“The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.”
The above is the definition of the word ‘feminism’- for those that are not sure. The dictionary then continues-
“The issue of rights for women first became prominent during the French and American revolutions in the late 18th century. In Britain, it was not until the emergence of the suffragette movement in the late 19th century that there was significant political change. A ‘second wave’ of feminism arose in the 1960s, with an emphasis on unity and sisterhood; seminal figures included Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer. A ‘third wave’ was identified in the late 1980s and 1990s, as a reaction against the perceived lack of focus on class and race issues in earlier movements.”
I was prompted to write this article as a response from a number of individuals pertaining to an article I wrote some time ago about domestic violence. I wrote the article in aid of International Women’s Day and quoted the most recent statistics from the United Nations delegation in Albania. They, along with various other women’s rights group in the country have come to the same conclusion that 1 in 2 Albanian women will suffer from domestic violence during their lifetime. To alleviate any confusion, the United Nations defines domestic violence as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” This means that verbal abuse, psychological abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, harassment, and economic abuse all fall under the definition of domestic violence.
Yes, the figure is high, yes, it does mean that half of Albanian women will be victims of such a crime at some point in their life, and yes, this is outrageously shocking. What shocked me more, however, was the reaction from (mainly) men when confronted with this news. As a response to these individuals and also to the ones that chose not to comment, I want to make a few things clear.
- Physical and sexual violence and abuse does not always leave scars. One can inflict severe physical abuse on another individual without leaving a bruise, a scar, or any kind of mark. Abusers are often savvy to ways of inflicting violence on their victims and they know exactly how to do it without leaving a shred of evidence. Just because the victim does not have a black eye or finger marks around her throat or wrists, does not mean she has not been subjected to violence or abuse.
- Psychological and emotional abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse- just because it is not visible, does not mean it is not serious. Being verbally berated, gaslighted, manipulated, bullied, and abused can cause more serious and long-lasting effects than a slap in the face. Individuals that endure this kind of suffering rarely seek treatment to help them recover and as a result are prone to mental health issues including PTSD and depression. This is asides from the fact that the stress caused by such attacks can have profound effects on the human body- weight loss, insomnia, panic attacks, hair loss, migraines- the list goes on. We need to start understanding that verbal violence is every bit as serious and damaging as physical assaults.
- No one provokes violence. Yes, individuals can argue, verbally abuse, and even physically abuse another, but it is always the decision of the individual as to how they retaliate. You are completely responsible for your own actions and at no point, ever does anyone make you hurt another individual. Victim blaming others for your actions is never, ever acceptable.
- No one deserves violence. Human beings are capable of unspeakable things and we often inflict pain on each other without a second thought, but make no mistake, no one deserves violence and even if they did, it is not your right to decide who should recieve it or not.
- Feminism is not a cancer. If you say you are not a feminist, you are saying that you do not believe that men and women should be treated equally. Feminism in its core meaning is the fight and the desire for women and men to be treated equally in every single way and in every aspect of society. There is not a single country in the world where this has yet been achieved and even the most ‘developed’ countries still have a lot of work to do in this aspect. Albania is no different.
- Feminism is not oppressing Albanian men. First and foremost, Albania is an extremely patriarchal society and this is evident in many ways from the double standards around virginity and sexuality, to domestic violence statistics, to the way that women are spoken about in the press. Whilst there are many wonderful Albanian men that are recognising women’s rights to equality in this society and beyond, this idea that you are being oppressed by feminists and Albanian women is laughable. By adopting this mindset, you are a part of the problem. For women to oppress men, they would have to have more power, voice, and social strength than men- this is not the case.
- You do need statistics. If I had 100 lek for every time someone said “those statistics are wrong, I live here and have female friends, I don’t need statistics” I would probably be able to quit my day job for a week or so. You DO need statistics. Having female friends, having a mother, and sending girls sleazy messages on Instagram doesn’t mean you have an overview of what it like to be an Albanian woman. These statistics are not plucked out of thin air, they are based on decades of research and working on the front line with women that suffer abuse. You do need statistics because your view that extends to Facebook, Instagram, and conversation over coffee with a few of your bros doesn’t surpass numerous experts in the field. Just because your female friends are not shouting their experiences from the rooftops, does not mean that some of them are not suffering.
- Yes, I am concerned about domestic violence inflicted on men. Unfortunately, there are no good statistics on the matter, particularly in Albania where most men would refuse to report such an incident to the police or any kind of NGO. The patriarchy tells men that they are weak if they are beaten or abused and that real men are not victims. I do not condone any violence to anyone, regardless of gender. As a part of my “feminist agenda” I want to encourage men to stand up and talk about their experiences, which as just as damaging to them mentally and physically as it would be if they were women. This is feminism- equality of the sexes and men have every right to live their lives free from abuse, as much as women do. We need to work to end the stigma around domestic violence towards BOTH sexes.
- Yes the statistics are a negative thing, no it doesn’t paint you in a good light, but NOT writing about it is not going to make it go away. There are many women all over the world that don’t realise they are being abused and many of the ones that do, don’t have the voice to speak up. They feel ashamed and they think that what is happening to them makes them less of a woman, wife, or human. It doesn’t. Many women think that they are alone and that there is nowhere to go for help. By publishing statistics and articles like this, we help to break the taboo. We help to educate, offer support, and raise awareness about a situation that needs to be improved. Instead of sitting behind your keyboard bitching that I am writing something negative about Albania, perhaps you should be more concerned with what your friends and family are at risk of. Don’t shoot the messenger.
- I am not attempting to understand your culture and then dictate its flaws you to. I am a woman. I am a survivor of domestic violence that left me partially deaf in one ear and needing to wear a brace to correct my jaw after having it fractured. I suffered PTSD as a result and still have flashbacks that can be triggered by the smallest of things. I survived it and rebuilt my life to a place I could never have dreamt of at the time. I write about this, I highlight these issues, and I want to raise awareness on this situation, not because I think I have the right to tell you about your country, but because I am a woman who has lived this. If I can help just ONE other woman realise that what is happening to her is wrong, that it is not her fault, and she can walk away, then my job is done.
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