Feminism & The Cult of Silence

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that there is a ‘cult of silence’ in the country and the society you live in, especially for issues involving women’s position in society and their rights? If yes, then what are the specific issues? Is it harmful? In what way?

ANA: In terms of legislation, it does not exist a “cult of silence” in the society I live in. Romania has a legislative form of protecting women in case of domestic abuse. Instead, inside the social environment, things are totally different: in urban areas, women gained important professional positions in the society and therefore, they changed their level of awareness inside their families too, understanding that violence is an offence which must be punished. Also, depending on the generation, we confront different mentalities related to women power. Today`s youth understand better gender equality and collaboration. Meanwhile, rural areas are confronting major gender issues and the domestic violence is extremely high-leveled. Indifference and fear create a vicious circle of violence and encouragement for the oppressor. The “cult of silence” is very powerful here: women are being afraid and, because of religious wrong advice, they tend to remain captive in this “system”. People around the victim (neighbors/relatives/friends) are false advisors for the victim, suggesting that it would be ashamed for the victim to make the whole story public and that it is better to once more forgive the oppressor. The major tragedy is that children grow up in a negative environment, becoming a social danger themselves as adults.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that there has always been a “cult of silence” in human societies regarding certain issues? If yes, then for what reasons? Do you think that it is actually a good thing to perpetuate such a practice? Please let us know why.

ANA: Yes, I believe that has always been a “cult of silence” in every human society regarding women rights. The causes are the following:
-         religion –> the woman is considered inferior to man;
-         collective thinking -> which places women on an inferior level;
-   business abilities -> the limited access to certain job positions and entrepreneurship;
-         woman=wife and mother only –> women limited social roles;
-     educational formation –> limited access because of the belief that women should only stay at home and take care of the family members;
-         lack of education for boys (!!!really important) – they should be taught from young age how to stand for women rights and reconsider women social position/role, how to protect and empower women;
-   role-models -> limited access because only men have the right to become models for their children (fatherhood model);
-        emotional and mental capacities –> women are considered too emotional and less rational in becoming leaders and business individuals;
-         lack of considerable feminine movement;
Obviously, it is not good to perpetuate such practices. Societies nowadays have changed the perception over women social role: they have become more and more involved in their communities: political leaders, entrepreneurs, role-models, scientists, famous educators etc. Societies should run with both energies – masculine and feminine – and create a balance, a harmony.  However, a woman is always working twice hard to reach a high social position.

SONGSOPTOK: Is there a feminist movement in your country? If yes, then what are the specific objectives? In your opinion, is it necessary? If not, then what are the main reasons for its absence?

ANA: In Romania we have certain NGOs and a Coalition that fight for women rights but, in my opinion, their voices are not strong enough. Therefore, I personally do not consider that there is a real feminist movement in my country. Of course I believe it is necessary to exist one. I myself am involved in certain creative activities that promote feminine voices (mostly in my writing field initiatives).  In terms of legislations, there are some rules concerning the percentage of women inside an institution, which is actually gender equality (50/50). The reality is that the Romanian political scene is one of the most misogynistic in the European Union, being on the second lowest place with 11, 5% women in the Parliament. According to studies, Sweden, Finland and Belgium score between 40-45% women leaders in their Parliament. At global level, my country is on the 133rd place in the world, according to statistics, being surpassed by countries like Egypt, Jordan or Turkey. In terms of reasons for women absence in the society, I can agree with the ones mentioned above, plus the fact that women comply to the absurdity of old ways of thinking. 

SONGSOPTOK: What, in your opinion, is the position of women in the country you live in? Do they have equal rights in every domain as men? If not, then which are the main areas where they receive unequal treatment?

ANA: As mentioned above, there are differences between the urban and the rural areas, and the most common issues concerning women are found in the countryside where most of the people lack education and are not properly informed. From my experience with work in the rural areas, I know for sure that it is quite difficult to determine women to get aware of their rights and act accordingly. Not to mention that men do not want to hear that women have a voice and a possibility of choice.

In terms of legislation, women have equal rights in every domain. The hardest part is discrimination on the spot, meaning that, as a woman, you may encounter difficulties for certain job applications and salary (which may be lower). The most common fact is that a woman usually works twice hard to climb the social scale. There are fields of activities run by men – certain medical care, oil industry, car industry, politics – where, although legislation do not restrict women access, there are barriers for women imposed by the managers.

SONGSOPTOK: A ‘glass ceiling’ is a metaphor used to represent an invisible barrier that keeps women from rising beyond a certain level in a hierarchy. Do you believe in this concept? What is your personal experience in your personal and professional life? In the country you live in are there glass ceilings in different professions?

