JOURNAL ISSUE 14

2006/2007

 

 

GENDER - 21st CENTURY CHALLENGES

Dr. Dada M. Maglajlic'
Professor of SRS, Bemidji State University

 


Abstract


In the fall of 1968, as Fullbright Scholar, I started my masters in the cross-cultural studies program at Michigan State University. It was my first encounter that sprained into a decades-long fascination with "American way of life". Toward the end of the year 1993, I immigrated to the USA with a plan to settle and teach at a small public university located in the northern section of the country. Over the years I visited 42 states in the USA, mostly as part of my post-graduate and postdoctoral education, research and lecturing. As a guest I was exposed to one America: as female immigrant, I encountered the other.


The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was drafted by suffragist Alice Paul in 1923. From 1923 to 1972, it was re-introduced in/to every session of the Congress. The proposal has two brief statements: Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by any of the states in the United States on the account of sex, and Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article. This amendment passed the Congress in the aforementioned form in 1972, but did not get ratification from the necessary number of 38 states despite an extended deadline of 1982. It was three states short. Thus, only 35 states ratified the ERA: so, in spite of the fact that over 51% of the US population is female, women are officially considered a minority.


For the 2006 IUC Dubrovnik Symposium, I opted to present a lecture on "gender and lessons learned". As I learned at the IUC Dubrovnik Symposium, and during my sabbatical in Europe, this topic deserves much wider consideration. After the Symposium I staged a workshop at the IFSW 50th Anniversary World Conference in Munich, Germany. After it one of the colleagues had invited me to stage a workshop regarding culture, gender and identity at the four-day program which was related to "Identity - Gender and Sexual Equality", and held from October 6 - 10, 2006 at Stubicke Spa near Zagreb. Center for Peace Studies Zagreb invited me to give on November 30, 2006, a four-hour lecture on the similar topic. This article covers material which I prepared for the IUC Dubrovnik, as well as material directly related to the topic that I presented after the IUC Course and 2006 Symposium. The erticle has four sections: introduction, pre-symposium research and related activities, post-symposium reading and research, and concluding remarks.


INTRODUCTION


A course on Social Work and Spirituality has been offered within the IUC Dubrovnik School of Social Work Theory and Practice since 1989. Over the years we've covered many relevant issues, from early exploration of spirituality as related to broadly-defined social work to most relevant actual issues. The course description reflects its continuity, permanent orientation and actual issues. So, for 2006, it is stated that the course seeks to expand our knowledge of diverse philosophical, humanistic and spiritual resources which guide us in our attempt to create more just and peaceful communities. Participants explore the spiritual, ethical, cultural and professional values that inform our thinking and direct service. Specific to the 2006 course and annual symposium is emphasis on migrations and displacements. For many reasons - often through traumatic experience - people come to be confronted with, and have to live in, a culture different from the culture they grew up with. Course participants were invited to explore phenomenology of the modern-time migrations and displacements, as well as ways to identify cultural strength that helps people to develop, relate, create and/or recreate a belonging to the world despite an unfavorable social context. The plan, and one of the goals for the symposium, was and is joint exploration and learning about available human and spiritual resources that enable people to develop a favorable life condition/s, overcome loneliness, and create a spirit of belonging despite existing cultural alienation.


The IUC Dubrovnik School of SW Theory and Practice at this point offers seven courses. Last year, several courses/symposia reiterated the importance of "cultural sensitivity", its solid understanding as a tool in any of the helping professions as well as understanding of the human and cultural diversity which we encounter every day through both, our own daily routine and as part of our profession. So, culture placed itself as a common facet that "cuts" across all or almost all courses that were offered within the IUC (Inter-University Center for Postgraduate Studies) Dubrovnik School of SW Theory and Practice.


In my opinion we do not exaggerate when we state that culture is who we are, yet it is one of the overlooked facets of human identity. As of late, the word culture is mentioned very often and in a very different context. There are hundreds of different definitions, so it is not surprising that some have in mind only one dimension while the others refer to culture as a very complex, multifaceted phenomena: "All communication bears cultural meanings, and is interpreted through cultural frameworks. Yet many American com- munication textbooks assume a seemingly acultural perspective, meaning that culture does not figure dominantly in defining or describing the communication process. The prevailing, Anglophile, Eurowhite perspective that underlies most American theories of communication and prescription for effective communication is what students are expected to learn or emulate. When culture is mentioned, the impression created is that it is something belonging only to minorities, immigrants, and other special groups. . Unlike good manners, culture is not something that certain individuals have and others do not. Culture is part of every person's life and in that sense provides direction in life. We all are influenced by similar aspects of culture. Nevertheless, the diversity in human behavior is attributable largely to the fact that the people of the world do not belong to the same culture. Wishing to communicate harmoniously across cultures, we are obligated to place ourselves into the cultural worlds the others inhabit. We must perceive the world as they see it." (p. 27, Klopf 2001) We found useful Klopf's approach with eight facets which constitute personal micro-cultures:


  1. ethnic origin,
  2. age,
  3. gender/sex/sexual orientation,
  4. spiritual traditions/faith/religion,
  5. class/occupation,
  6. geographic region,
  7. urban/suburban/rural context, and
  8. exceptionality.

  9. Each cultural group, and each society develops over time its "cultural patterns", a set of cultural norms that represent preferred values and beliefs as well as behaviors that are desirable and promoted through/by family, education, and overall social organization including the government, faith/religious institutions and history. At their deepest structures all cultures deposit a matrix known as cultural patterns. In any culture to develop such a matrix takes a very long time. Changes are possible but not easy to rephrase what is expressed in daily wisdom as "old habits die hard". Cultural patterns are introduced, supported and maintained by or through the power structure. It is fair to say that for any change to take place, equal - if not more - power is needed. Issues related to gender that we briefly explore in this article present a perfect example.


    Identity may be seen as "a person's conception of self within a particular social, geographical, cultural and political context .Gender identity is quite different from biological sex or sexual identity. Gender refers to how a particular culture differentiates masculine and feminine social roles. As Ting-Toomey tells us, 'Gender identity, in short, refers to the meanings and interpretations we hold concerning our self-image and expected other images of ^femaleness^ and ^maleness^.' Culture influences on what constitutes gender beauty and how it is displayed vary between cultures." (Porter and Samovar, 2006)


    Shocked by my new experience in general, and in particular within academia, eight years ago I introduced a faculty-student collaborative project entitled "My Time" which resulted in projects with students, faculty, and my own research. Over the years I carried out a large number of in-depth interviews, accidental brief interviews, different surveys and other field activities with females and males in several countries. Although this research informed and guided my thinking, after consulting with colleagues at the IUC, during the Congress in Munich and workshop/lecture in Croatia, and BSU students upon return from sabbatical, I decided to focus on consulted published works. This brief review points to some of the accomplishments and long-lasting problems.


