Misogynistic Management of the Eurocrisis

This is the article that was published in Dagens Nyheter a couple of days ago. Åsa Vogel translated it to english so my non-swedish-speaking friends can read it:

The austerity measures in Greece have hit one half of the the population hard. The solution proposed by the arquitects of the eurocrisis is misogynistic.

Last winter, at the International Herald Tribune Conference “Trust Women” in London, I sat in the front row with my laptop when the women around me started squirming uncomfortably in their seats. The nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi and the feminist Emma Bonino, current Italian foreign minister, were speaking.

Suddenly, an American woman beside me whispers that I should close my computer. To my surprise, I discover  that the screen is full of bulging breasts and exposed female bodies. “It’s not a porn site,” I excuse myself. I’m actually looking at the webpage of one of Greece’s biggest newspapers, To Proto Thema, which is complementing news about the tyranny of the troika (EU, IMF and ECB) and IMFs choke hold with naked women.

But the crisis strips women in many ways. Not only in Greece, where unemployment has hit a European record of 65 percent among young women, and 30 percent of all women of working age. In the footsteps of the debt crisis, from Lisboa to Larnaca, women pay the highest price.

The crisis reduces the female body to both a trading commodity and a punchball. In Southern Europe, as prostitution is increasing, single mothers with no other means of supporting their families must choose between selling their bodies or checking their children into institutions. As late as one month ago, a mother in Messinia in southwest Greece left her four  boys at the police station because she could no longer afford to take care of them.

EU, IMF and ECB- popularly called the troika- are employing counter productive crisis management strategies that send women back into the increasingly unsafe corners of the home. What we are seeing is a collective female withdrawal, controlled by gender-blind banksters. The crisis is not a natural disaster that came without a warning. The arquitects of the crisis have tightened the belt in a way that cannot be described as anything but misogynistic.

The austerity measures are slaughtering the public sector; a sector that women historically have had a greater need for. When preschools and schools are closed and teachers fired, when the homes for the elderly dissappear and health care diminishes- you don’t need to be a sociologist to be able to calculate who will bear the burden, who will take care of those who the state betrays and tosses aside, and who will attend to those the state tries to save money on.

Nowadays, fewer women marry and have children. “Perhaps that’s better,” I think, when I read the research of Nikolaos Vlachadis and Eleni Kornarou, who in the British Medical Journal of February 2013 warn us about rising infant mortality as a consequence of unemployment among pregnant women who lack health insurance. Maternity care too, has been hit by devastating downsizements. Breast cancer patients do not go to the hospital until the tumor has caused their breasts to burst open. They cannot afford neither the doctor’s appointments, much less the cancer drugs.

The crisis also breaks women’s hearts. IMF didn’t learn a lesson from the Argentinian crisis in 2001 that also caused their debt-ridden hearts to burst. According to researchers at Kalamatas hospital, the heart attacks among women have increased by 39,2%. The cardiologist Emmanouil Makaris refers to women’s vulnerability. They have higher rates of unemployment than men, earn less, are uninsured and must handle husbands who turn financial frustration into physical violence. If they against all odds should dare escape, there is only one women’s shelter in the entire country.

Or, as a female friend says, who is a doctor at a public hospital and hasn’t been paid for a year, “A beating once a day from my melancholic husband is better than ending up in the street with two kids.” But, if and when the salaries start being paid again, she plans to dump him. “My entire life depends on the rescue-loans,” she says, looking up at the sky. “When they will cover our salaries or offer abused women a place to escape, I’m leaving immediately.” I don’t answer, unwilling to wake her from her torpor.

In 2004, when I led the election night watch together with Greece’s foremost news anchor on Alpha Channel, I sat in midst of a sea of men. Two women, that was all. One was the former primer minister’s widow, Dimitra Liani Papandreou, the other  was Liana Kanelli, an outspoken journalist, tv-show host and politician.

When I asked why there were so few electable women, the room went quiet. The only one who answered was Liana Kanelli, who corrected me: “It’s about politics. Not gender. Gender doesn’t guarantee policies that benefit women. I’d like to remind you that Margaret Thatcher was a woman.” It was a rhetorical maneuver to defend the underrepresentation of women, I thought back then.

Eight years later, Liana Kanelli became world famous when she was physically assaulted in a live panel debate in Greece’s most influential morning news show by the press officer of Golden Dawn, the nazi member of parliament Ilias Kasidiaris. The subsequent comments hailed as follows: “That’s what happens when women provoke men.”

Violence against women grows in pace with the budget cuts. Perhaps Ilias Kasidiaris’ “fighting power” inspired some of his supporters. A couple of months ago, a right-wing extremist pounded his 23-year old girlfriend Fei’s face into his car engine until she died. He had earlier been convicted for physical assault and battery of a left-wing politician.

Less obvious than the misogyny of the nazis is the camouflaged misogyny of the crisis managers. Claiming the crisis as an excuse, men in dark suits use their calculators to make life an obstacle course for half the european population. And this is not happening in the desert wastelands of the taliban, nor in the madrasas of the mullahs, but under the leadership of one of the most powerful women in history. This is happening when Europe’s fate rests in the hands of a woman.

Federal chancellor Angela Merkel is often called Mama Merkel, yet it is hard to find any trace of motherliness in her patriarchal politics. And although biological determinists stubbornly persist in portraying women as more heart than head, more empathy than greediness, their theses fall flat to the ground when it comes to Merkel. Perhaps a female politician isn’t a guarantee for gender equality? Despite EU ambitions, women’s employment has decreased in 22 member countries. On average, 70% of women in the EU are employed by the public sector. That’s where the budgets are being cut.

But Angela Merkel is not the sole female captain steering the debt-ship into the abyss. She is accompanied by a French sister, the ex-minister of finance Christina Lagarde, who became managing director of the IMF when she replaced alleged rapist Dominique Strauss-Kahn. And no matter how much the IMF apologizes for the mistakes they’ve committed in the case of Greece, it is not enough to right the setbacks suffered by Greek women.

The euro crisis is no longer just about the grazed Greek, the suffering Spanish and the ill-fated Italian women who started the organisation “The Widows of Crisis” after the suicide epidemic that claimed their husband’s lives and left them to their fate. What we see happening now will have consequences for our daughters and for our daughter’s daughters.

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