Harvey Weinstein is an influential Hollywood film producer. His opinion affected the careers of directors, actors and, as it turned out, in the last few weeks, first of all, the careers of actresses. The prominent “New Yorker” newspaper has dedicated the latest media research to him. However, it does not repeat the confession of the women whom Weinstein raped and humiliated, but expands the subject expanding the accusation to a wider issue of attitudes towards women’s political and civil rights. This means, probably to one of the questions towards which the position has changed over time, but the issue was politically unpleasant and pushed to the margin. Even in our part of Europe.
In 1905, the parliamentary fraction of social democrats, in the Austro-Hungarian Parliament, after major preparations and even greater attempts to persuade the members of parliament, proposed voting on the introduction of voting rights for women. The Liberal MP, writer Ivan Tavčar, voted against and completely in accordance with the understanding of the women’s issue and with the confirmation of his voters and Kranj bourgeois citizens. The women’s issue that opened in Europe simultaneously with the people’s spring in Kranjska, on the territory of today’s Slovenia, was not seen as a movement for women’s rights, and the introduction of a general voting right for women would only represent a sign of dangerous changes in existing social relations.
Only later, at the beginning of the 20th century, political issues of equality, women’s right to vote, the right to work for the same salary as men and right to abortion appeared in Europe primarily due to social changes of that time. All this, as well as because of the horrible World War I and the then way of warfare, in which the military recruiting apparatus literally left most of the civilian life and the struggle for existence to women.
Croatian writer Dragojla Jarnević (1812-1875) was the author of the first female Diary. She can no longer understand herself within recognized social patterns and she is aware that she must literally abandon them. However, not in a way to fight for social change, but by completely withdrawing from her surroundings. And the only option is complete isolation, because only in this way she can create her own space of freedom and writing, and this only late at night, after finishing and doing all the other women’s predetermined tasks.
Zofka Kveder (1878 – 1926) also wrote her fundamental work, the novel Her Life, in the form of diary and letters. The heroine of the novel is Tilda Ribič. A woman, whose family primarily intended to marry her with chosen spouse, opposite to her brothers who are sent to studies. Because, as it is understood, even unhappy marriage is better than empty life without husband and god. The novel ends tragically. Tilda Ribič stays alone with her pain and hopeless situation. In such a pain, she follows the growth of her son. When she notices that he looks more and more like his father and her husband, she decides to kill him.
One hundred years later, in 2012, Slavenka Drakulić published the book The Accused. The plot is very similar to the fate of Tilda Ribič. After twenty years of physical and psychological violence, a young woman kills her mother. At the very beginning of the novel, we follow the heroine in court, almost absentmindedly following the indictment on murder, quite powerless to uncover the true truth of the frustrating growing up in the home of her violent mother and her also affected parents. Only through her memories we discover scary images of trauma and ruined life. First of all, we see that the culprits are not only the direct actors of violence, torture and humiliation, but also a wider social community that does nothing to help the victims.
Virginia Woolf, translated into Slovenian by Rapa Šuklje, sets a completely new goal, a new demand. Women do not only need voting rights, but also the right to own money and their own room. She writes she received two letters at the same time. In the first one, she is informed that the English Parliament has voted and legalized women’s voting rights (1918), and in the second that she inherited a major rent from some aunt. She says she was more pleased with the second news.
It was an essential improvement. Jarnević finds the space of her freedom and writing in complete isolation, Kvedrova demands the right view of a woman as a human, while Woolf approves the meaning of women’s voting right, however, she requires much more – the right of women to academic education, their own money and their own room.
Mileva Marić was a contemporary of Kvedrova and Woolf. She was born in 1875 in the small town of Titel in Vojvodina. She studied mathematics and physics at the Polytechnic Institute in Zurich, as the only woman in the generation. There she met Albert Einstein and married him and had children with him. After fifteen years of life together, the famous Einstein wrote her a letter in which he listed the conditions Mileva had to fulfil if she wanted to live with him. It was completely, also technologically and procedurally completed list, or even an article regarding the way she would wash clothes, how to move around the apartment, what kind of procedure she would use to be able to enter into his room and how to address him. The letter was published in 1986. Einstein understood the letter as a rational step, when, before divorcing, you simply turn your wife, who was his trustee and scientific associate, into a housekeeper. Both time and social circumstances gave him that right. Nevertheless, Mileva, unlike Dragojla Jarnević and the novelist Tilda Ribič, gathered enough strength and moved with the children in 1914.
Milena Mohorič, of course, could not have known about that letter to Mileva. At the time of writing, she was only nine. After opting in 1948 for Informbiro, her complete life tragedy followed. Her Stories from the thirties came out only in 2010. In the novella Confession of Mrs Forcesin, the heroine is in a constant conflict with the role assigned to her by her husband, that her studies and academic activity are primarily aimed at hunting him, her conquering game to capture him, marry him and give birth to children. That she thus achieved the comfortable social position of married women. And at the same time, she burdened her husband who must think and work and earn money. A heroine sees a solution, similar to Woolf’s, in a change that would also allow economic and spiritual emancipation of women. But she is aware that this is a long process, and similarly as Mileva Marić, she just leaves her husband and moves away.
Let me go back to the beginning, to Dragojla Jarnjević. In fact, the state of her residence, today’s Croatia. At the end of 2016, an article that characterized violence against women as a criminal offense disappeared from the current Criminal Code. And it was changed only to a minor offence.
Lawyers and everyone who today defends Harvey Weinstein have a similar task. To present the whole story as a petty, almost insignificant producer’s recklessness.