    PRE-SYMPOSIUM ACTIVITIES


    After exploring "gender phenomena" over the last eight years, my mind was already set to focus on gender as an issue that deserves our special attention. Additional impulse was provided in March and May of 2006. As all previous years during the Women's History Month, the BSU Women's Center had a special creative display-board. Toward the end of the month there was a large poster containing following information: ". for every dollar men are paid, women are paid 75 cents. Efforts to equalize pay, grounded in The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related legislature, did not materialize. Observable annual pay increase is half-a-penny - that is correct: a total of half-a-penny increase for a year". (Melinda Gardner 2003, Sex Equality Awareness for Voc Education). The NASW NEWS May 2006 issue contains "Closing the Gender Pay Gap" text from the NASW Director, Dr. Elisabeth Clark. In the article Dr. Clark gives a brief history beginning in 1963 and plan of action for the future: "Pay inequity within the social work profession reflects that in society at large, and NASW continues to work in support of bills such as the Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act to bring about legislative fairness. An additional challenge is that jobs dominated by women are not valued in the same way as men's jobs are. Studies have shown that the more women and people of color fill an occupation, the less it pays. With data now available from the national social work workforce study, we, as profession are prepared to move forward in a deliberate and concerted way to address workforce issues such as salaries, pay equality, social work shortages and loan forgiveness." At the very beginning of the article, it is mentioned that in 1963, women were earning 59 cents for every dollar men were paid, while in 2005 this gap was 77:100, that is 77 cents for every dollar. "In 2003, the General Accounting Office issued a special report on women's earnings that substantiated that the national pay gap is real. GAO found that even when accounting for demographic and related factors such as occupation, industry, race, marital status and job tenure, women working full-time earn an average of 80 cents for every dollar that men earn. This 20 percent earnings gap cannot be explained by differences in work patterns or histories." (Clark, 2006, p.3)


    For this section, I have selected information that was of special interest to my students and colleagues at BSU, participants of the 2005 Minnesota Human Rights Conference, and the participants of the 2006 IUC Dubrovnik Symposium. Concerns about our security and future are probably as old as human history. These concerns are now magnified by the unprecedented scale of environmental degradation and the presence of immense poverty in the midst of extraordinary wealth as well as the fact that social, economic and environmental challenges can be found everywhere. Maybe it is for the first time in the history of humans that peace presents the only viable solution and that the world has enough to satisfy the needs of its people while the rich could still be rich, if they chose to be. At the IUC almost 10 years ago colleagues began to argue "4th World Order". I was told that it was introduced by French scholars as a description for the modern-day slavery. Some colleagues commented that 5% of the most rich people in the world (almost all of them males) define conditions for the remaining 95%, mostly through different international corporations and power networks, including the G 7 (G8) organization. The others commented on 20:80 ratio: 20% of people use 80% of the worlds resources, believing that they are entitled to it. Among them, some of the most powerful are endangering the eco-balance through extensive use of nonrenewable resources and extreme pollution. Still others target mostly children and women and push them to overspend, to spend what they don't have on what they don't need and, even, on what does not exist. We may call it globalization or consumer world/times. No matter which terminology is used we may find consensus that gender plays a role - just ponder issues such as:


    • social standing,
    • property and entitlements,
    • employment opportunities and earnings,
    • violence, and others.

    In his book "Globalization of Nothing" (2004) George Ritzer refers to 'nothing' as "a social form that is generally centrally conceived, controlled, and comparatively devoid of distinctive substantive content. . Let us use the credit card as an example of both this form and its expansion, specifically the steps involved in obtaining a credit card. At the extreme literary nothing is involved, at least in terms of the nature of the offer extended to the consumer. This is clearest when an unsolicited offer for a credit card, usually with a predefined credit limit, arrives in the mail. In terms of the definition offered above, this is nothing because it was conceived and is controlled centrally and there is no distinctive content involved in this invitation - thousands, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of potential cardholders receive exactly the same invitation in the mail. (p.3) . That which is something tends to be associated with deep and highly meaningful relationships, while nothing is linked to the relative absence of such human relationships: to de- humanized relationships." (p. 32).


    Oxfam Canada in its report for the year 2003 states that women own a mere 1% of the world property. We tend to think of extreme poverty as something distant that happens in what we call 3rd World, undeveloped countries. Yet, in the USA we may find extreme poverty and hunger:


