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19 Pages

BETWEEN SOVIETISM AND AMERICANIZATION

During the Cold War, along with the Americanization of its popular culture, Finland was also heavily exposed to Soviet ideological influences, including in relation to notions of desirable femininity. From the late 1960s onwards, Soviet influences can be seen in Finnish public discourses on fashion and decorative femininity. Soviet ideals are also reflected in the emphasis on gender neutrality and the delayed emergence of second-wave feminism in Finland. This article discusses the conflicting discourses of Soviet and “Western” ideals of femininity through the controversial public persona of Finnish television celebrity and fashion icon Lenita Airisto. It is argued that the hostile attitudes toward Airisto during the 1970s reflect the legacies of pro-Soviet politics, which continue to have relevance in the conceptions of Finnish feminism and ideal femininity today. At the same time, the article shows that a shift towards liberal feminism is clearly noticeable since the 1990s in Finland. Therefore, it is suggested that the Finnish case illustrates the enduring cultural legacies of competing Cold War ideals of femininity, as well as the complexity of negotiating these ideals at the border between the two opposing blocs.