Surviving Patriarchy: Ukrainian Women and the Russia-Ukraine War

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The conventional narrative about war and women, normalized by patriarchy, is that war is men’s business and that it requires specific masculine characteristics that women do not possess, and as such, women ought to be exempt from direct combat for their own good. So pervasive is this narrative that women are often portrayed in the media coverage of war as hapless and dependent victims in need of rescue and protection. Focusing on the case of Ukrainian women in the ongoing war against Russia, this study debunks the conventional narrative by positing that Ukrainian women have demonstrated agency in the face of unimaginable adversity, serving as diplomats and journalists calling attention to the war, as frontline fighters, as heads of households, and as anti-war activists, among other roles. Further, they have been instrumental in maintaining children’s education and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid. This is despite the fact that women have endured political exclusion from the decision-making process on the conduct and end of the war, as well as social exclusion through sexual violence, human trafficking, internal displacement, and refugeehood. Furthermore, they have borne increased economic burdens in the form of energy poverty, food insecurity, unemployment, and poverty. Ignoring the pain, suffering, and diverse sacrifices of Ukrainian women amounts to an insidious form of patriarchy that is bound to further prolong the war and worsen their suffering. Any future negotiations aimed toward ending the war, providing post-war humanitarian assistance, and developing reconstruction plans must involve all parties who fought and bore the brunt of the war, especially women.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13
JournalJournal of International Women's Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023


  • Donbas
  • NATO
  • Patriarchy
  • Russia-Ukraine War
  • Women victims of war
  • sexual violence
  • war crimes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies


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