    • in his book "Justice - A Global Adventure" Father Walter Berglund states that he felt obliged to 'every 6th child' to write this book; according to CDF every sixth child in the USA is born into poverty, and not ordinary poverty; rather, a poverty that kills;
    • Dr. Robert Bellah was a keynote speaker for the 2004 BSU Student Achievement Conference; as a handout Dr. Bellah selected updated edition of the Introduction to his book entitled "The House Divided", and on the page XIV he states that "It is worth remembering that five out of six poor people in America are white and that poverty breeds drugs, violence, and unstable families without regard to race."
    • at the 2005 Minnesota Human Rights Day (December 5, 2005) Jerry Carrier had a workshop on "Invisible Segregation: Class & Class Bias". He distinguished the working class (with two subgroups, the blue collar and the underclass), the middle class (also with two subgroups: the upper and the lower), and the upperclass or leisure class. His handout (available from the author) points out that the top 1% make more money per year than the bottom 73 million people, that 57% of all families earn less than $ 50,000 year, and that 73 million (29.3%) people belongs to the Underclass, 69 million (27.4%) to the Blue Collar, 79 million (29.3%) to the Lower Middleclass, 32 million (13%) to the Upper Middleclass, and 2.6 million (1%) to the Leisure Class.
    • Callahan (2004) argues that the United States is becoming more unequal. The middle class is shrinking, wages are stagnant or declining, and the wealthy are getting on average bigger proportion of wealth. The result is that the United States is the most unequal of the advanced countries. When comparing inequality across societies, the data actually understate the magnitude of inequality in the United States because the other nations provide more generous universal social programs (e.g. health care, pensions, housing). "The top one percent of (American) households have more wealth than the entire bottom 90 percent combined".(p.18).
    • the entire book America Needs Human Rights (1999, edited by Anuradha Mittal and Peter Rosset) is related to the topic at hand; I have selected two brief quotes; from page 100: ."race and gender discrimination in employment are alive and well." The chapter "Women, Welfare and Work" by Mimi Abramowitz is directly related to this article. It was hard to select the most relevant content. First work: "Despite evidence that the labor market can neither absorb all those willing and able to work nor pay a living wage to everyone who needs one, these welfare opponents insist that work empowers poor women, raises their self-esteem, and provides them with a sense of control over their lives. However, if they had been asked, the women on welfare would have told the reformers that the reality is far more complex. Until the mid-1970s, a full-year job paying the federal minimum wage could lift a worker out of poverty, but that has not been the case in any year since." (p. 107-8) Now family: ."people should marry and live in two-parent households, preferably with one wage-earner, and one homemaker. All other family types are considered deviant. . Beneath all this rhetoric lies the patriarchal premise that any family without a father is defective." (p. 111).
    • "Prior to the 1850s, women were a rarity in the marketplace for consumer goods. If they did appear there, it was under the control of their fathers or husbands. The coming of innovations such as the department stores helped to liberate women from this control. A century and a half ago, 'the great metropolitan department stores were first established and set themselves up not merely as merchants but also as veritable bazaars, bringing women out of their houses and into the public realm for the first time.' One of Elizabeth Cady Stanton's rallying cries in 1854 was 'GO OUT AND BUY'. Today, of course, many, perhaps most, of the new means of consumption cater to women." (Ritzer, 2005, p. 2005) This describes two different approaches, the 1850s and now, yet there is the same underlying issue. In his book, Enchanting a Disenchanted World, Ritzer describes a variety of different creative approaches used by the power elite to 'enchant', arrange as specially desirable, even the most plain, ordinary products making sure that modern-time slaves - consumers - spend everything they earn and more, simply using the plastic card which he describes above as nothing.
    • In his book, Hating Women, Schmuley Boteach (2005) starts with a chapter entitled 'The Shocking Assault on the American Woman'. Again, it was hard to select just a few quotes. I had to review my comments three times in order to narrow down my final choices from over thirty to just the three most relevant citations. Here is a brief quote from the first chapter entitled "Fall of the Feminist Dream": "The portrayal of woman as prostitute is so pervasive in American culture that there is no escaping it. . Sixty years after the advent of feminism, women must now ask themselves a sobering question: Is this what they fought for? For women to devolve into men's sex slaves? And if not, why are they silent when this has become the most rampant stereotype in American popular culture?" (p. 9) The second quote is from the chapter 13, entitled "Becoming Famous by Becoming Naked": if we "think about effort that went into winning women an equal opportunity to excel in any given career, we must realize that among feminism's early goals was the need to create an appreciation for women as something more than just a pretty face atop a great body. Women of the feminist movement legitimately asserted that a woman is everything a man is and more. Women are as smart as men, as ambitious, and as visionary. A woman is something more than an object for a man to ogle. Women demanded to be taken seriously. This is why it is so bizarre that, more than forty years after the second wave of feminism took shape, and despite great strides in professional achievements and education, women are still, first and foremost, treated as hunks of meat who get ahead by baring it all for men." (p.121) Chapter 18, "A Crisis in Manhood", provides some insight into male - female relations: ".. we are also witnessing a crisis in manhood. Most men today have little clue how to be gentlemen, which means they do not know how to act in a refined and dignified manner. They certainly have little idea how to treat a woman. But, even worse than these behavioral deficits, at a visceral and automatic level, the attraction men have for women is faltering as well. Men today are attracted not to womankind, but to a kind of woman, a reflection of the diminishment of their masculinity. . Let's stop blaming women. It's not that they aren't 'hot' enough. It is the men who have changed, and they are strangely unattracted to the majority of women." (p. 171)
    • The Chronicle of Higher Education from the 'C' Section on September 9, 2005 has a two-page article entitled Tenured and Battered - The story of how a professor in the social sciences became a victim of domestic abuse" signed by Madeline Bates as a pseudonym for a real professor. While domestic abuse and violence are present in all social strata, all 'races' and levels of education, it may be detrimental to any, or should we say, every, victim to share openly, and to sign, a personal testimony. For the husband, it was 'OK' to batter, but it was not 'OK' to face it publicly once the victim finally pressed the charges; he escaped personal and social responsibility by committing a suicide. Before that ". I tried to comply with my husband's demands, it would never be enough. He would just find something else to be angry about. Trying to work productively during 12 years in which my home life became fraught with danger was difficult. How do you maintain the focus necessary to teach, grade, do research, and write when you are recovering from the most recent attack, or trying to avoid the one you know is coming? Despite the stress of trying to construct a track record that would merit tenure and to maintain the fašade of a happy home life I found that work was cathartic. My students were so engaging that during classes I would actually forget about the terror at home. Publications, excellent teaching evaluations, and work on important college issues gave me reasons to feel good about myself, and the strength to carry on. After my husband completed his graduate studies .. He began a highly paid job that he enjoyed, as well as a new cycle of violence - one in which he was battering our children as well as me. When I tried to intervene to protect the children my husband just became more violent. I knew that I needed to act, but wasn't sure what to do." (p. C4)

    As already mentioned, eight years ago I introduced a joint venture with BSU students, colleagues and other Bemidji associates. Every year during March, Women's History Month, we stage a workshop under the umbrella title "My Time". Over the years we took a closer look at specific issues such as the history of feminist movement in comparing dominant culture with four major minority groups: African American, Hispnic/Latino, Native American and Asian Pacific Islander. We also looked at the movement in terms of social standing for the above-mentioned groups, domestic violence, etc. Colleagues and students brought to our attention many relevant issues, here to mentioning only a few: while volunteering at the women's shelter in the extended Twin Cities area one student learned that the director of the shelter had been abused for years and finally had to seek protection and help; the other student was shocked after learning how a well known female lawyer who serving as a volunteer at the shelter was also forced to seek protection and help for herself and her children; a colleague that had shared a presentation on prevention of rape and date rape among students brought information about forcible rape taking place every 6 minutes (Source: Crime in the United States, US Government Printing Office), and the statistic that every fourth female and every fifth male will be victims of rape before age 18; while discussing the topic one student made a comment on how directly or indirectly we can relate such behavior to the power structure and that the word 'fuck' and its root serve as an example since it is an abbreviation standing for Fornicate Under the Command of the King.


    BSU Social Work students and faculty annually or bi-annually attend Social Work Day at the Minnesota Capitol. The keynote speaker for the 2005 March Day quoted several times Dr. George Lakoff's book "don't think of an elephant! KNOW YOUR VALUES AND FRAME THE DEBATE". From this book I quoted page 82 the most, since it provides a summary statement pertaining to the modern times patriarchy in the USA anchored in the interpretation of the God and the Bible by the most powerful patriarchal right-wing elite: "God makes laws - commandments - defining right and wrong. One must have discipline to follow God's commandments. God is punitive. He punishes those who do not follow his commandments, and rewards those who do. Following God's laws takes discipline. Those who are disciplined enough to be moral are disciplined enough to become prosperous and powerful. God is the original strict father. Christ, as savior, gives sinners a second chance - a chance to be born again and be obedient to God's commandments this time around.


    THE MORAL ORDER. Traditional power relations are taken as defining a natural moral order: God above man, man above nature, adults above children, Western culture above non-Western culture, America above other nations. The moral order is all too often extended to men above women (bolded by D.M.), whites above non-whites, Christians above non-Christians, straights above gays.


    MORALITY. Preserving and extending the conservative moral system (strict father morality) is the highest priority. Morality comes in the form of rules, or commandments, made by a moral authority. To be moral is to be obedient to that authority. It requires internal discipline to control one's natural desires and instead follow a moral authority. Discipline is learned in childhood primarily through punishment for wrongdoing. Morality can be maintained only through a system of rewards and punishments.


    ECONOMICS. Competition for scarce resources also imposes discipline, and hence serves morality. The discipline required to be moral is the same discipline required to win competition and prosper.


    The wealthy people tend to be the good people, a natural elite. The poor remain poor because they lack the discipline needed to prosper. The poor, therefore, deserve to be poor and serve the wealthy. The wealthy need and deserve poor people to serve them. The vast and increasing gap between rich and poor is thus seen to be both natural and good."


