International Women’s Day in the Balkans: Tijana Okić

Tijana Okić is a philosopher and one of the founders of the Sarajevo Plenum. She teaches at the University of Sarajevo and translates from English,French and Italian.

Tijana

Feminism has been reduced to gender mainstreaming policies conducted either by state bodies or by the ocean of NGO’s, which depoliticize not only feminism, but also have negative longterm effects on women’s lives and the process of emancipation in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina.

 

What does the 8th of March mean in Bosnia and Herzegovina? How is it celebrated today, and how do you think its meaning/celebration has changed in recent years, and especially in comparison to the YU-days?

I do not think that there is much difference between the celebration of the 8th of March in SFR Yugoslavia and today. Moreover, in both cases it seems to me that we speak about the tokenistic marking of Women’s day. In other words: Women’s day is (re)presented as that one day in a year when we buy flowers, when we think about women at all. We live and follow the legacy of socialist Yugoslavia in celebrating the 8th of March – which was back then, just as it is today, a day of commodification of the legacy of the 8th of March. In the context of Yugoslavia this becomes even more interesting, because we had the millions-strong AFŽ (Anti-Fascist Front of Women). Thus, the Yugoslav ‘tradition’ of celebrating the 8th of March, like ours today, annihilates the legacy of the AFŽ, and the legacy of women’s and feminist struggles not only for our rights, but for general emancipation.

Can you comment on the current social situation of women in Bosnia and Herzegovina? In particular are you able to judge whether there has been progress or decline in the post-socialist years compared to before?

The position of women in contemporary Bosnian society is similar to the position of women worldwide. Women live in poverty, an eternal “transition” to the market, the feminisation of poverty and labour, and the effects of a structural and systemic destruction of industry (privatisations) have completely degraded Bosnian society and the material position of women in general.

Women are thus faced with several important issues: first, they have to face the brutal imposition of capitalist and neoliberal regimes attacking social security and cuts that affect women in a specific way. In the context of capitalism and neoliberalism we live under permanent insecurity, precarity and we must not only look after the family, but also the extended family. Due to changes in the past 20 years, women have either lost or are losing both their social and economic rights. The conservative turn in politics, the imposition of austerity measures and the forced return to the private sphere have changed the material and overall social, political and economic position of women. Feminism has been reduced to gender mainstreaming policies conducted either by state bodies or by the ocean of NGO’s which depoliticize not only feminism, but also have negative longterm effects on women’s lives and the process of emancipation in the post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Can you give an example of an inspiring woman from your national context?

I think that this question is misplaced. The very idea of an ispiring women is redolent of the role-models of capitalist society: the entrepreneur, the political leader, the official. Feminsm, like socialism is a mass practice of social liberation. Our models to a large degree still come from the past.

 

Вы жертвою пали was a funeral march originating in Russia circa 1878, later sung for the fallen of various uprisings, culminating, of course, in the communist October Revolution of 1917. It continued to be sung in the Soviet Union less frequently thereafter, making some appearances during World War II. Subsequently, it was incorporated into Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11, Op. 103, Mov. III.

 

 

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