Parent’s sacrifice is expected even nowadays

A recent survey on the correlation between gender stereotypes and gender-based violence has shown that a significant number of women would neither leave their violent partner nor report violence.

Also, a great number of girls believe that the most important mission for a woman is to be fulfilled through a mother’s role and that her value is measured by her eagerness to sacrifice for her children and family.

Regardless of that, based on the position of eighteen year old girls from Vranje, Jagodina, Novi Pazar, Kikinda and Belgrade, that were surveyed within the project “With and for girls – Support to local Youth Offices in raising awareness on gender equality“, analyzed by Jelena Ceriman from the Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, it can be concluded that there is a potential for a change in our society when it comes to tolerance to violence in partner relationships.

– Even 95 percent of surveyors believe that a woman should not tolerate violence to keep the marriage, which means that young girls do not think that tolerance is healthy and functional for a partner relationship. Moreover, majority of girls believe that control and jealousy are not an expression of love – says Ceriman for Danas.

The question remains, she adds, in what way women can be empowered to report violence “despite different environmental factors that are an obstacle“.

In Serbia, however, sacrificing parenting model is still valued highly, which became predominant in the ‘90s. According to the opinion of majority of parents from an important survey from this time – parents do not have right to their life.

– At times of scarce resources, the key household survival means was reliance on personal resources within a family, primarily a woman, who in this situation embraces her sacrificing role as a compensation for the absence of power in public life – says Ceriman on family models at those turbulent times. Such model, that has sustained even until today, is explained through designation of “a good mother“ and “a good father“.

– A good mother is also a good mother, and a housewife, and a wife or, as the parents I interviewed in 2012 said: “the one that makes all your wishes come true even before you can think of them“, while a good father ensures security for a family, not only material, but also physical, and his primary role is the role of the breadwinner regardless of the mother’s employment status – notes Ceriman.

However, such division of family roles, she emphasizes, is burdensome for men and women. If the expectations, primarily coming from the environment, are not met, both partner and personal level conflicts occur. Therefore, it was essential, explains Ceriman, to find out what is young girls’ position on this issue. The survey shows that 81 percent of girls think that a mother should sacrifice for her children. 42 percent believe that a woman is fulfilled completely only when she becomes a mother. Position of the girls from Novi Pazar is that a woman’s primary role is to be a housewife, while a man’s role is to be a breadwinner.  Moreover, they underscore that the biggest pressure they encounter in their everyday life are the comments intended at molding them in a woman’s role, entirely dedicated to her family, as one girl explains:

“I have experienced being told that a woman should not enroll in university studies because women should not work, that is men’s role.“

Still, almost all the girls from the sample recognize gender stereotypes and emphasize that it has happened to them that, if they do not conform to the requests, consequently they well be humiliated or labeled. According to the statements of the girls, it goes all the way even to banning them from pursuing education if they do not meet the standards set by the community. Even 76 percent of girls noted that they’ve happened to be in a situation when someone told them they were not good enough at something or that they shouldn’t do something just because they are girls:

“They would tell me I shouldn’t play soccer,  because I am a girl and this is a sport for boys “; “One of the examples is when I enrolled in the Military High School and people around me was telling me that was not for me since as a girl I couldn’t endure it physically“,

as noted in the survey.

– Spreading such attitudes in public encourages maintaining stereotypes about girls as “the gentle gender“. Discouraging girls from pursuing their interests or expressing their diversity is often achieved under the reference of good intentions and advice giving, but even more frequently in a direct manner in the form of setting bans or norms – explains Ceriman. Moreover, she adds that norms are mainly expressed through the verbs such can, be allowed to, should, want… In the previous examples it can be notices that there are examples implying that a girl “cannot“, “should not“ do something or that it “isn’t for her“.

Continuous imposing of the environment directed to young girls can lead from creating a bad perception of themselves and their own capabilities, to losing self-confidence and giving up from their personal interests. Quitting certain interests brings about increasing gender segregation of young boys and girls such as segregation in certain professions. Available information show that in the high education system girls outnumber boys in the area of social sciences and humanities, art and health, and as for the labor market, in the area of services and nursing professions.  

– Segregation in terms of professional work inevitably implies economic inequality, which ultimately leads to bringing girls and women in the position of increased poverty risk – concludes Ceriman.

Gender equality and self-defense to be introduced in schools

Attitudes and experiences of the girls indicate that they do not feel social pressure, but they are also very well aware of their own strengths and potential. Their attitudes reflect the resistance to the environment that keeps imposing clearly defined gender roles and identities. “This information confirms once more the necessity for a systematic and integrated action aimed at reducing gender inequality, that is the designing of activities that will, aside from girls, engage other stakeholders in the local community “, stresses Jelena Ceriman. Surveyors believe, among other things, that early education of children on gender equality, as well as gender sensitive curricula, can have a vital role in forming positive attitudes about equality of women and men, and ultimately violence prevention. As for security measures, some of them suggest enhanced police monitoring in local communities, especially in the evening hours, as well as more severe penalties for the perpetrators of violence, as well as organizing self-defense courses for girls.

Author: Marjana M. Stevanovic; December 27, 2018

You can read original article on the website of the daily Danas: