn could lead to violent and offensive behavior of spouses. Eventually, these conflicts could lead to divorces and, the number of divorces after the end of World War II increased substantially compared to the pre-war period (Keylor and Bannister, 295). In such a way, women attempted to liberate from the domination and oppression of men in their family life. At this point, it should be said that the decision to take a divorce after World War II was taken by women significantly easier compared to pre-war period because they had already learned how to maintain their families and to be single mothers, when their husbands were at war.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that World War II produced a significant impact on the gender roles in the post-war society. In this respect, the role of women had changed dramatically. As the matter of fact, they stopped to be secondary, inferior beings totally dependent on men. In stark contrast, they grew conscious of their ability to be equal to men and maintain their families and normal standards of living even without the assistance of men. As a result, women were willing to change their social status and get truly equal opportunities to exercise the same rights and liberties as men did. In such a way, the change of the role of women in the post-World War II period provoked the emergence of feminism in the 1950s 1960s, which contributed to the downfall of patriarchal traditions and gave way to the new system of gender roles and relations, which were more, though not absolutely, equal than they used to be in the past.

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