Women of the Mediterranean: Tradition and Change

Article excerpt

Women of the Mediterranean: tradition and change

"It is up to us to dismantle the mechanisms of invisibility, all those processes which impoverish our relationship with the world, impose silence on the majority of women, and bring to the fore a few of us, under certain conditions, to legitimize the exclusion process as a whole.'

Fatma Oussedik (Algeria)

RUNNING in filigree through studies on the situation of women in various Mediterranean countries is a common thread: a desire to seek out the feminine presence wherever it lies hidden, in the political and cultural as well as the religious and urban context.

The two dominant aspirations of feminist movements in the industrialized countries --the equality of the sexes and the search for a specifically feminine identity-- find an echo in the perceptions of women of the Mediterranean countries.

In the industrialized countries these two themes made headway only with difficulty. . . . Does not the demand for both equality and recognition of a specific identity leave women in a "Catch 22' situation?

This thorny problem also faces the women of the Mediterranean. The societies in which they live are exposed to the onslaught of the hegemonic cultural model of the industrialized countries, a homogenizing model conceived in terms of the Universal, of History, of Progress, as opposed to regional, national and cultural specificities.

Mediterranean societies are not, by nature, modern societies in the individualistic, egalitarian, liberal sense. Liberal ideology situates and defines Western society both in the "public' area (social relationships) and in the "private area' (the relationship between the sexes); when it intrudes on Mediterranean societies, it not only meets strong resistance with regard to matters concerning the "private' area but also creates a duality in the social sphere. Italy is an example of a Mediterranean country in which these two influences cohabit and even create a geographical dichotomy between the North and the South, with the northern influence more and more gaining the upper hand. …