Coming out of our closets

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Visions towards a Gender Network

We don’t really know whether sisterhood exists – academic literature is quite divided (even in this) aspect. Therefore I had to make my own investigation and found out that there is one certain field where female solidarity definitely exists: in public toilets. I took it as granted that people (women) smile at each other while queuing, when coming out of the toilet (literally) or entering it, but just recently, a few months ago I started doubting its common character. After some research (face-to-face interviews) done among my (male) friends I concluded that the described phenomenon does not exist in male toilets: waiting for toilet is a daily routine for men, they do not feel or express solidarity when it is about something so simple and natural. It is actually not surprising – the norms in our societies are very different concerning men and women (and I don’t even mention queer issues) in all aspects, from behavioural patterns to biological needs. No wonder that diet problems and psychological diseases connected to them (anorexia, bulimia, metabolic problems) are typical mostly for women (and for this there are proofs in the literature as well) – as results of the social pressure to fit in.

It is difficult to make a priority list in gender issues: similarly gender troubles are present in every segment of our lives, from eating to social behaviour, from education to representation in the media and women in politics (I don’t aim to make any analogous bridge from public toilets to politics). A few years ago a colleague of mine, being a delegate on a congress at a congress of EFGP, went to attend the gender workshop. He not simply happened to be male but he was the only man on the discussion, which provoked ambiguous reactions from the rest of the participants. Compared to this, the gender rate on the workshop on gender a few weeks ago in Rome was much better (1:5, for women of course). We heard very interesting remarks, for example the fact that while almost all speakers at the plenary mentioned the importance of gender issues and involving more women into politics, the speakers themselves were predominantly men (score similar to the one above, but reversed), or even if there were women on the stage, they were often only announcing or welcoming their male colleagues (I don’t even want to know how it goes on a Christian Conservative party meeting).

But let us stop criticising the “adult greens” all the time, and let’s turn the attention to ourselves for a while. In fact we can be satisfied with the gender balance in our delegations and representative bodies, but this is not enough. The Gender Trouble study session in Strasbourg (November 2002) was one of our most successful events, and we even have an active mailing list and sometimes we have workshops and discussions. But this still should not be enough to make us happy. We need a permanent forum to select and constantly discuss the important gender issues, to pay attention to the actual discourses in the different regions in Europe occupied by FYEG, and have strong opinions, debated in a wide circle. This could prevent us from ending up like the wine-drinking priest by the time we grow old(er). It seems that the time has come for us to establish a working group on gender issues, a network involving several member organisations and individuals (of all sexes) from FYEG as well as from other groups, working on gender issues. Let’s come out of our closets!

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