European values and gender literacy in Ukraine

Author : Iryna Hrabovska

Source : 112 Ukraine

Ukrainian students demonstrated gender intolerance at International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
14:12, 30 November 2016

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For 16 years, world community led by the UN has been marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25. In connection with this event, the United Nations launched an information campaign "16 Days of activism" against the gender violence. As part of this campaign several major cities Ukraine host meetings and workshops, carried out by UN representatives, aimed at deepening ‘gender literacy’ of the population.

The meetings gather youth audiences, held in leading universities of our country. Meetings are interesting and well organized. However the reaction of Ukrainian youth makes feel shame and sadness. Judge for yourself. The moderator of the training asked the audience "Who are suffragists?" One of the students of Ukraine’s prestigious university answered: "Women of indecent profession!" I just could not believe it.

What would be the reaction of the world celebrities, community activist like Abigail Adams, Mary Wollstonecraft, Frances Wright, George Sand, Sarah M.Hrimke, Margaret Fuller, John Stuart Mill, Henrik Ibsen, August Bebel, Clara Zetkin, Virginia Woolf, and many other prominent personalities, who not only supported the movement for women equal rights with men, above all, the struggle for women's suffrage, but were the most active suffragettes. Because a struggle for equal voting rights spawned the phenomenon of suffragette, not "women of indecent professions!"

Acute rejection reaction of any talks about equality of women’s and men's rights and responsibilities in the family is also concerning. Western experts are probably shocked by students statements that such topics should not be discussed, because "it is a norm." Tolerating the position of otherness is not a declarative brand in Europe, this is basic value of Europe, to which we try to integrate.

In the early 2000s, our lawyers have become a laughingstock for the entire civilized world, entering into the legislation the notion of "victimizing female." Victimizing, that is that she provokes violence over her. Simply put, if you are raped, that is your own fault. Probably, you wore too short skirt!

Related: Ukrainians proved they belong to European community of values, - German President

Specificity of modern European civilization in general and the state system of European countries in particular have long been based on the principle of parity (equal) society involvement, hence the modern European and American democracy is impossible outside the social contribution of women in joint development. They are not "assistants," "guardians," and "housekeepers." They are activist in cultural and political dimensions space of their own country, they run it for many years (Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel, Grybauskaite, for example), they are intellectuals and scientists, artist, and businesswomen. In Ukraine, due to persists patriarchal ideology, the woman seem not to "cope" with the realities of the modern world. That is why, the role of women is always reduced to the same odious "assistant to her husband."

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Even such a phenomenon as volunteering in a country that is in a state of hybrid war (and the volunteer movement in Ukraine - is primarily a merit of Ukrainian women) is fit into the Procrustean bed of the same conservative myths about “husband’s assistant”, emasculating the truly revolutionary and creative value to the life of modern Ukrainian society.

We do not call tank factories “amulets” or “assistants” of frontline army units. This is a necessary and independent part of the armed forces. Why do we reduce such independent and self-sufficient things as volunteering, which actually gave rise to a real civil society in post-colonial country in transition, to the principle "helped and went away"? But this is a big separate topic.

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Returning to the same "public audience", where the United Nations conducted gender training, we should address to Ukrainian Ministry of Education. Why does not Ukraine’s Ministry of Education create such "gender educational program," at least in separate special courses in Ukrainian universities. The Ministry and the Minister of Education show that the higher education system in Ukraine is based on outdated (especially Humanities) courses and disciplines. Why Ukrainian universities, especially eastern and southern, actively cooperate with Orthodox priests? Why do they avoid teach gender disciplines?

I am convinced that 100% of students are extremely interested in the subject! Gender studies can cause acute resistance, but certainly do not leave the audience indifferent. In addition, if the Ukrainian education system becomes truly European, all the leading universities of the Western world in general, will read courses on feminism and gender issues.

Related: Gender discrimination in Ukraine - how to overcome?

In conclusion, I want to repeat the phrase that daring young Polish journalist Tomasz Matseychuk said about Ukrainians on one of the Russian channels:  "Ukrainians want to live like normal people, not in the shit, like Russians do." His words caused a scandal, and as a result, he was beaten. So if we, Ukrainiasn, still really want to live like normal people, not in the shit, let us take "normal" solutions. This applies to the issues of gender-based violence, which, incidentally, happens not only by men against women, but also on the part of women to men...

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