ANA: Yes, I believe that this concept applies in the society I live in, and it translates all the comments made above. Also, the “glass ceiling” effect is sometimes applied for women-managers or women-mayors or in any other political position, where men run as a majority in administrative and executive boards.  I personally encountered misogynistic attitude when trying to join certain literary groups that were mainly conducted by men. Along with gender discrimination, I also faced discrimination against young generation, especially young women.

SONGSOPTOK: What is your opinion about the feminist movement? Do you think it is necessary, both at a global and a more local level? Why? In this context, what do you think are the major achievements of the Feminist movement, if any?

ANA: I do believe that feminist movements are necessary nowadays. Fortunately, at global level, I observe that they exist and they are doing a great job, even in the countries where women rights used to be totally banned. There are many countries where women earned their rights to: free speech, abortion, vote, punishment for rape, quality education. I remained positively shocked when finding out that in certain parts of Africa boys are being educated in standing up for girls` rights; at the same time, girls were taught how to physically fight against a possible oppressor. There is a major positive shift in this matter and curriculas should definitely include human and women rights as subjects in schools.

SONGSOPTOK: A recent study (conducted by HuffPost/YouGov) concluded that only 20% of Americans identify as feminists, even though a whopping 82% believe that "men and women should be social, political, and economic equals.” Do you find this contradictory, and if so, why? What, according to you, would be the result of a similar study in the country you live in? For what reasons?

ANA: Interesting question to be addressed. Just a few days ago, I encountered this topic during a literary event I initiated, about feminist literature, where one participant (a woman) affirmed that, even though she stands for equal rights, she is afraid to write on feminist topics, because she would be considered a “feminist”. It came as a surprise for me, because I have never thought that having a voice (as an artist, a journalists etc.) and standing for women rights would automatically put you in a box and make you a certain kind of fanatic. Having a voice in this term, does not actually mean you become a men-hater as some may consider. I think that in most cases, people are afraid to be put in a box from where the others would look at them differently: “What would people say about me if they found out I`m a feminist?” or “How would I look like if I stand for the feminist movements?” Actually, between the two studies presented above, I agree that there is only a difference in perception, engagement vs. neutrality, I act vs. I just affirm. Personally, I stand for both because they should act together in the spirit of common sense. You stand and act for a healthy society where men and women are equals and live in harmony. As Trudeau (Canadian Prime Minister) once said, the word “feminist” should not be having a controversial meaning, instead it should be used as a normal concept both by men and women, with which they can “describe themselves anytime they want”. In my country, I do not think I have ever met more than 10 persons to be declared feminists. We usually do not have extremist movements of any kind.

SONGSOPTOK: One of the main areas of the feminist movement is sexual objectification of women almost all across the globe, especially on media. What is the reality in the country you live in and / or your country of origin? What is your opinion about this? Do you think that there is a “cult of silence” around this issue? Why?

ANA: In my country, the reality is that sexual objectification of women really happen, especially on media. There is a cult on women TV appearance in shows and news, where most of them wear certain kind of clothes for drawing attention and…money. I find them extremely ridiculous, especially when talking about news where the important aspect would be the information and less the sexuality transmitted by the presenter. Also, most of TV presenters are women, again used for commercial and financial matters. Relating this topic to the “cult of silence”, there is no point in even mention it, because people usually agree that women appearance on TV should be exactly as it is. At the collective thinking level, Romanians mostly appreciate women to be obscene in their style, because they wrongly find beauty and feminism in this look. Talking about media, it is worth mentioning that there is a number of women working in journalism for investigation. Sometimes (depending on the topic), these women are being harassed for their work, because they bring to light some aspects of the economic, political and business life.

SONGSOPTOK: Finally, according to you, to what extent is feminism relevant in today’s society?

ANA: In today`s society, feminism is more than relevant. After decades of disregarding women, it`s high time we give them the dignity and respect deserved. Woman empowerment is more than necessary in societies where we still face war, hunger, abuse and lack of education. I believe that societies run equally by men and women, would not be subject to war and decay. War is a consequence of manhood desire for power, where this power is gained by destruction. This is why, I do not believe that women rights issue concern ONLY women, but they definitely concern men, because they challenge their beliefs and usual way of relating to womanhood. We ought to follow our great feminine voices in history like Nina Simone, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou and others, who loudly spoke about women and their real social role. We ought to follow great contemporary leaders, men who have finally understood that women have a meaningful social voice. 

My name is Ana-Lucretia Nedelcu (pen name LiterAnART) and I am from Romania. I have been writing for ten years and I have widely published in my country and abroad, having multiple international collaborations. I am a writer, poetess, journalist, researcher, book editor and translator. I also teach creative writing workshops and represent the World Poetry Canada association in my country. Together with the association, I am about to publish this year the “Creative writing 10”- a series of workshops dedicated to literary and journalistic creation and implemented in my country in 2016. My writings include topics as human rights, women rights, environmental issues, peace, activism and artivism.

We sincerely thank you for your time and hope to have your continued support.
Aparajita Sen


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