In Slovenia, in recent years, there has been increasing complacency about the normative gender equality between men and women. At the same time, anti-feminist sentiments are spreading like mildew, accompanied by extremely preposterous retro-patriarchal narratives about the need to revive the feminisation of women and the masculinisation of men, as well as tendencies towards the prohibition of abortion and the diminution of rights. Equality – in its political, social and economic sense – is in reality what is under attack. That this is so evident at a time when we should really be drawing attention to the achievements of active and brave women of the past makes it is even more disappointing.
With this statement we want to remind Slovene society that the name of the holiday in March should not be “Wife’s Day” (as it is in Slovene) but “International Women’s Day”, which celebrates women and their struggle for economic, political and social equality. The very name of the holiday in Slovene carries a strong traditional reminder and is completely inappropriate. We also want to emphasise that the well-intentioned striving for “equality” on this day, such as inviting more women to give interviews at radio stations and in TV studios, pointing out women’s rights and presenting women who carry out typically “male” professions, simply does not suffice to generate a real debate about gender equality and trying to achieve it. Why is that?
Once a year is not enough to raise the quota of women in the media on the topic of “politics and equality” to 80%, while the rest of the time the proportion between women and men is the reverse of that. It is not enough to publish some articles on this topic with a couple of statements by men about how on that day they are going to “pamper their better half”. But we all know how many obstacles this “better half” encounters when she wants to participate in public events or persuade her partner to take over domestic and family obligations. More than a century has passed since the start of the fight for women’s rights and a number of brave men have participated in the advocacy of gender equality. However, gender equality will become regular practice only when all domains, both private and public, are equally shaped by men and women. This requires awareness and models showing that gender equality policy concerns both women and men, although each in a different way. If women were much more engaged in public debate and politics (for which they should have support mechanisms), men could spend more time doing household chores and taking care of the family.
The projects we have just started with partners at the Peace Institute: Obtaining Political Equality by New Names – OPENN and Fathers and Employers in Action – ODA (both co-financed by the Norwegian Financial Mechanism Programme 2009–2014) are based on gender equality.
On the one hand, it is a matter of identifying and removing obstacles to the inclusion of women in the still predominantly male field of politics. On the other hand, there is a need to encourage and include men in traditionally female tasks, like taking care of the family, the children and their upbringing.
It is true that, in comparison with previous generations, today’s men play a more active role in childcare and many of them undertake equal parenting to transcend the traditional gender roles, thus achieving greater equality in their partnership. They do not always receive broad social support for doing so, especially at work, which is becoming more demanding, insecure and flexible, and where the concept of the ideal employee is one relieved of family obligations. Men are thus not recognised as fathers or partners who participate equally in child care. That is why awareness raising about gender equality and the significance of engaging women in politics needs to be supported by encouraging and enabling equal parenting by fathers, as well as through cooperation between unions, employers and employees in the development and testing of new strategies and possibilities for harmonising work and family life. This is what will ultimately create different prospects for men and women!
Title photo: Thomas Hawk via Flicr.
Translated by: Sarah Humar.