Kutaisi, 15 March, 2013
What is feminism and why are feminists considered to be a certain circle creating a crisis? What is the role of the family, and why do politicians use the issues of women’s employment and the data on women as “victims” of Georgian traditions for their own PR? These aspects were the main line in speakers’ and debate participants’ speeches and questions.
The first speaker, Eka Aghdgomelashvili, spoke about the primary vector of the woman’s role, which turns her into a figure of reproduction. “Reproduction does not imply only biological propagation. The main factor here is cultural reproduction, which a woman passes down on to the young generation through traditions. Other means of socialization in the pre-industrial period, such as preschools and other institutions for information access and transfer did not exist as much. That is why all knowledge was obtained in families through a woman, a mother. This is exactly what is meant by cultural reproduction”, noted Ms. Aghdgomelashvili. Furthermore, she also drew the audience’s attention to certain ideas existing in society about “female and male” jobs and migration, whose main “provider” is a woman, while a man is the “beneficiary.”
The next speaker was the Public Defender’s regional representative, Madona Basiladze, whose report dealt mainly with women’s rights. The main subject of the Public Defender’s activities is the protection of women’s rights and the increase of their importance in society, since there are many cases of family and other types of violence. “The role of a Georgian woman in social life has been weakened considerably, due to the traditions that have been deeply rooted in our mentality”, noted Madona Basiladze. She referred to Article 29 of the 1921 Constitution, which is directed against women’s discrimination and implies the access to information at all levels. There are many facts demonstrating that women are not decision makers. Why does this happen? The speakers and debate participants, most of whom were students, tried to answer the above question.
Lela Gaprindashvili, a philosopher, discussed different viewpoints on gender equality and spoke about how different countries regulate the allocation of quotas for women, as well as the role the women played in Georgia and their social and cultural status on the verge of the 19th and 20th centuries.
She presented the booklets, published by the Heinrich Boell Foundation, to the audience about the life and work of 50 prominent Georgian women. Ms. Gaprindashvili drew the audience’s attention to three women who especially stood out for their feminist activities: Barbara Jorjadze, who created the first Georgian feminist text in which she described the equality of men and women; Ekaterine Gabashvili, a famous children’s writer, although the main subject of her works was women’s education and employment; and Varinka Tsereteli, who composed the music for “Suliko.” She is never mentioned as being a composer of the song; at the same time, she was the first woman who had tried to legally protect her own rights. “Unfortunately, Bolshevism erased all national interests that women had managed to achieve in the 19th century. So many years later, women have to re-establish their place in the society”, noted Ms. Gaprindashvili.
The fourth speaker was the writer Tariel Datiashvili, who mentioned in the very beginning of his speech that “this is a complicated subject, since the phenomenon of a woman is complicated in itself. A woman never knows what she wants in the literature. And there is also a saying that the God did understand what a woman wanted, but then he changed his mind.” This phrase turned out to be rather moot and caused a lot of disputes between Mr. Datiashvili and the rest of the speakers. There is a constant war between men and women, just as between fathers and children. It is more of a play of words than a real problem. As Mr. Datiashvili noted, the topic of women, which has frequently been discussed lately, is more artificial than mundane. “A successful woman loses some kind of charm for me”, he said, a comment that was followed by loud comments of the audience. The young, active women participants considered the writer’s approach unreasonable, and young and active men consider that they welcome the fact of women becoming active, although the traditions existing in the Georgian sub-culture must not be destroyed at once.