Feminism in Greece
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For centuries, women across the globe have called out for equality and the country of Greece is no exception. In 1952, Greek women finally earned the right to vote; however, suffrage did not translate into instant equality between the sexes. In fact, the practice of dowry was not abolished until 1983. 1983 proved to be an especially significant for the Women’s Movement because it is also the year that the New Family Law was passed, which stated that “both spouses should make decisions about family matters and that there should be a mutual responsibility in marriage and the family household.”
Despite laws designed to promote equality between the sexes, there are still many limitations that Greek women endure on a daily basis. These restrictions range from cultural and political to religious limitations. In the larger cities of Greece, such as Athens, women have a more integrated role in society and the community; however, in the rural areas of Greece a strongly expressed patriarchal society still flourishes. One of the underlying ideals that fuel this structure is that women are “naturally” associated with the domestic area of the workforce, which carries a smaller weight than the larger workforce that men are typically involved in. Assumptions like these have been standard in rural Greek families for centuries and are of the greatest challenges that women have to overcome.
In the home
Traditionally, the domestic arena is where a Greek woman thrives. Whether they are dealing with household chores or cooking for the family, Greek women efficiently carry out their duties in the home. The house is such an important factor in the life of a Greek woman that people often compare the cleanliness of the living space to the character of the woman that inhabits it. Although the home is a place of freedom and decision making, this liberty is often confined within the home. In small rural communities in Greece, the woman must ask permission from her husband before she can leave the home. According to anthropologist Janine Mills, a woman’s time outside the boundaries of the home is limited and thus her physical freedom is influenced by her husband. Mills reveals that the perception of women in rural Greece is that a woman’s time outside the house is a potential threat to the family’s honor. This perception stems from a fundamental Greek belief that a man’s honor relied heavily upon the purity and modesty of his wife, sister, and daughters.
In regards to reproduction, the future and size of a family is a largely dependent on the wishes of the husband. In a countrywide study by Yannis Tauntas et al., the majority of women in Greece felt that contraception was the responsibility of the man. Placing the responsibility of family planning in the man’s hands is largely due to a view of passive sexuality in which Greek women refer to themselves as “becoming impregnated, without taking part in the process.” Within the home, the woman is responsible for raising and nurturing the children while her husband is at work. This falls within the realm of her domestic duties in the home. One piece of control that women often control is the finances. Although many women do not have jobs within the formal work sector, they still budget and govern the income. Despite women’s freedom in relation to household work and finances, the husband is still considered the “head of the household” and holds authority for making important family wide decisions.
In the workforce
According to data by UNICEF, 52% of the Greek population is made up of women. However, only 32.4% of the workforce consists of women. In addition, Greece has the second largest gender employment gap of the European Union. Of the women that have jobs within the formal sector, most of them live in large urban cities. Within the rural areas of Greece, women have found it particularly difficult to receive jobs in any area other than farm work. The low number of women that have jobs in rural communities could partially be due to the high levels of sexual harassment that they face on the job site. Another explanation for low involvement in the workforce is that laws protecting women, such as laws deeming sexual abuse and rape illegal, were not enacted until 1984.
Although the percentage of women in the workplace is quite low, the presumptions and attitudes towards what entails a job that are what make this statistic unsettling. As previously stated, in rural communities there are much fewer women in the workforce; however, many of these women have full-time jobs. Because a woman’s time outside of the home setting is limited, many women have found that renting rooms within their house or setting up an in house hotel can generate a sufficient income. These rural community women can also earn an income as house cleaners, seamstresses, or by running tourist shops. These jobs are extensions of a woman’s domestic work and can be easily balanced while carrying out the daily duties within the home. Ironically, their side occupations can earn a greater income than the money that is generated from the man’s job. However, in small countryside societies like Kokkari, Greece, women’s work is not considered “real” labor and thus has less symbolic value than a man’s job. While this is a generalization that is widespread in smaller town societies, it is outdated in larger metropolises.
Religious life is considered a fundamental aspect of life for a significant portion of the Greek population. According to a 2005 poll, 81% of Greeks believed that there is a God. This percentage made Greece the third highest-ranking country in the European Union for this poll. Additionally, the Greek Orthodox faith is recognized as the dominant religion in Greek society. In both urban and rural communities, women play an active role in Greek religion and in general women are more avid churchgoers than men. The idea of women being more dedicated to their attendance at church is seen across the Mediterranean.
Despite women’s consistency in attending church, tradition (not the official church) restricts women due to their unique physiological processes. The tradition that a woman is not allowed to enter the church during her menstrual cycle or for forty days after she has given birth is observed only among elderly women. During these times, women are known to stand outside of the church and listen to the message. Traditionally, women occupied the left side of the nave of the Church and men the right side. This tradition is fast disappearing; easily noted if one attends Greek Orthodox Church services today.
For many countries including Greece, the idea of women in politics is a controversial topic. Although Greece is known for being the “birthplace of democracy,” the infiltration of women into the political arena has been very slow. Today, only 49 of the 300 members in parliament are women. That equates to a mere 12.4%. Because of this small percentage, Greece traditionally ranks at the bottom of the list for women’s involvement in the government. Greek women’s limited participation in politics suggests that the stereotype of women being better suited for a domestic environment is still widespread in both rural and urban communities. Fortunately, women have made strides within the past few years, and in the 2004 election a woman named Prof. Helen Louri was appointed as Senior Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister.
The following list contains Greece’s National Women’s Organizations:
- Panhellenic Women’s Movement
- International Association for Feminist Economics: Greece
- Political Union of Women
- Greek Women’s Association
- League of Women Scholars
- Federation of Women of Greece
- Association of Greek Women in Legal Professions
- European Forum of Leftwing Feminists –the Greek Chapter
- Association of Greek Homemakers
- Progressive Women’s Organization
- Democratic Women’s Movement
- League of Women Entrepreneurs and Professionals of Athens
- Stamiris, Eleni. 1986 The Women’s Movement in Greece. New Left Review I. 1(158): 98-112.
- Demos, Vasilikie. (2007) “The Intersection of Gender, Class and Nationality and the Agency of Kytherian Greek Women.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. August 11.
- Marcos, Anastasios C, and Bahr, Stephen J. 2001 Hellenic (Greek) Gender Attitudes. Gender Issues. 19(3):21-40.
- Dubisch, Jill. (1983) "Greek Women: Sacred or Profane." Journal of Modern Greek Studies. 185-202.
- Mills, Janine. (2003) "Freedom and Power: The Debate over the Position of Greek Women." Women's Studies: An Inter-disciplinary Journal. 32(1): 1547-7045.
- Pantziara, Nicoletta. (2003) "From Ancient to Modern: Greek Women’s Struggle for Equality." Social Education. 67(1):28.
- Stefanidou, Xenia. (2007) "Greek Women in Positions of Power." Paper presented at the Hellenic American Professional Society Annual Meeting. November 4.
- Tsaoussis, Hatzis. (2004) International Association for Feminist Economics: Greece.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Women of Greece.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Women in Ancient Greece.|
- Dubisch, Jill (1996). Gender, Death, and Memory in Greece. American Anthropologist. 98(4):874-875.
- Mills, Janine (2003). Freedom and Power: The Debate over the Position of Greek Women. Women's Studies: An Inter-disciplinary Journal. 32(1): 1547-7045.
- Kirtsoglu, Elisabeth (2004). For the Love of Women: Gender, Identity, and Same-Sex Relations in a Greek Provincial Town. American Anthropologist. 108(2): 424-425.
- Poulos, Margaret (2009). Arms and the Woman: Just Warriors and Greek Feminist Identity. Columbia University Press.