Part of the virtual assembly “Symbolic elements of the Macedonian authoritarian populism”. Author: Ana Vasileva
Similarly to most of the regimes striving towards totalitarianism, in which the power is concentrated in the hands of a very limited number of people (or shall I say – straight, privileged white males), the Macedonian society largely builds its positions of power based on the dichotomy man – woman, defined in line with the traditional values.
To a large extent, the macho-populism of the Government is based on the process of identification with the “pure Macedonian” as a category that the majority of the voters belongs to and which is primarily defined by what it is not: non-Muslim, non-homosexual, non-female. Understandably, on a symbolic level, all the remaining categories become undesirable, or secondary in the least. Consequently, the woman, indispensible due to her reproductive role in a society striving for cheap workforce and political party soldiers, is reduced to a necessary evil, unlike the other sexual, ethnic, ideological minorities which are barely tolerated. The rare kitschy sculptures and monuments representing women, overshadowed by the proud and bloodthirsty warriors that have conquered our public spaces, are either mothers and pregnant women, or labelled by the suspicious title of “cock-teaser”, which adequately reflects the public perception of the woman’s role in society today. The Government’s campaigns for a higher birth rate and against the right to choose constitute a direct intrusion into the woman’s body, the value of which is asserted by its capability and productivity in the process of creating new voters for the party.
The situation in the political life is consistent with the one on social level. Despite the Law on Equal Opportunities from 2006 which introduced a quota of mandatory 30 percent of women in Parliament, the typical female members of Parliament in Macedonia have not managed to escape the shadow of the patriarchal imperative of the “obedient daughter”. Appallingly allowing for laws which blatantly violate the women’s right to choose to get on the agenda at all, the women in Parliament have not shown the political maturity to preserve the women’s rights that already were under siege, let alone make the essential step forward towards improvement of the situation of underprivileged women across the country. Apart from this, despite the huge public support against the gender-based violence and the awareness-raising campaigns, in practice we are faced with an inert and inefficient institutional system which offers absolutely no protection and is light years away from providing the possibility of economic support and social reintegration of victims into society.
Tied to the private sphere, women are traditionally left with the wide field of domesticity to prove their talent in, through the various cake-fairs, pie-fairs and other food-fairs where they exert their obedience creatively sprucing up their works with decorations in honor of the “Leader”. Those women with higher ambitions, on the other hand, in accordance with the macho-patriarchal social ideology, are left with the possibility of catering to male authorities (despite the real or hypothetical high professional qualifications) as the most easily accessible and most desirable option for advancement. We also have the women who take on the traditional “male” model of behaviour, playing the role of strict “iron ladies”, who do not differ from their male colleagues in any way, and even surpass them in their cruelness.
It can be concluded that women in macho-populism remain tied to the stereotypical notions of femininity in its most rudimentary form. Limited with the notions of “decent” appearance and “ladylike” conduct, burdened with a line of laws and campaigns, we remain in limbo, torn between the imposed expectations and the inner drive for liberation and self-actualisation.