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Why can't Greek culture handle honest, opinionated women?

Based on first-hand experience, Koraly Dimitriadis reveals the consequences of challenging the status quo and that of 'Good Greek Girl Feminism'

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22 November 2016

Is it my imagination, or are Greeks dismissive of raw, honest, opinionated women?

And when I say opinionated, I don't mean women that speak their mind within the confines of what women are permitted to discuss, i.e. what I like to call 'Good Greek Girl Feminism'. I mean taboo subjects, like the kind I write about – cultural and sexual repression, shaming the family, divorce, and sex – just open honesty about what it feels like to be a woman.

Take my recent trip to my homelands, Greece and Cyprus. Just like my trip two years ago, as soon as the men hear of my book Love and F**k Poems and my tour and performances, I get an influx of Facebook messages ranging from asking me out to some that are so disgusting I would never show them to anyone. Sometimes I am harassed to the point where I have to block.

For example:



At first I was flattered but then I asked myself why I don't get the same sleaziness in Australia. If anything, when men contact me in Australia they tell me how much they like my work but they never ask me out, say I am beautiful, or make comments about my body.

It started to make a bit more sense when I went to teach at The European University in Nicosia and one of the women in attendance said to me, "it's really great that one man came to hear you speak and it's not all just women." When I asked her what she meant by that she said men don't take women's writing seriously. They think it's girly.

I pondered this statement. Was my writing not taken seriously in Greece and Cyprus? When journalist Andonis Mboskoitis praised my performance in Cyprus on in 2014 it started a social media outrage, one that was reignited on my recent trip and has seen the article shared over 22,000 times. I have been called a pornographer, a slut, irrelevant, an insult to the poetic language – the list goes on. I know I have great supporters of my work too, I am also not trying to generalise here, but I also do write a lot about culture and part of that is analysing the culture from which I originate.

Earlier this year I wrote an article questioning whether Greek culture has trained us to keep our houses too clean, if it was actually about hygiene or an obsession with upholding appearances. I was astounded by some of the responses criticising me personally. It was interesting that the topic was about something as simple as the cleanliness of a house, but because I was pushing the boundaries and stepping outside Good Greek Girl Feminism, I was slammed.

I have chosen not to include the person's name out of respect.

Although I have always seen the homelands as evolved compared to the migrants of Australia, on this recent trip I realised that patriarchy is more alive and kicking than I thought it was. The emergence of Good Greek Girl Feminism has somewhat evened some things out but there's still a way to go. And in Australia, Good Greek Girl Feminism is relatively new.

To elaborate on Good Greek Girl Feminism is to say it is a wave of feminism that sits snug within the confines of patriarchy. Men have allocated certain freedoms to us over the years and now women can discuss and be involved in politics and be educated as opposed to being only housewives.

Organisations have been set up to support Good Greek Girl Feminists but only if they conform to what a Good Greek Girl Feminist should be. This wave of feminism encourages women to be high achievers within these boundaries.

While beneficial, this type of feminism can sometimes frown down at radical feminists like me who do not fit the mould of the Good Greek Girl Feminist.

They, with men and patriarchy, can have a part to play in the silencing of women, because, while their husbands may help them around the house as opposed to how things were 20 years ago, they still uphold the rules of patriarchy and the role of women within that structure. That is why radical Greek feminism still has a way to go and why I think Greek culture can't handle honest, opinionated women.

Koraly Dimitriadis is a freelance opinion writer and the author of Love and F**k Poems. Her theatre show KORALY: "I say the wrong things all the time" will premiere in Melbourne at La Mama Theatre from 30 November to 11 December.

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Like it or not most women and men travel together in the same leaky boat. I do not know any Greek man that was "born of a woman" that does not love his mother, his sisters and even his wife. We have the expected disagreements, but we forget, the next day and eat together and worry about each other. When you talk of "patriarchy" I can only think of my maternal Grandfather. He was enslaved by the Greek army when he was nineteen and forced to marry a thirteen year old slave. This traumatised little girl was a slave from Athens without any education or social skills. He could read the Greek classics and the Bible. He did experience a life of independence and knew a life in a civilised family. He did control his wife and children because above all they faced great dangers and he loved them all and he wanted them to survive. I have seen other men who were enslaved by the Nazis or Greek communists and they later ruled their households like captains of a ship in a storm. Only God knows how they managed to function, but the sternest man, I have witnessed showing the most gracious kindness to people in need. Greek society's had to go into survival mode and use every opportunity. Australian Greek Fathers and Mothers did keep their girls controlled. I remember the control of Greek fathers and the less control of the rest of our neighbours. Many very young girls disappeared or they were pushing a pram down the street with a baby but no husbands to help them raise the children. I remember the many people without families in Australia and their difficult lives. A picture stays with me of a group of Greek girls waiting for the bus to go to high school and two other girls of the same age with prams stopping to show their babies; none of them was more than sixteen. Life without an education meant a one way ticket to the hell holes of the factories; the Greek girls were not going there. Please do not put all Greeks in the same basket. Smart men see opportunities and take them; others do what they know and do it to see their families survive. For some men just to see that their daughter survive and to get married to a nice young man with a stable family is a great achievement. I remember the Thessaloniki famine stories. The only ones to survive were those with a family. The more people the more chances of survival. Families would take turns to eat or have less some days. Many Jews died because their families were taken away by the Nazis. I have seen all men take great joy in their daughters achievements. Koraly you are like the rest of us Greeks and we understand you. What has made you is your family history and pain. Like the rest of us at times you become like Don Quixote chasing the evil dragon that is the root of all evil, but all there is humble people trying to survive.

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