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Sexism, Nationalism And Militarism Always Go Together...

On ethnic nationalism and patriarchal culture

Friday 19 October 2007, by Stasa Zajovic

Ethnically fundamentalist states (i. e. those in which the national oligarchy of the national majority maintains authority and speaks in the name of the entire collectivity; in (mis)use of cultural inheritance, religion and ethnicity while taking over authority) include marginalization, exclusion of the Other,

Different ’ethnically, ideologically and sexually’ Ethnically fundamentalist states are based on a model of aggressive, totalitarian, destructive nationalism. Such nationalism produces a special relationship between the individual and the community and includes loyalty of all those within that patriarchal brotherhood, especially women; this includes loyalty to the nation and to the fatherland, subordinating individuals to national interests; it includes applying the military model to the life of the civilian population, etc. One consequence of this is total spiritual contamination and militarization of
consciousness (to serve one.s fatherland, obedience, inferiority of women, minorities...). Through the propaganda of hate, exclusion, revenge, a conspiracy theory about oppression only of one’s ’own’ nation, in those countries a specific relationship is established between individuals and the national community/state. Long-term propaganda of this type represents preparation for war, as in former Yugoslavia.

Because of such propaganda dominant models of thinking are permeated with hate, ethnic exclusiveness, obsession with national identity and the national state. Within this cultural mentality they are mutually intertwined, they encourage and feed sexism, nationalism and militarism. I will try to show this through the reactions of passersby throughout the five years of Women in Black protests on the main square in Belgrade. The reactions precisely reflect the political happenings in a way which the media portrays them (in Serbia the media is almost 99% controlled by the regime). Reactions of passersby reflect the manipulation of public opinion, but, for the most part, people adopt them as their own opinion. Although there exists certain differences in the reactions of women and men, they are insignificant because both sexes are almost equally contaminated with regime propaganda.

I will present reactions relevant for the theme which I am discussing:

HATE TOWARD WOMEN (misogyny): the most common qualification directed at those of us who protest is: ’Idle women, you have nothing else to do but stand there’. They express anger because women are involved in politics, because it is allegedly a public sphere intended for men . ’Go home and wash pots’. Women who are publicly active in politics are ’whores’, but also ’child.killers’, ’barren women’, ’nymphomaniacs and lesbians’. These really aren’t women at all because ’they are those feminists’. Many passersby are also worried about the withering away of the Serbian nation: ’You are not Serbs, you are Yugoslavs’ because ’if you were Serbs, you would give birth to Serbian heroes for Serbian revenge’.

CULTURAL CLEANSING: As a form of ethnic nationalism or fundamentalism: ’Speak Serbian so that the whole world will understand you’ and one of the most often asked questions is ’Why do you write in Latin script?’ (although there are many banners written in Cyrillic). In Serbia, cultural or spiritual

cleansing is especially connected to the ’spiritual father of the nation . . Dobrica Cosic’ and therefore it is necessary for cleansing of ’pollution’ of the Other, the Other’s language. The state changes the names of towns and streets in order to destroy the memory of a life with others. Almost every year, school textbooks are cleansed in order to erase the multiethnic heritage. Not only is Albanian language no longer heard in Belgrade’s markets but refugees of Serbian nationality do not dare to speak aloud in public places because their different accent provokes hostility from many people. Furthermore, it is not only a question of HATE TOWARD OTHERS but also HATE TOWARD ONE’S OWN, if s/he is different.

US AND THEM: Constant emphasizing of differences as opposition, antagonism, divisions, like Dobrica Cosic says, .to first fairly divide and restrict..Of course, ’our’ difference is always expressed as superior in the reactions of the passersby: ’We Serbs are good and that’s why this type of protest can only be done in Belgrade’. This is necessarily flavored with the myth about virtue and naiveté of the Serb people: .Who is to blame when we Serbs are fools and we allow you to do that.. And those Others are bad, they hate, they are bigots: ’Go to Sarajevo or Zagreb and see if they let you protest there!’ And they constantly repeat that ’our war is fair, defensive, and theirs is aggressive’...

we only defend ourselves.....

A CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE SERB PEOPLE: The whole world plotted against us, and the entire antiwar movement is a bunch of ’mercenaries and informers ’. Depending on political circumstances and needs they multiply and change enemies, and the contents of the accusations directed against us also change. However, some are constant, such as: .Tu|man and Alija’s (Izetbegovc) agents, Balijke, Ustashas..... but often they reproach us as being ’agents of the US and Germany’ and sometimes all this combined.

FATALISM: the mentality ’that’s how it has been and how it will always be’ i. e. violence, force and war are ’our destiny’. From that follows reconciliation with one’s ’fate’: ’What can we change?’ This is also expressed in a very ’successful’ slogan of the ruling party in Serbia (SPS) in the pre.election campaign of 1993: Tako treba (As it should be). It is very discouraging to hear the following sentence often, even more from those who support us. ’What good is all this?’ because it reflects a militarization of conscious, mistrust in individual efforts, in small acts of civil disobedience, it reflects a transferring of will and ’fate’ to the hands of leaders.

THE MYTH OF ETHNIC SOLIDARITY: Besides so much ’love’ towards one’s homeland and .one’s people no matter where they are, in the native land or in exile., the majority of residents express total indifference toward the suffering of compatriots, ’brothers from the other side of the Drina’. The
misfortune of the civilian population from Krajina did not even provoke sympathy but more often anger .because they did not fight.. The myth of so-called ethnic solidarity is indeed a falsehood to which nationalists are drawn to. They do not see where and how their .brothers. from Krajina live, rather they angrily react during all our actions of solidarity with refugees ’What do those refugees want’ Who forced them to come here?.

The majority of cited reactions were noted throughout the war. However, when the war ends, i. e. when armed conflicts end and when one lives in socalled negative or unarmed peace, the consequences of long.term contamination are omnipresent. For example, the fact that the Serbian regime gave up, at least for now, and because of strategic reasons, the goal of ’All Serbs in one state’ does not at all mean a disappearance of nationalism as a state of spirit, as the ruling mentality.

The process of decontamination and demilitarization of conscience will be very long-term and cannot only be reduced by reducing weapons and the military budget, etc. if it continues to perpetuate the attitude about male power and women.s subjugation or the superiority of one nation in relation to another. In Serbia the logic of war and practice of nationalism and militarism rule.

Zajovic, Stasa. (1997). Sexism, nationalism and militarism always go together. In S. Zajovic (Ed.), Women for peace (pp. 20.22). Belgrade: Women in Black.