University lecturer brought up during wartime…

“I grew up during a war, in a predominantly catholic country. I was raised in a patriarchal environment, in a conservative family. Such environment tends to generate a lot of hatred, which is a by-product of a new nation-state struggling for freedom and relying on tradition and national identity to affirm its new format. I, however, didn’t understand boundaries, categories and hatred. I read books about powerful women. Mother was telling me how good women should behave. Father thought of women only in terms of sex. They both grew up in a constraining patriarchal environment. They just repeated the patterns. I still read books about powerful women. For a while, I thought I was a boy and then I decided I am both and neither. I do not want to define myself as either at the moment, because categories generate mental boxes. I feel being a woman was tough and it still is, mostly because of my environment’s perceptions and prescribed patterns they apply onto me. It’s also hard because I can see them. I was exposed to highly gendered and patriarchal language that still makes me sad. Sometimes, being a woman was an asset, sometime it was a burden. I had to learn to love myself and now I love someone else. I love a person, a human being – not gender. I love as a person, a human being – not as a woman. It’s not definition, it’s practice.” – Mateja, 30, Croatian, Ph.D. in Humanities and Creative Writing

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