What a woman should do, is allowed to do, and can do


What a woman should do, is allowed to do, and can do

Marija DEDIC | January 17, 2019 11:24 

Attitudes of girls in Serbia on the position of women in society: Almost every other surveyor thinks a woman is completely accomplished only when she becomes a mother, while 81 percent of them believe that a mother should sacrifice for her children.

Majority of them believe that control and jealousy in partner relationships are not indicators of love.

What’s the opinion of girls in Serbia on their role in society? How do they see partner relationships? What should a mother’s job be according to them? What is a man’s role?

Non-governmental organization "Atina" was looking into this issue, and to that end it conducted a survey targeting girls from 3rd and 4th high school grade in five local communities across Serbia: Kikinda, Belgrade, Novi Pazar, Jagodina and Vranje. It was learnt the girls are cognizant of gender roles, however, the patriarchal patterns that determine what a woman should do, is allowed to do, and can do, are still predominant.  

He makes money, she stays at home

95 percent of girls share the encouraging attitude that a woman should not tolerate everything in order to save the marriage. Majority of girls, 70 percent, believe that control and jealousy in partner relationships are not an expression of love; moreover, they think that a girl wearing short skirts and tight shirts is not the one to blame if she is raped. However, only 30 percent of girls see poverty as one of many causes of violence against women. Program Manager of NGO "Atina" Jelena Hrnjak points out that the survey revealed encouraging findings.

- It showed that girls are very cognizant of gender roles, stereotypes and inequalities. Majority of them, 92 percent, believe equality between women and men should be society’s top priority, and education is key to achieving it - emphasizes Jelena Hrnjak.

On the other hand, patriarchal patterns are still predominant, which is inevitable, as Ms. Hrnjak underscores, with the increase of populism and rightwing, patriarchal society is strengthening.  Almost every other girl, more precisely 42 percent, believe that a woman is completely fulfilled only once she becomes a mother. Stereotypes on household roles were also present. 

- A norm that a woman’s major role is to be a dedicated mother is very present. The danger lies in the attitude that all other accomplishments of a woman are "meaningless" if she doesn’t assume a motherhood role. Nowadays, only the women who can’t get pregnant are forgiven, but they are looked down on and are marginalized, and so are the "divorcees". Survey findings reveal that family is still the primary environment where children learn about gender roles, but the potential is also seen that the understanding of these roles can be modified, as well as to overcome patriarchal patterns - says Jelena.

Man is the head of the household

Some attitudes vary across the country. Every fifth girl thinks that it is man’s role is to make money, while women should take care of the family, and this attitude was predominant among surveyors in Novi Pazar, which indicates that patriarchal family form is predominant in this town. Girls from this town are also in agreement about the claim that a man should be in charge in a family. On the other hand, 81 percent of girls think that a mother should sacrifice for her children and this opinion was uniform across the country. This opinion is shared among girls whose mothers are housewives or working moms, with lower or higher education. 

- That is the outcome of a long-standing isolation we lived in and disharmony transition caused. To survive, people in Serbia have had to resort to their own resources. Women have embraced "sacrificing parenting model" as the compensation for the lack of power and insufficient engagement in public affairs. Such prejudice that parents don’t have right to life are not a good basis for building autonomy of any family member - warns Jelena Hrnjak.

When it comes to difficulties they face in their local communities, girls most commonly emphasized the condemnation for failing to meet traditional expectations. Over two thirds of the surveyors claim that some of their attitudes, activities, or behavior have been disputed just because they are girls. They emphasize they are frequently being told they are not capable of making decisions on their own, which has an adverse effect on their self-confidence, while 56 percent reveal that they have happened to be in a situation when they were told they were not good at something (most commonly sport and their future profession) because they are girls. Two thirds believe that men are not better leaders than women, but only every third girl thinks the world would be a better place with more women in politics. 

- This corresponds with the fact that a small number of them have had the opportunity to talk about politics in school. It was encouraging to find out that a big number of girls want to learn more about it, and that they see women scientists and politicians as their role models.  In order to have decreasing gender inequality, girls have concluded that it is necessary to foster system activities. They believe that learning about this topic from early ages by integrating gender sensitive curricula can have a significant impact on shaping positive attitudes on equality and violence prevention – concludes Hrnjak.


This are responses of the girls from the survey on why it is good to be a girl, environment responses, expectations, violence. 

- I love being a girl because I can put on make-up and doll up. 

- I think we are more mature than men, we think wisely and have better goals in life. 

- I think it is better being a man because people judge them less. Girls will be humiliated and criticized whenever they do something wrong.  

- I was considering being a journalist, a flight attendant, a pilot, politician, or a scientist, but I kept hearing the following: "You are a girl, and these jobs require you being frequently away from home. How are you going to manage that once you are married with children?"

- I have always wanted to learn to play chess, but people would say - "that is not for girls". I have also showed interest in learning how to change a tyre on the car or check up the car, but I would also run into the same comments, so I quit that. 

- One of the biggest scourges nowadays is the violence that has been doubled because of using social networks.  

- I think there is still a problem in Serbia as feminism is not that prevalent, there is no complete equality and women should still stay at home and cook, while men work and make money.  The women are ones to blame for 90 percent of problems they have in marriage, at work, and in everyday situations. 


When she was asked to what extent the findings would be different if the survey had been done in Scandinavian countries, our interlocutor notes that some questions would neither be the topic of discussion, nor they would be asked. 

- In these countries there is a plethora od laws and norms that are precondition for speaking about equality. Sweden, for example, does not prosecute women in prostitution, but the clients, a woman can decide to have the abortion until 18th week, their religious head is a woman, and 3 months of mandatory maternity (and paternity) leave for both partners. One colleague has recently told me that majority of boys in a survey in Sweden said that they didn’t want to be prime ministers. When they were asked "why", they said it was a job for girls. Women are very commonly in these positions and that is why they see that as a girl job. When they were asked where they see themselves when they grow up, they responded: in business - emphasizes Jelena Hrnjak.

Original article can be found on the following link: http://www.novosti.rs/vesti/lifestyle.303.html:771450-Sta-zena-treba-sme...