    POST-SYMPOSIUM ACTIVITIES


    For the IFSW 50th Anniversary Conference in Munich in 2006, the Chair of the Programme and Review Committee was Ms. Gabriele Stark-Angermeier. Congress, Meeting & Event Management was carried out by Ms. Elke Jaskiola and Sabine Miller. Participants were welcomed by IFSW President Ms. Imelda Dodds from Australia and Ms. Hille Gosejacob-Rolf, President of the German Association. The World Conference was opened by Lady Minister Christa Stewens, Bavarian Ministry for Work and Social Issues, Family and Women. The tribute to the "Most Distinguished Social Worker of the IFSW" was given to Ms. Irena Sendler from Poland. A nurse and a social worker, Ms. Sendler saved 2500 children from the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw; she is considered "the mother of the children of Holocaust". At a glance one may conclude that in social work, considered by many as a female profession, all is well. However, the 'real' practice and the program itself point to reality. Under the theme "World Out of Balance - Working for a New Social Equilibrium" two major issues did not 'make it': social justice and gender inequality!


    Within the major six themes, a symbolic number of presenters did include these two issues. The six themes were:


    1. The Balance of Generations: Youth and Aging,
    2. Physical, Emotional and Mental Health,
    3. Between Inclusion and Alienation: Migrants, Refugees and Displaced Persons,
    4. Human Rights and Civil Rights: between Globalization and Marginalization,
    5. Social Systems between Demands: Basic Needs and Minimum Standards, and
    6. Social Work as Profession: 50 Years of Progress and Visions for the Future.

    There are some 200 countries in the world. The map of the world remains, more or less, the same since World War II. There are 79 member countries within the IFSW. There are many differences and disbalances around the globe, some of which present a real threat to our future and the future of the planet. And yes, one issue that deserves our attention is "gender imbalance": preference for male children, priority for education and /or quality education for male students, preference for employment and higher pay for male workers, exposure to domestic and other violence with trafficking of (female) children and women, targeting children and women as major consumers, etc.


    Two years ago I attended a conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. During our conference, Finland held an election, and one morning all the major papers had on the frant page "the photo of the world": half of the voted in ministers were female, and the other half male!
    Indeed, a real equilibrium! Within Europe it is perceived that Sweden has the best democracy and this is reflected in the Council of Europe's 2003 report regarding participation of women in the political sphere (the above mentioned election in Finland took place in 2004). The 2003 report covers 45 countries, with Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Holland and Norway ranked as top five countries, and the respective percentage of women represented in the national governments were 45.3 (Sweden), 38.0 (Denmark), 37.5 (Finland), 36.7 (Holland), and 36.4 (Norway). The average is 17.9, while my country, Croatia, holds 15th position with 20.5. The document points to the fact that the percentage in top politics is in fact misleading. Real life happens at the local level. Moving from the top to the lower levels, we may observe less and less women. Thus, three lady politicians mentioned as the most powerful women indeed have a special position: Angela Merkel, German Cancelor, Condoleca Rice, US Secretary of State, and Nancy Pelozzi, US Congress majority leader. They remain exactly that - three very powerful women! For most women around the globe day-to-day reality remains bleak. The world is becoming a cynical place: those in power speak about and even make proclamations regarding importance of freedom, democracy and civil society while at the same time this is a backdrop for the very refined modern-time lack of freedom and no democracy, while society at all levels from family to society at large is in fact opposite from civil: very unequal, oppressive, abusive, violent and the like.


    In the above mentioned report prepared by the European Council (2003), on the page 33 it is mentioned that "in some Central and East European countries representation of women is low and lower than it used to be during the times of communism, what is sign of worsened conditions for women in other living spheres." The report also mentions the Fourth Conference at the ministers' level which took place in Istanbul on November 13 and 14, 1997. At that conference, the declaration on equal rights for men and women was adopted. It has been stressed that this presents basic criteria for democracy and is a most important step towards European recognition of the importance of equitable gender representation and equality in Europe (p. 35). Within the same context, it is mentioned that there is no democracy when half of the population is left without representation from the local to the top levels. The female half! This same report has a separate section on gender equality as a human right issue: in 1994, the European Parliament adopted Recommendation no. 1229 regarding equal rights for men and women. Parliament invited the Council of Ministers to take action regarding promotion of its implementation. Unfortunately, this positive approach did not give results and an alternative approach had to be adopted - the one that prohibits discrimination on the ground of gender. The Council report also has a separate chapter on secularity as a basic democratic value; this is one of the three concluding chapters. The other two are a chapter regarding political parties and a chapter regarding promotion of the 'joint inheritance' pertaining to social rights.


    At the world conference in Munich I bought several books, including "Women and Community Action" by Lena Dominelli. I have selected a few quotes from the 2nd chapter on "Gendered Communities" which fits well with the quote from George Lakoff mentioned in the previous section:


    • "Gender relations are enacted within communities to configure the categories of men and women in a binary dyad of superiority and inferiority that favors men and propagates a deficit model of women who are presented as lacking the positive attributes ascribed to men. This arrangement between men and women is taken as natural and immutable. Defining difference as inferior and acting on this presumption creates oppressive relations. Some Communities are defined as men- only or women-only spaces. Gendered relations in the UK assume a white, middle- class heterosexuality that privileges white men who subscribe to a hegemonic masculinity and accompanying subjugated femininity (Hearn, 1987; Pringle, 1995). Based on gender differentiation, it views divergence from a white male norm as deficient, pathological or inferior and includes men who are different, for example, black, gay or disabled men. Configured as having subjugated masculinities, these men rank above women in their own grouping. . Gendered relations in western societies are contested, contradictory and, at times, divisive because at their heart lies non-egalitarian way of organizing social relations. (p. 29)
    • Dominant images of traditional womanhood in Western and Eastern cultures draw on biological traits that are deemed fixed, immutable and linked to women's reproductive capacities ((Eisenstein, 1979). Within this differentiation, gendered relations based on sexist views of the world (re)produce inequalities between men and women through a sexist dyad that privileges men. White Western feminists have called this rule by men 'patriarchy' (Foster, 1997), a system embedded in sexism or the oppression of women in a gendered society and firmly rooted in the family (Segal, 1983), claiming this was a universal condition (Morgan 1970, 1984). Black feminists in the West have challenged the relevance of this analysis, seeing the family as a site of safety for black men and women living in white racist societies (Bryan et al, 1985; Collins, 1991). Feminists now accept that women's experiences of gender oppression are differentiated by a range of social divisions such as ethnicity, class, disability and sexual orientation. Further differentiation occurs because gender interacts with and cuts across other social divisions such as 'race' and disability to produce complex differentiated experiences of gender that are unique to an individual while having elements shared by others with similar identity traits." Dominelli defines sexism as " .a system of oppression based on the presumption of antagonistic relationships between men and women. In these, men exercise power over women and are privileged or deemed superior while women are cast as inferior. The system of organizing social relations so that men can control and exploit women on the personal, institutional and cultural levels is called patriarchy. (p. 30-31)
    • The patriarchal social relations that gave rise to sexism and 'othering' draw upon power relations that are rooted in zero-sum notions of power in which one party to an interaction has power while the other does not (Parsons, 1957). It rests on the formation of 'power over' relations that favor one party at the expense of the other to create winners who grab all the power and losers who have none. 'Power over' relations form part of the world view that divides the world into unequal binary dyads that privilege one element over another. These underpin relations of domination and privilege members who belong to the hegemonic or normalizing group. (p. 33-34)
    • Poverty as outcome of personal and social circumstances, is a central ingredient in processes that result in social exclusion, although there are social, political and psychological forms of exclusion too. Despite the suggestion that social exclusion is a structural problem rooted in a particular type of social organization, namely the exploitation of social and physical resources for the profit of the few, key definitions of social exclusion focus on its personal dimensions. Duffy (1995, p.1) considers social exclusion as: . the inability to participate effectively in economic, social, political and cultural life, and in some characterizations, alienation and distance from mainstream society. (p. 38-39)"

