Gender equality that women seek is neither a threat to society nor to the family, but solely to the misogynistic and patriarchal system that has oppressed women for centuries.
Hardly a significant religious holiday in Macedonia goes by, especially Easter, without Bishop Petar addressing the public and causing an avalanche of reactions with his, to say the least, reckless statements. His last statement - that by requesting gender equality, women in Macedonia should also accept greater responsibility - is a serious insult to all women in Macedonia, because this portrays women as immature beings who demand rights, without taking on obligations.
The Macedonian Orthodox Church did not make an official statement regarding this offensive proclamation, just like in previous years, but Bishop Timotej made a comment that the position of Bishop Petar was not far from the truth.
The bishop did not specify what are the obligations that women should take on, but with these attitudes and comments, the church indirectly shows its position that women are immature, unstable beings who do not deserve "more extensive rights".
The church's fear of gender equality is also evident in some neighbouring countries, more specifically in Serbia, where Patriarch Porfirije made a comment that gender-sensitive language is a direct blow to the family. These reactions show fear of change and the decline of the dominant position of the church in our societies.
The obligations that the bishop failed to mention are actually obligations that women have been performing for centuries, which are not considered labour and women are not paid for it. A woman is the backbone of the family, she provides care for the children and her husband, for the household, and at the same time, she is capable of performing thousands of other types of work in society.
The gender equality that women seek is neither a threat to society nor to the family, but solely to the misogynistic and patriarchal system that has oppressed women for centuries.
A society built on gender equality
People seem to forget that access to employment, the right to vote and to be elected, the right to equal share of the family inheritance and the right to abortion are rights that women in Macedonian society have fought for and obtained through real struggle.
Not much later than the British and American suffragettes, Macedonian women began to fight for their right to vote, their right to inherit property and equal pay with men. Historical records also speak of women who not only supported the Komitadji and their struggle for freedom, but also wore Komitadji clothes, and of women like Zaharija Vasileva Shumljanska and Timka Ikonomova from Bitola who were humanitarians.
The public does not know much about Aspasia Misheva Kanevcheva, Evtimica Janchuleva and Slavka Pushkarova, who, at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century acted in their communities publicly as intellectuals, and secretly as participants in the Macedonian revolutionary organizations.
Macedonian women after the First World War, although they were part of the workforce in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia as employees in factories and in the tobacco and poppy fields, were not equal to men either in terms of working conditions or salary. With the inclusion of women in the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and its branch in Macedonia, between the two world wars, Macedonian women began their fight for equality and the same rights as men.
Women in the Second World War in Macedonia gave their lives and suffered shoulder to shoulder with the men, but in the background they gave much more in support and help to the Partisans. Once again, the woman was the pillar of the entire fight, on the front and in the background, through the Women's Anti-Fascist Front (WAF).
In socialist Yugoslavia, women continued to be the backbone and provide maximum contributions to society in all spheres, without neglecting the family. One of the first female historians and historiographers who left behind substantial academic material is Vera Vesković Vangeli. She was the first representative of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia in the "Decade for Women" (1975 - 1985), a global event at the UN, and one of the founders of the internationalization of academic research in Macedonia.
The Church and the Macedonian woman of the 21st century
In contrast to the speech and statements of the aforementioned bishop and the indirect support of the MOC to his statement, this previous academic year at the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering 48% of enrolled students were women.
According to the latest data on the representation of women in science in Europe, Macedonia comes in first with 52.3% of women in science. With all the opportunities for education, progress, travel and conditions for personal development, women are slowly freed from the constraints of the church and forcibly being pushed into the inevitable matrix of mother, wife, housewife... The position of women in society cannot be limited only to those roles, when their possibilities and capacities are limitless.
To make the irony of the situation in the Macedonian society even greater, the TV station ”Vistel", which was opened by Bishop Petar these days, started broadcasting a program with a film that talks about the search for brides abroad by Macedonian citizens. The treatment of women as objects to be bought and sold continues to spread in the 21st century. The woman is still seen as a housewife, and on the other hand, it is tacitly acknowledged that there is no house/home without her.
Macedonian society is a society of contradictions, where the emancipation of women and their professional and scientific achievements collide with the unfair treatment of women as less valuable beings than men.
Although we have laws and strategies for gender equality and the protection of women in every segment of society, the Church, which is guided by the principles and beliefs of two thousand years ago, still shapes the destiny of women behind the curtains. We want and demand emancipation, but without breaking down the unhealthy and oppressive system. The two don't go together.
Re-examining the position and influence of the church in Macedonian society is long overdue. Some believers were offended by a banner from the march on March 8, which explicitly said that the Church should stay out of the reproductive organs and the body of women. That banner upset people, but what would they say about the bishop's suspicious activities in Australia and in Macedonia and the involvement of the MOC in the construction and electricity business?
Macedonian women were brought up with examples from the women's struggle, komitadji, partisans, scientists, suffragettes, politicians, engineers, doctors, and the retrograde views of the church have less and less influence on them.
Emancipation and gender equality will not destroy the family, as the church proclaims. Instead, it will give it the right shape. The shape in which a woman is not a servant and a baby machine, but an equal member who decides about her body and her future.
The twenty-first century began a long time ago, and Macedonian women are living and shaping it, whether the church likes it or not.
The article is produced with the support of the project Reporting Diversity Network 2.0, funded by the European Union.
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