Feminism In Slovenia: Behind Closed Doors

“You're a feminist?”

That's the most frequently asked question when you reveal your “secret identity” to someone in Slovenia. In the Slovenian “urban” dictionary, feminism is defined as being a hater of men, a woman that howls at you when you open the door for her, a woman who insists on paying because otherwise she feels her very independence is threatened. People utter the word “feminist” as if it were an insult.

To most Slovenes, being a feminist equates to being a radical. The truth is, being different in Slovenia is still stomach-twisting for some people no matter if that difference means you’re a feminist, atheist, Muslim, homosexual, foreigner or anything else. While women here are (mostly) paid equal to men and while in 2013 we appointed our first female prime minister, being female still means being "different" and there is a lot of  gender-based ignorance present.

In more traditional households, some girls are still expected to clean up after their male relatives simply because they are female. Clean the table, wash the dishes, fix your brother something to eat, do the laundry, they are told, as if having a female reproductive system somehow obligates them to be someone’s personal maid. Such ways of thinking originate from the general assumption that if you're not willing to act feminine in this way, no man will want you. Sadly, men and women believe this. No matter how many people insist we have achieved equality in our country, I know what hides behind closed doors.

Despite this reality, I can’t tell you how many times have I received a glare of bitter surprise when a male friend realized I was a feminist, or the fear in the eyes of a girl friend who thought someone might mistake her for one, too.

"Why are you a feminist?" I am asked. "We have equality in Slovenia.”

In this version of "equality" men and women each have their own roles and responsibilities. This is basically just another way of saying that women belong into the kitchen, which is not equality, my friends. Ordering someone to carry out a task based on their gender alone is not only unfair, but also disrespectful. I am not claiming that everyone in Slovenia believes this, but it is what I have experienced among most people that I have met, especially those who visit church.

My grandmother told me about a sermon her priest gave last Sunday. He said that all women who go shopping on Sundays are worthless. So, basically, even if I need to buy something essential, like tampons, it it's a Sunday I’m going to hell. This priest is the same man who told me when I was ten years old that if a boy were to visit my home the first thing he would do would be to check my closet to see if my clothes were properly tidy and folded because he would want to see if I am ‘wife material.’

Some men feel threatened by the idea of feminism and a change in these gender roles. But what they fail to realize is that feminism isn’t only about equal rights for women, but for men as well. We are all bound by these roles -- just in different ways.

So let’s get some facts straight. I do not hate men. I will not yell at you if you open the door for me. But I will not allow you to ‘put me in my proper place’ because of my gender either. It's true that there are a lot of different versions of feminism, but the main one has always been, and always will be, about equality. And in spirit of equality I can honestly say: I will not let anyone else, man or woman, dictate how I should act or think. And neither should you.

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Katarina F
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