    At the IUC Dubrovnik School two colleagues kindly shared a book with me. A colleague from Finland brought to our attention the book Development in an Insecure World - New Threats to Human Security and Their Implications for Developmental Policy edited by Olli Ruohomaki (2005). Satu Lassila, Venla Parssinen and Katariina Sario contributed chapter entitled "Bad girls" or "Abused slaves"? - Debates around Trafficking in Women. Here is a brief quote from this chapter: "Over the last decade, trafficking in human beings has become a major concern throughout the world. Due to its transitional nature, trafficking impacts virtually every country on some level. Most known cases of trafficking are connected with the sex sector and sexual exploitation, but human beings are also being trafficked for the informal labor market, the commercial marriage market, the removal of organs, adoption and so forth. .. Contrary to common assumptions, human trafficking flows are not solely from Asia, Africa and South-America. Currently, both demand and supply are solidly established in Europe. Trafficking is not a stable phenomenon, because trafficking flows take changing circumstances into account, which alters trafficking patterns at local and international levels. Many countries in Europe have become major sources of trafficking networks over the last decade, due to the conflicts in the Balkans and the fall of the Soviet Union. According to Amnesty International, Kosovo has become a major destination country for trafficking in women and child prostitution since the deployment of the KFOR international peacekeeping force and the establishment of a United Nations civilian administration (UNMIK) in June 1999. The speed at which the phenomena developed took the authorities by surprise. Women were mainly trafficked to Kosovo from Moldova, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Romania, the majority of them via Serbia*. All these countries suffer from social and political insecurity, poverty and lack of possibilities for female employment." (p. 120-121) *Explanation: Kosovo is 'within' Serbia with only a small section bordering with Bosnia & Hercegovina. Thus, all or practically all roadways are via/through Serbia.


    My colleague from Switzerland, who keeps close connections with several programs in Nepal, brought to our attention the book Mother-Sister-Daughter. This book builds on the results of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Publication was made possible by UNIFEM, New York. The book has six sections; each section has between three and eleven chapters. From the first section entitled "Society Sanctions Inequality" I have selected the chapter entitled "Using the Media to End Gender Discrimination and Violence" written by Bandana Rana: "The social status of women in Nepal is generally low, a situation attributable both to the general poverty of the country and the gender-biased distribution of power and resources in the family and in society. Strongly influenced by patriarchal norms and values, discrimination against girls begins at birth in Nepali society, giving rise to rampant torture and violence against women and children. Domestic violence is not yet considered to be an offense punishable by law, so most cases of violence against women and girls go unreported. (p.11) Although the Constitution of Nepal of 1990 guarantees equal rights to men and women, imbalances persist both in legal provisions and in the interpretation and application of law. Family is one of the major sites of discrimination and violence. Women of all ages are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse across boundaries of class, caste and ethnicity. Hinduism itself does not discriminate or degrade women. But practices followed in the name of religion, as adopted by many Hindu jurists from centuries ago, do oppress women. (p. 12) By law, men inherit and control most property with the concomitant responsibility of supporting parents, wives and children, reinforcing women's dependence on men. Violence against women is so deeply embedded in Nepali culture that it is almost invisible. .many forms of gender violence still exist in almost all families in one form or the other. (p.13) ..harmful practices aimed at preserving female subjugation. Often defined and sanctioned as cultural and religious traditions, they are usually fiercely defended by those who practice them, shrugged off by society, and condoned both by law-enforcement agencies and the courts. As a result, most of these inhuman practices continue unabated. Some of these traditional practices harmful to women are:


  10. Deuki, Badi, Jhuma - girls are offered to temples in return for a vow made, and sexually exploited,
  11. Child marriage, polygamy, unmatched marriage and polyandry,
  12. Jari system - one can take away another person's wife by paying for her,
  13. Badi system - socially accepted form of prostitution,
  14. Bonded labor,
  15. No reproductive rights for women as Nepali society demands the birth of a son,
  16. Untouchability due to caste system,
  17. Isolation during menstruation and child birth,
  18. Witch accusation, often leading to extreme mental and physical torture (p. 14)

The mental and emotional violence and discrimination practiced by family and society in the name of cultural tradition and religion as mentioned above has remained invisible and ignored for too long. Women and girls have been forced to suffer violence silently in their families and communities in public places and within public service institutions. Media professionals and communicators play a pivotal role in the education and transition process of culture and society. The media is not only litmus paper that gauges which way the 'wind blows', it is also the forerunner of issues and trends of the future. The media needs to recognize and expose the reality of discrimination and violence against women and girls perpetrated within the family, community and society. It is only through effective media intervention that we can contribute to society and deal honestly with the problems: ensuring justice and support to the victims, and the enforcement of the severest sanctions against the perpetrators. (p. 15)


However, the problem of gender discrimination and violence against women and girls is a complex one that cannot be solved by media sector alone. It requires a range of interventions at the level of family, the community and the State. Indeed, what is required is an interdisciplinary approach that will help us to network, share and exchange, and support each other's endeavors in this area - as citizens, officials, activists, professionals, journalists and above all human beings. It is important to penetrate into homes, where too many women and girls are tortured, yet blame themselves or their fate for a daily litany of woes. Our silence has made us accomplices of this violence, even passive perpetrators. The time has come to break the silence of gender discrimination and violence for a fair, just and better world." (p.17)


WOMEN, the 21st Century Challenge -
MINORITY STATUS OF A MAJORITY GROUP


Julia Kristeva: Open Letter to Harlem Desir
"If I knew something useful to myself and detrimental to my
family, I would reject it from my mind. If I knew something
useful to my family, but not to my homeland, I would try to
forget it. If I knew something useful to my homeland and
detrimental to Europe, or else useful to Europe and detrimental
to hu/mankind, I would consider it a crime. "
From Julia Kristeva:
Nations Without Nationalism (p.63) Columbia Press, 1993


"As a majority of humankind, women clearly comprise the largest 'group' in the world. Yet they also participate in nearly every other group within society. This simultaneous oneness and diversity has confounded almost everyone who has tried to come to grips with it. Although most anthropologists and sociologists agree that some activities and attributes are characteristic of women universally, there are obvious dangers in generalizing about people who share in every racial. class, ethnic, religious, and regional alignment. To make the problem even more difficult, women constitute the only group which is treated unequally as a whole, but whose members live in greater intimacy with their "oppressor" than with each other." (Chafe, 1977).


