Antonio Mihajlov is President of the Association for the critical approach to gender and sexuality – Subversive Front in Skopje and a Committee member of the National network against homophobia and transphobia.
“Women MPs in the Macedonian Parliament vote on misogynistic legislation changes imposed by men. Young girls glorify marriage as the only feasible and possible way for a woman to realize her potential, and most miserably, mothers teach their sons and daughters to obey underneath the powerful sword of patriarchy.”
What does the 8th of March mean in Macedonia? How is it celebrated today, and how do you think its meaning/celebration has changed in recent years, and especially in comparison to YU times?
I associate 8th of March’s celebrations in Macedonia today with insincere wishes for a better and happier life for women, embellished with bouquets of flowers that serve as a reminder of how depreciated women in society actually are. Women who enjoy equal rights and treatment in a democracy would not accept these petty gestures of bogus appreciation, but would rather show by example at their workplaces, in their homes, in the political arenas, that they are equal to men.
I cannot tell the change in celebrating 8th of March from YU times to now, but I can most certainly notice the change in the discourse that the rulling political actors have been trying to fiercely instill in the past decade. This change has meant an attempt to assign the roles of childbirth, mother, a breast-feeder and a housewife to women in Macedonia, and to portray these roles in the media and in wider society as the only valid, valuable and acceptable ones for women. I find this repugnant and disgusting, and as a LGBTI activist and human rights defender in general, I act in strong opposition to it. All my actions so far, as the head of an organisation, which is fighting against heteronormativity and patriarchy, have been aimed to empower women and LGBTI people within the scope of the wider campaign for human rights and equal treatment for everybody.
Can you comment on the current social situation of women in Macedonia? In particular are you able to judge whether there has been progress or decline in the post-YU years compared to before?
It is a deeply saddening fact that in 2015, only 39.5% of all employees in Macedonia are women, and that women represent 64% of the inactive population at the labour market. The statistics say that the reasons behind this fact is that women have chosen to focus on taking care of the family, the children and the elderly. Even those women that are employed and thus less financially dependent, are faced with unequal wages and more difficult career progress than the men with the same skills, qualifications, experience and education.
All these economic aspects of the status of women strongly depend on the previously mentioned change in discourse. This sedimented discourse has produced dismaying results where women – members of the Macedonian Parliament vote on misogynistic legislation changes imposed by men, where young girls glorify marriage and household as the only feasible and possible way for a woman to realize her potential, and most miserably, where mothers teach their sons and daughters to obey underneath the powerful sword of the patriarchy. This dominant discourse also shapes the relations of power of the LGBTI community versus society where lesbian, bisexual and transgender women are positioned at the very margins of society.
Unfortunately, I can only state that the status of women in Macedonia has become worse which can be most evidently concluded by looking at how the privileges of modern society have been taken back from women, such as in the changes of the law on termination of pregnancy from June 2013.
Can you give an example of an inspiring woman from Macedonia?
The first person that came to my mind is my colleague and fellow activist – Irena Cvetkovikj, whom I have known for a couple of years now. We need more women like her, women who are strong, independent, emancipated and educated, who challenge and question the status-quo, provide ideas and solutions, and are able to galvanize masses towards better social justice and equality for women and marginalized communities. |
Another inspiring woman I have had the pleasure to know is Neda Milevska Kostova from the think tank “Studiorum” – a woman that inspires me with her attitude to work and life, her passion for change, and her commitment to learning and growth, both in terms of personal and professional life.
The messages, which Pink conveys in her songs, the lyrics she writes, and her stage performances, show a diligent, intelligent, compassionate and a vulnerable personality.