On March 8, people marched through public spaces in their cities across the region, Europe and the World, showing their support for human rights. In Kosovo, as elsewhere, the messages were many and varied, from “Smash the patriarchy,” to “I don’t want flowers, I want an employment contract.” Some slogans even called for an end to corruption, nepotism and the black economy.
And despite the protests of some who becry that these issues are unrelated — no, it is not wrong that on March 8 people advocate for more than just women’s rights. International Women’s Day gathered people who don’t want to be defined by this punishing culture — one of denial and senseless pride that incites insecurity, fear, hate, greed, anger, harassment, violence, rape, murder and more.
As Kosovar Albanians, we still tend to differentiate each other based on gender, religious views, ethnicity… and that’s pretty much it. These are the only social factors recognized by our culture and traditions that we hold so dearly. “But they’re our Illyrian values” — I hear a whispering voice repeating this oft-repeated mantra.
As such, our culture is not shaped by our differences, it’s just a system of reinforced ‘values’ imposed by powerful ignorants. But wait, how can an ignorant be convinced by an ignorant? Well duh… it’s indifference or apathy that brings them together.
Yes, we needed days of celebration! After all, we always wanted to define Kosovo as a small oasis of fun and friendly people who want to build relationships. We were so tired of living with the ‘enemies,’ people who saw us as troglodytes, uneducated bastards with useless manners.
We were so naive that we convinced ourselves that the more we get diplomas and professional acknowledgments, the more independent and welcomed we would feel. Were we all looking to be privileged? Were we aware of privilege? Are we now?
We are now in a place where we celebrate the expression of privilege. “I’ll wear my mortgage dress honey, and you rock that overdraft suit baby,” say a couple on Valentine’s day. The waitress is wearing a pencil dress decorated with flowers. She has no idea that she’s being exploited and even if she does, Illyrian values will not defend her. Should we protest for Valentine’s Day as well? YES!
Express your anger on a piece of paper and hold up that message
On International Women’s Day, an activist was verbally assaulted by a company manager who was promoting cosmetic products in Prishtina’s Zahir Pajaziti public square, after she told him that we would be marching for women’s rights. “Shut your mouth or I’ll rip it off,” said the male manager, adding that he owns the police force. This was just one of the sexist and hateful comments received by activists while they were shouting through a megaphone for human rights, or even simply just walking with fellow supporters during the march.
Sometimes, I get the feeling that because men are too entitled in this society, they feel like they’re losing their power of masculinity which gets them everything they want in life. Or that now that more and more women are becoming increasingly vocal in their feminism, they are afraid they will not be submissive.
What do we have next? May 1, the day where some of us go out for a picnic to eat and drink as much as we want so we can burn tires later on. Not even thinking about the damage we’re doing to our natural resources, but also reinforcing the prejudice that pathetically we are still living in an apathetic world.
Have we reached the level of celebrating Workers’ Day? Yes? What about the inequalities between men and women in the workplace, discrimination in the labor force, low incomes, absence of health insurance, sexual harassment at work, mass violations of maternity laws and collective contracts? All the things that are affecting us every day.
I wish for every Kosovar person who feels intimidated, threatened, discriminated, harassed, bullied, violated or has any other unwanted feeling in any aspect of life to come out and march. Express your anger on a piece of paper and hold up that message. It’s a platform you can use for advocacy in your public space. Let’s bring politics back to us!
Feature image: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.