"The surprising constancy going back tens of thousands of years of global migration, cultural exchange, and the spread of disease and epidemics opens new vistas for the history of women and gender. Among these phenomenon are women's relationship to overland and overseas trade, their variegated participation in migration and diasporas, and their contributions to culture both nationally and internationally. Women throughout time have been part of regional and transregional slave systems and international prostitution; they have also participated in international movements against slavery and forced prostitution. The transregional spread of religion has involved women, and it has simultaneously often been a highly gendered process." (B.G.Smith, 2004)


Although representing over half of the world's population women have been left out. We still have long ways to go but over the last two decades history books have begun to incorporate comparative and contributive aspects of the women's role in the history of humans. It represents the very tip of the iceberg while its deep structure still hides diversified, rich contribution by individual women and its collective counterparts. It is an extremely complex issue. I divided consulted work in three sections and a few sub- sections.


a.   Peace and Security


Peace is much more than the absence of war, and personal safety/security is a prerequisite for any other activity. When those who are supposed to protect society start violating its female members, and when family home is 'far from heaven' we have to take a deeper look at a given social dynamic, including the USA. Three years ago, as a BSU "My Time" panel participants, one of our faculty stated that her partner fears much more being sexually violated by fellow US soldiers than by anyone she may encounter in Iraq. From the book "Sex & War" by Stan Goff (2005) I have selected two brief quotes: "The Rapist: .We live in a culture that condones and celebrates rape" says bell hooks (hooks, pp.109-113). Catherine MacKinnon says that 'male and female are created through the eroticization of dominance and submission. The man/woman difference and the dominance/submission dynamic define each other. This is the social meaning of sex and the distinctly feminist account of gender inequality." (Mac Kinnon, p.113)Robert Jensen says "Rape is illegal, but the sexual ethic that underlies rape is woven into the fabric of the culture". A culture that defines the male as a sexual aggressor, the do-er, the taker, the subject, and the female as the done-to, the taken-from, and the object, is the culture that has defined the parameters of rape and normalized them. . Rape has to be understood simultaneously as both social and personal, because social control is exercised through individuals, and individual bodies.


According to the Red Cross, there are hundreds and hundreds of photos that the Department of Defense is withholding from the public now, hoping against hope that no one obliges them to ever share these photos - ever - that show the treatment of Iraqi prisoners, by men. These photos include rape. The stories that are behind these photos have been widely supported and substantiated by independent investigators. In the famed Taguba Report from the Army, rape was not called rape. It was referred to as guards "having sex with" female detainees - implying that there was some element of consent. Stories also emerged from Abu Ghraib of gang rape committed against female detainees. Most of the women detainees were not themselves suspected of anything that would justify having rounded them up, but were imprisoned as potential 'bargaining chips' to get at relatives whose names were on the now questionable lists of the US forces." (pp.115-6)


Taking slightly different direction we can look back, to the earlier history of the USA, or to the other spheres such as domestic violence. Kathleen Brown in "The History of Women in the United States up to1865" (Women's History Volume 2, 2005) describes position of different white female immigrants as well as female slaves from Africa and colonization of indigenous people. On page 269-70 there is specific mention of Cherokees struggle to survive under new conditions: "Postwar patterns of residence in isolated homesteads rather than in towns undermined already weakened kinship system and traditions of cooperative female labor. Although they had long valued women's political input and their role as caretakers of the land, the Cherokees turned to a model of nationhood early in the nineteenth century that privileged (male) gender over clan membership. These transformations coincided with the federal government's new "civilization" project. So-called civilized Cherokees acceded to missionary pressure upon men to abandon hunting for sedentary agriculture and livestock raising. Women took up Euro-American female domestic arts (spinning, sewing, laundering, dairying, and quilting) and saw much of their political influence disappear with the new emphasis on landed property. . Despite the erosion and wholesale transformation of traditional sources of their political influence, a group of vocal Cherokee women joined their men to resist proposed land cession in 1818 and 1819 and the removal scheme of the 1830s."


"We tend to view the family as a social institution in which love and gentleness abound. Sadly, the opposite is often true, with violence pervasive in American families. Beatings, stabbings, and assaults are common in many families. The extent of violence in families is largely unknown, as much of it is unreported. .Spouse abuse, particularly wife beating, was unfortunately tolerated for many years. More than 10% of all murder victims are killed by spouses. .Domestic violence from husbands, male partners, or other family members happens so often that violence is the major cause of injury to women. . Many authorities believe spouse abuse is related to a norm of tolerating violence in American families. " (Zastrow, 2008, pp 190-191) "The dominant theme is the systematic use of violence and the threat of violence by men to 'keep their wives in line'" (Zastrow 2003, p.439) One forcible rape happens every six (6) minutes according to the USG report on crime in the USA, while the local DV shelter claims that every two (2) seconds a female is exposed to some kind of violent behavior in heterosexual relations.


b.   Economic and Social Development


Although many countries claim equality of opportunity according to OXFAM Canada women own a mere 1% of the world's property! There may be two more egalitarian regions: first is the Nordic welfare states region, and the second is represented by small pockets of traditional societies in which women may enjoy egalitarian social and economic position and/or serve as leaders. Sadly, the West tends to call such regions primitive and is working very hard to destroy them instead of learning a very important lesson that has been missed over the past thousands of years. There was a period in the second half of the 20th century when the US called itself a classless society. At the MN Human Rights Day in 2005, Jerry Carrier staged a workshop on Invisible Segregation by class; he distinguished three major classes: the Working Class (with the Underclass, 29.3% and the Blue Collar, 27.4%), the Middle Class (with Upper-13% and Lower-29.3% section), and the Upper or Leisure Class (1% of the US Population). Thus, almost 30% of the population is extremely poor and many, if not most of those people are women. We often hear statements about feminization of poverty: "In the United States, many of those who are poor are the so-called working poor. They are holding down two or three part-time jobs but not earning an adequate income or receiving important benefits such as health insurance. Many of those living in poverty are mothers and their children. Families headed by young mothers are at particular risk of being poor because many of these women lack needed job skills. Mothers who are rising their children after a divorce are often at risk, as well, because many fathers do not or cannot pay adequate child support. As a group, women with limited education face special challenges; many of the jobs available to them (e.g., waitress, maid) pay low wages, and often the time of work for these jobs is at night or on weekends, when child care is especially expensive and transportation is harder to arrange. Poverty is fundamentally an issue of social and economic justice. It is always related to the fairness of the distribution of resources " (Sheafor and Horejsi, 2006)


Mooney et al. (2007) points to a connection between gender and social relations as well as gender and social stratification: gender privileges men over women in most if not all social relations: gender also determines distribution of overall power, different privileges and economic resources. Lorber (2005) remarks that although there are other facets at play, such as religion and ethnicity, gender is so deeply embedded that it is rarely questioned - it becomes a way of being and acting in the private and public domains of one's life.


