Gender Studies have always been unknown territory for me. I always considered it a symptom of a society where fanatic feminists create some kind of parallel structures. I might have a bit of a macho attitude towards my fellow females. Had I been raised in a country where patriarchy still matters more than effort of the individual I might think differently about that. But I wasn't.
I grew up with the idea that I can do everything I want to. The aggressive feminists I met made me distance myself from feminism itself because they annoyed me. Most of them perfectly fit in the cliché of man-hating, far left cyclists, wearing South American ponchos they bought in a fair trade shop. They think they can change the world by organizing workshops about the connection between men who eat meat and the oppression of women. All in all they harm their cause more than they help it with their behavior and I hate untargeted political action ending in itself. Gender Studies is only a huge collecting tank for this kind of women. At least I thought so.
I changed my mind when I met my couchsurfing friend Boris in Tuzla. Boris is the first guy I ever met who graduated from Gender Studies. For his thesis he did an analysis of patriarchal structures in popular Bosnian movies with surprising results. Most of the people he interviewed said the woman is in charge of everything in the family: she makes decisions, raises the kids, and manages the finances. Many of the men interviewed seemed to feel their women let them decide on a few things because they want them to be protectors. According to Boris' work, it is women, not men that transport the patriarchal structures by wanting a man who can be a protector although they don't actually need protection. “This is a huge problem,” says Boris.
I realized that I'm just like these women. I've been working since 16 and was raised only by my mother. She did a great job and I never felt I missed something that only a father could give me. Despite growing up without patriarchy I subordinate myself to the cliché of having a strong knight by my side. I don‘t get offended quickly if a male friend patronizes me. In German a “patron” is actually something good. According to Boris‘ thesis I am a transmitter of patriarchal structures despite growing up without them. But is this quest for an emotionally stable person really that bad?
The image of a strong shoulder to lean needs to be decoded. It is not wrong to want that and I don‘t consider myself to be anti-feminist if I want somebody who holds me when I have a bad dream, who keeps an eye on spider activities under the bed, picks me up from the airport in the middle of the night, and help my best friend move into an apartment on the 5th floor without an elevator.It's not wrong to want some company in the rollercoaster of feelings that writing puts me in. A companion who likes my exaggerated passion for my job and who will slip down to me into the dark hole of writing blocks bringing Tequila. You should be allowed to lean on somebody without being accused of backstabbing your whole gender.
The problem is not that women want safety, everybody wants safety. The problem is we are asking too much by expecting our guys to be strong protectors 24 hours a day. The whole debate about gender roles creates expectations neither males nor females can answer. I‘m not saying there are no problems with gender justice in Bosnia and everywhere else. Of course I am aware that there are many women who get beaten, raped, silenced or violated in their rights in other ways. We shouldn't let the bad things that happen between people finally destroy the good things like love and safety, though.
You may want your guy to be your superhero but if so you also should be his. In the end this is what it's all about. Men are not our service stations for safety. They sometimes stumble and we should catch them when they fall. Indeed we all know we are more than able to fix problems by ourselves. It's not about being patriarch or matriarch, it‘s about giving each other a home.
The article was originally written in English.
Illustration: Bartosz Kosowski
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