Blogbox | #IWouldChange

What’s your problem with women?

By - 20.02.2022

Kosovo needs a revolution for gender equality.

In my small and beautiful Kosovo, I would change the mindset, the mindset that abuses and imprisons women. Not only would I change it, but I would root it out.

Kosovo, now 14, faces many problems of economic, political and educational natures. These are problems that can be solved with the right commitment. But what most wears us down is the patriarchal mindset. And that’s why we have to change it if we want other chains to be broken.

With this patriarchal way of thinking, it is not clear what this society actually wants. On the one hand, they rely on the Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini when they say that “an Albanian woman is not entitled to inheritance from her parents, not even at home, the Kanun considers women as surplus.” On the other hand, the same woman who supposedly does not belong to the family is expected to carry on her shoulders all the “honor” of that house.

It is expected of women and girls to act like robots that only respond to commands and that are not allowed to act freely. To be born a girl in this country means you will develop with a heavy burden on your back and will be forced to meet rigid expectations during your life.

Society is always watching you. It is with you while you choose your wardrobe and while you’re walking. It is watching your tone, your appearance, how you act in your workplace and during all other daily activities.

It is exhausting.

“Shut your mouth, it is a shame, you’re a woman.”

If someone asked me, “Is it easier to go to the sun or be a woman?” My answer would be “to go to the sun.”

On a daily basis, we hear cases of sexual assault and sexual harassment of girls and women. And according to our judges, both literally in the judicial sense and figuratively throughout society, it is the women, the victims, who are somehow to blame for this. Some say the way a woman dresses is an invitation for sexual harassment and others say girls deserve a violent response if they simply talk too much.

This rhetoric is seen everywhere, from daily conversations and the media to statements from our institutions. People don’t hesitate to respond in solidarity when a man is bullied, but fails to apply the same standard when a woman is bullied, harassed, attacked or even raped.

Not only is there little support or solidarity, often in Kosovo the opposite happens. There is discrimination against the victim, a shifting of guilt from the perpetrator to the victim, contempt shown for the victim –– in short, more time is given to blaming the victim than the perpetrator.

And these, along with cases of rape, abuse and exclusion are accepted as innate and part of the “old mindset.” It is not the fault of some distant “old mindset” but the current one, which is constantly reinforced through subtle rules, commands and restrictions on how women must behave.

It is saddening that even today the same gender stereotypes are reproduced in schools.

In families, girls still grow up being told “don’t talk too much,” “don’t go out too much,” “don’t wear clothes that are not for you,” “don’t dedicate yourself so much to your career.” This is because the development and independence of women and girls are still seen as undesirable.

I finished primary school around 14 years ago, but I still have fresh memories of how in the subject called “Crafting,” I and other girls were expected to crochet, while the boys were expected to build a card house. So much time has passed since then and yet even today the same gender stereotypes are reproduced in schools and girls are not given space to try different roles.

I remember that our 9th grade Civic Education book said that the economic independence of women makes the marital relationship not as necessary as it once was and that this increases the divorce rate.

I don’t know if school or social circles are more dangerous. No matter how much you change your point of view, when you wear what you want, speak your mind, don’t get pressured into an early marriage, when you react when someone offends you, it constantly seems like you’re disappointing someone.

Being a girl in Kosovo means not being free to go out when you want, to walk where you want, because physical, sexual and psychological violence could be waiting behind every corner.

Being a girl means not having the same wage as your male colleague and not being considered worthy to discuss political matters.

Being a girl means that if you achieve something, people around you will say that you achieved it through sexual favors or with the help of family members –– mostly male family members.

Being a girl means being fired, or not even hired in the first place, because of the fact that you might become pregnant. You will be asked in a job interview: “Are you married?”

Being a girl means society will try to show you your place, at home, with an apron, cooking and doing work without pay.

Laws alone are not enough. There is a need to change the mindset of the judiciary and other institutions that still hinder the implementation of the law.

Imagine how easy it would be for me and all the girls out there to spend time with our relatives if we weren’t being asked about finding a husband, if we weren’t being grilled about our looks and if we weren’t subject to all the names and labels people assign us.

Kosovo needs a social revolution, we need to change the dominant mindset, culture and structures that preserve gender discrimination. Kosovo should not prevent girls from being whoever they want to be.

Feature image: Arrita Katona / K2.0.