Karen Kirst-Ashman (2008) asserts that many "facts support the existence of oppression of women:


  • The median income of women who work full-time is 77 percent of what men earn (U.S. Census Bureau, 2004).
  • Women of color are significantly more disadvantaged than white women. Hispanic women earn less than African American women, and both groups earn less than white women (U.S. Census Bureau, 2004).
  • For all races, women earn significantly less than men do at every educational level. The average annual earnings for women with a bachelor's degree or more are about 64 percent of what men with an equivalent education earn. Similarly, the average annual income for women with a high school education is about 72 percent of what correspondingly educated men earn (U.S. Census Bureau, 2004).
  • Women are clustered in low paying supportive occupations such as clerical workers, teachers, and service workers while men tend to assume higher paying occupations such as managers, professionals and construction workers (National Committee on Pay Equity; 2003; U.S. Census Bureau, 2003).
  • Women earn significantly less than men in the same job category doing the same work (Ruth, 2001; Sapiro, 2003).
  • Women of color are significantly more likely to be poor than white women (Renzetti & curran, 2003).
  • Women are significantly more likely to be poor than men (Sapiro, 2003), and similar disparities prevail in the household: Women perform more household work than men do, with the figure averaging out at around two-thirds. The other third tends to be shared by men and children, with female children performing a greater amount of housework than male children. In addition, men tend to overestimate the work they do in the home and women underestimate it ./Additionally, women and ment tend to do different kinds of tasks where women/ 'do the repetitive, ongoing, daily kinds of tasks, and men are more likely to perform the less repetitive or seasonal tasks .Women are much more likely to "multitask" or perform a series of tasks simultaneously."

Reflecting on the past, one may argue that where life was good it was good for most if not all people - so, in rich Switzerland, the country that gave voting rights to women not long ago, life was considerably better than in many countries that established such rights in the early 1900s. Two brief quotes from Chafe's book - The Paradox of Change, American Women in the 20th Century - may serve as an illustration:
" ALTHOUGH THE POLITICAL activities of women naturally attracted the most attention after the enactment of the suffrage amendment, many observers - especially feminists - viewed women's economic progress as a more important barometer of what had been gained or lost in the fight for equality. The ballot provided a potential opportunity to influence public policy, but by itself, it did little to transform woman's 'place' in the home or to alter her life chances as a worker in the labor force. If one source of systemic inequality between the sexes was the extent to which women's roles - in and out of home - were totally prescribed by their sex, a clear cut of ending that inequality would be women being able to participate in all areas of life. Within that context, the economic experience of women became a crucial index of how much had been gained in the fight for the vote. (p. 63) .
What remains most striking in retrospect is the persistence of two patterns that highlight the ongoing paradox of women's experience in the workplace. The first is the extraordinary difference in women's work opportunities and treatment based on the variables of class, race, and ethnicity. Clearly, a woman doctor, a white female textile operative, and a black woman domestic had very little in common, either in the circumstances of their work or the life chances they could envision. Yet the second pattern is the prevalence of certain systems of institutionalized discrimination and structural inequality that, despite these differences, created a common fate for all women employees, regardless of their job, their race, or their class." (p. 72, 1991)


c.   Personal Rights and Representation


Let's stay with the same author and take look at the ERA - Equal Rights Amendment to which Chafe (1991) devoted an entire chapter: "Only when women ceased to be grouped with children as helpless creatures could they enjoy the full status of mature persons that was their birthright. Within such a context, the real purpose of the Equal Rights Amendment was to obliterate sex as a functional classification with the law. Feminists argued that women could not achieve real freedom until they were treated as individuals, not members of a sexual group. 'It is time sex be forgotten and men and women become co-workers in all that concerns the destiny of the human race.' Mary Woolley and Mount Holyoke wrote. Not every member of the Woman's Party agreed with Alice Paul that equality was incompatible with acknowledging difference, but most joined in the conviction that women should be accorded the same legal status as men. 'We are not asking for any special rights,' Anita Pollitzer told a Senate hearing. We are not asking for anything but the same opportunity /as men/ to be human beings, (bolded by D.M.) in this land of ours.' As they had on other issues, the reformers rejected both the specific claims and underlying premise of the NWP argument. Legislation regulating women's hours, wages and working conditions, they contended, had ameliorated horrors of sweatshop labor and given workers protection against unprincipled employers. . Far from undermining female equality, such laws were responsible for 'bringing the women's standard up a little toward the standard of men.' Passage of the Equal Rights Amendment might correct a few instances of discrimination, but it would also wipe out years of progress and restore the intolerable factory conditions of the late nineteenth century. For the sake of giving an individual woman the right to drive a taxi in Ohio, the NWP was willing to junk the rights of almost all female industrial workers to decent working conditions. The historian Mary Beard summed up many of the reformers' arguments when she shared that supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment 'run the risk of positively strengthening anachronistic competitive industrial processes; of supporting . ruthless laissez-faire; /and/ of forsaking humanism in the quest of feminism.' In service to an abstract theory, the well-being of millions would be endangered." (pp.55-56) ... "Reformers and feminists thus held dramatically opposite conception of female equality. The Women's Party and its allies were convinced that protective legislation discriminated against women and that women could not be free until they achieved absolute identity with men in all areas of public policy regulated by the law. Reformers, in turn, believed that differences of physical and psychological makeup prevented women from ever competing on a basis of total equality with men and that special labor laws were required if women were to be protected against exploitation and given just treatment in their economic activities." (pp.57-8)


."Nonetheless, even though the Court has thus far refused or had been unable to abandon completely the modes of thinking that have so long hampered women's progress and restricted their lives, the status of women has changed. Through most of the battle for equality, a battle that lasted over two centuries, there was little interest in or willingness to grant women much of anything in terms of political, economic, or civil status." (Otten, 1993, p. 232)


Mary Wollstonecraft (2004) wrote in 1792 that one needs just a bit of logic to conclude that both, men and women, are equal (but that does not mean the same). If the matter of reason is taken as a major argument, she exclaims, than one may argue that women are superior to men since they appear to have more of it!? Dedicating her "Vindication of the Rights of Woman" to M. TALLEYRAND-PERIGORD, LATE BISHOP OF AUTUN she ends the dedication with the following sentence "I wish, Sir, to set some investigations of this kind afloat in France, and should they lead to a confirmation of my principles, when your constitution is revised the Rights of Woman may be respected, if it be fully proved that reason calls for this respect, and loudly demands JUSTICE for one half of the human race." (p.7). In its series "Great Ideas" Penguin Books (2004) provides statement 'On National Education' by Mary Wollstonecraft: My observations on national education are obviously hints; but I principally wish to enforce the necessity of educating two sexes together, to perfect both, and of making children sleep at home that they may learn to love home; yet to make private support, instead of smothering, public affections, they should be sent to school to mix with a number of equals, for only by the jostlings of equality can we form a just opinion of ourselves. To render mankind more virtuous, and happier of course, both sexes must act from the same principles." (p. 105)


