Religious Studies and Theology, Vol 26, No 1 (2007)

The Doukhobor Problem: Media Representations of Sons of Freedom Women, 1952-1960

Julie Rak

Abstract


This paper analyses the process of the media in British Columbia and in Canada in the stigmatizing of members of the radical Doukhobor Russian religious community known as the “svobodniki” or the Sons of Freedom. This process lasted from the late 1920s through to the end of the 1960s. A key issue of their protest was the disruption to their way of life in the Kootenay region in British Columbia by an unsympathetic cultural environment—secularized and pro-militarist—which they regarded as the antipathy of their values. Despite the clarity of their demands and the open statements of the reasons for their protests, their methods of protest were presented by the media as acts of insanity. When women led the protests, the media portrayed them as monstrous and unfeminine. My analysis of the media shows how female Sons of Freedom protestors presented a direct challenge to the conservative gender roles which middle-class women of the 1950s were being asked to adopt. The response of the state was to declare these protestors “bad mothers” and to imprison their children for up to six years.

DOI: 10.1558/rsth.v26i1.59

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