Educated and dependent: how women become hostages of the system

Discussions on the issues of gender parity in a patriarchal society reach a qualitatively new level, leading to a rethinking of the role of women in all groups of communities, including the Roma one. The upbringing of girls rests mostly on the shoulders of the female part of the family, but the principles of upbringing and attraction to “traditions” do not change. During a conversation with Yaryna Dehtiar, a feminist, blogger, and member of the NGO “Feminist Workshop”, we discussed what forces women “to pass shackles” through generations. And what does oppression and objectification look like in practice in the context of tradition?

The situation in which women raise their daughters in the same way as they were raised is typical. For most of them, restrictions and frameworks are becoming a norm, and a system in which it is customary to coexist. Attitudes can change slightly under the influence of the development of the environment, society and people not from the so-called “system” of values.

A person who lives in a patriarchal society and does not know what else can be done, so he or she chooses the simplest and customary way. This is a typical situation not only for the Roma community, but also for society as a whole with its stereotypes, i.e. the principled patriarchal paradigm. Women are traditionally entrusted with the upbringing of children, and that’s why it is normal to raise them in the spirit of laws and traditions”, — the expert explains the typical behavioral patterns of women in a patriarchal society.

We have already written that in everyday life and private life Roma adult women have a certain influence on younger girls, in particular for the purpose of “education” and / or evaluation of this education. The main critics and condemners of the girls are “experienced and adult wives”. The situation is also typical of a patriarchal society, and from time to time the behavior shows signs of inner misogyny.

Internal misogyny arises primarily from the patriarchal notion that women are people of the “worst” kind. The first reason is the competition of women in front of men and society in the system for approval. Because we are brought up with the idea that women must have a husband, they are fighting for him as a resource. Secondly, there is a desire to please the male part of the community”, — the feminist Yaryna Dehtiar comments the situation.

In a patriarchal society, women are taught to please men, and on a subconscious level in the future, these women begin to demand the same from others. We can say about the internal hierarchy of environments, which are built on the basis of compliance with the “traditional ideal”. A woman becomes not an individual, but a position with a fixed set of characteristics and qualities (dresses properly, cooks well, does not argue, prioritizes traditions, etc.). This is what hierarchizes the girls, the competition begins for the right to be the best, but not special.

It is never possible to fully meet the ideal; it encourages an increase in internal misogyny towards other women. When someone tries to meet all the standards of the image, there is certainly something that will not fit 100%. Conflict arises again and it is easier to find problems in others than to become “perfect”. In a patriarchal society, status is determined by the presence of a man, a family whose availability is interdependent with the “ideality” of a woman. That’s why there is also a struggle for status here”, — shares the expert from the NGO “Feminist Workshop”.

Some “traditions” of patriarchal society, in particular the Roma one, are outraged by the international community. For example, the verification of the virginity of a girl is widespread not only in the Roma community, but also documented in 20 other countries. In 2018, the UN called for an end to these “tests” because they are humiliating and traumatic for women (it goes about medical tests), but the demonstration of the sheet is not very different in nature.

I can say from my own experience, as a person brought up in a patriarchate – we have been already traumatized by upbringing. But when there are even worse and more humiliating things like the test of virtue, it generally goes beyond. It does not have any good consequences for the girl, both physically and psychologically. Obviously, it is impossible to check virtue and the presence of blood is also not an indicator.This test still has to withstand and it’s scary to imagine what happens if a girl does not pass it”, — Yaryna Dehtiar comments on some wedding “traditions” with a certain embarrassment in her voice.

Hence there is another narrative – a woman who is not controlled will lead to evil, the decline of the family, the community and the extinction of traditions. That is, every woman needs to be under someone’s control (parents, brothers, husband). This also includes the taboo topic of female attractiveness and sexuality, such as a skirt above the knee or jeans – indecent, because they can look attractive. Perhaps patriarchal society is afraid of women’s independence, their attractiveness, because if you take away the opportunity to solve something at the basic level, then more complex issues will not come.

This idea of control is directly about the power and promotion of patriarchy. Well, again, there is a stereotype that a woman cannot do anything on her own; she must follow a man. This is about the idea of reinforcement of the higher status and power of men in society, and correspondingly the lower one of women. In a patriarchal society, a woman does not always have the right even to her own body, and sexuality is only to meet the needs of a man, it is not about a woman’s own priority”,— the activist emphasizes.

The expert notes that now there are some qualitative breakthroughs, changes in women’s rights in the patriarchate. However, in order for the changes to be more global and to affect even the least segregated groups of the population, it is necessary to carry out constant explanatory, informative and educational work.


Conversation was conducted by Ruslana Polianska

Photo: Yaryna Dehtiar

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