A century later John Stuart Mill* agues in "The Subjection of Women (1869) that "The legal subordination of one sex to the other . is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement, and it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other." (*quoted from Bock, 2002)


Rita Gross under the title Feminism as Social Vision states: "my claim that feminism is, first, an academic method is controversial because the emergence of the feminist method was inextricably linked with a movement of social protest and dissatisfaction. Indeed, the methodological demand to gather and include information about women could not have emerged and flourished apart from feminism as an alternative social vision, for it was protest against women's limited options in American society that first impelled feminist scholars to notice and name androcentrism and to create women studies methodology. Feminism as social vision deals with views about ideal social arrangements and interactions between women and men. .Well before feminists felt confident of the case that patriarchy emerged relatively late in human history, they were clear in their critique if it. The early literature of feminism was an outcry of pain; from the nineteenth century on, feminists have claimed that patriarchy is 'without redeeming social value', that it is clearly linked with the most destructive forces in human history, and that it harms all people, including men, though not as obviously, directly, or extremely as it harms women." (pp.21-23, 2005)


"Authority is Western, Western Europe that is", to paraphrase "Authority is male; this sentence is actually self-evident" (Heinrich von Treitschke, 1897, qtd. In Book, 2002). After the recent war in my own country, Croatia, I became sensitized to such issues and there are quite a few reasons for it. Through pre-arranged war we went from a welfare state to welfare, from garden of Europe to its dump (for example it was stated in major Croatian papers how Germany was quick to recognize independent Croatia since its new government agreed to provide a place for its nuclear waste south of the city of Karlovac), from direct democracy (self management) to its cynical caricature, from an egalitarian society to a highly-stratified one, etc. Although all these issues deserve proper attention, I will here mention only two, first related to Europe and second to gender.


a)   Europe


I was not able to 'find' Croatia (or Yugoslavia) in Bock's (2002) and Smith's (Volume 3, 2005) books. There was a country - Yugoslavia, South Slavic People's country - that since 1948 declared its own independent non-aligned status, defined self-management (direct democracy) as its system, and introduced one of the most egalitarian approaches to human diversity. I did not know well all six constitutive states since it was a federation with only three shared elements; I knew the best my own Croatia and Slovenia, two states which according to Dr. Branko Horvat (2005), had the most vibrant economy in Europe during the period from 1970 to 1990! While Slovenia made its transition into the 21st century without war Croatia did not, with dire consequences for the country and its people. At every congress and conference I attended over the past 15 years I kept asking fellow social workers "How many Europes are there?": there are the original EU Founders, New Member States, and Candidates, as well as a group of countries that are not considered for membership! A recent vote regarding the new EU constitution, which would allow expansion, made it clear that the original power structure has no interest in developing truly democratic union with equal rights for all member states and all European peoples. So, the same countries that made themselves strong and well-of through colonization continue to hold the power and develop new, post-colonial systems with a separation between the privileged and the others.


b)   Gender


As already mentioned as young professional I fell in love with the "American dream" and was considered as pro-American - I used to be rather critical regarding several issues in Croatia, such as having a high level of rights without having to 'earn' them, having rights without responsibilities, and having privileges through old political allegiance. I did not belong to any organization and was of the opinion that as a top scholar I didn't have to be 'engaged'. We did, however, have very engaged women and they had several very powerful organizations. Women in Croatia (and Yugoslavia for that matter) were party leaders, Prime Ministers, city mayors, and regional and local leaders already in the 50s and 60s, and even more so in and after the 70s. After WWII, they had several socialist organizations with direct representation in the government. In the 70s in Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia strong feminist organizations emerged; female university professors were prominent members, but there were other members as well and they published a scientific and professional journal entitled "ZENA" (WOMAN), had a very strong network, and held regular conferences regarding position of women in their respective states and society in general. My research institute had representatives and worked closely with them, especially when we worked on the new law regarding children and families, which gave the same parental rights to mothers and fathers, including the right to choose how to share one year, fully paid parental leave after birth of a child, and to recognize these same rights for legally married and other partners, etc. After the recent war all of this is gone including publications - it seems that destruction of written memory was 'part of the deal'. Slovenia which, as already mentioned, made the transition without the war and is already a member of the European Union, is now working on preserving the collective rights from the socialist system and adding a higher level, a higher quality of rights at the personal, individual level.


Where do we go from here? "Women's difference from men, long and ideological staple both in women's movements and in Western as well as other cultures around the world dominated the discourse of the international women's organizations. Even as the power of this idea began to wane in the outside world, with the increasing integration of women into previously male arenas, the aging women of the Council, Alliance, and the League clung to what began to seem to young women as anachronistic vision. Turning upside down societal assumptions of women's inferiority, participants painted in broad strokes the superiority of female values. Anita Augspurg contrasted the "world of men", "built up on profit and power, on gaining material wealth and oppressing other people" to the "new world" that women could build, the world that would "produce enough for all and which would include the protection of children, youth and the weak". Augspurg's life partner, Lida Gustava Heymann, likewise condemned men's "lies and hatred and violence" and lauded the world women wanted to establish based on "love, right and mutual understanding." Although the British colleague Catherine Marshall did not fully embrace such ideas, she did agree that "women have a greater love for freedom for its own sake while men always tend to claim freedom for themselves but to oppress others". Pax approvingly reported on book that contrasted the masculine vices of lust, war, greed, drink, and slavery to the feminine virtues of patience, long suffering, purity, and love." (pp. 83-4, Rup, 1997).


The November-December 2005 issue of the UTNE Reader invites all to "EMBRACE (the) FEMININE". Nina Utne interviewed Nina Simons, and with Simons Nina's quote I conclude this brief review: "I started to see the world differently as I recognized the full extent to which all of the characteristics, values, and qualities that have been associated with the 'feminine' have been systematically devalued and denigrated in our culture, Attention to process, relationship building, empathy, intuition, and the collective wisdom of groups have all been chronically derided. I saw that in every social system, and through all our relationships, our idolization of 'masculine' values has gotten us into trouble. Actions that are decisive, that assert certainty, heroic individualism, aggressiveness, rationalism, and single-minded obsession have been lauded. I came to understand many of our challenges, including environmental degradation, social injustice, and corporate globalization, as expressions of the gross imbalance between what our culture has identified as 'masculine' and 'feminine' qualities. I saw that a greater emergence of the healthy feminine throughout our world might help achieve the balance that can restore our social and environmental system" (p.61).




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Copyright for the I.U.C. Journal of Social Work Theory and Practice is owned by the Social Work Program, Department of Social Relations and Services, Bemidji State University, Bemidji, Minnesota, USA. One copy may be made (printed) for personal use; teachers may make multiple copies for student use if the copies are made available to students without charge. Permission must be secured from the editors for sale of any copies of articles or for any commercial use of the material published in the Journal.
2001 Copyright BSU/IUC Journal of Social Work Theory & Practice