Western European versus Eastern European: Women
WESTERN EUROPEAN versus EASTERN EUROPEAN
Belgium - Bosnia
"To be an Eastern European woman in Western Europe, or a Western European woman in Eastern Europe, is to be a slave thrown to the lions."
- Azra Muslimovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Women's Conference
"There is no greater trial, I think, than to be a woman on the foreign, unfamiliar side of the iron curtain."
- Denise Benner, Germany, Women's Conference
Although the prejudices and stereotypes that separate Western and Eastern European women are often unspoken, they are very real - and very strong. Although we are rarely purposely taught so, women on both sides of the continent are often raised with the understanding that those on the other side are, somehow, less.
Stop a Bosnian woman on the street and ask her what comes to mind when she hears the phrase "Belgian girl", and you'll usually hear vicious stereotypes spoken with a sincere tone. "Short", "Homely", "Glasses", "Layers and layers of clothing", "Annoying giggle", "Masculine", "Facial hair", "Bags under the eyes", "Snobby"...
Stop a Belgian woman on the street and ask her what she thinks when she hears the phrase "Bosnian woman", and you'll hear stereotypes equally horrendous. "Promiscuous", "Plastered with make-up", "Uneducated", "Trashy", "Subservient to men", "Oppressed", "Like a drag queen"...
So, why do these differences exist and what do they mean?
History is part of the reason. Western European women's views of Eastern civilizations is somewhat prejudiced, and the same is true in reverse. Where a Western European woman looks at Sarajevo and sees a primitive, chaotic Eastern city - Eastern European women look at Paris and see yet another stuffy, cold Western capital, no different than any other.
There is prejudice related to the overall cultures of these regions. Eastern women look at Western girls as frigid, sexually repressed, and isolated from their communities. They imagine Western folk dancers with their constrictive folk costumes and jerky, rigid dances. Western women look at Eastern girls as men's sex slaves, offensively promiscuous and flirtacious. They probably imagine Eastern women rolling around in the mud instead of our more sensual folk dances, but the sentiment is the same.
Immigration is another. Eastern women in Western Europe are often from the lower classes of society, forced into prostitution and smuggled across the continent. Western women in Eastern Europe are often from large, international companies - arriving with well-paying jobs and a disdain for their new homes. Most women on both sides have no understand of what the "average" really is on the other.
Women's rights is an important one. I've touched on this topic in the past. Eastern women look at Western women's liberation as a purge of everything that constitutes being a woman. Feminine clothing, make-up, and traditional societal roles are seen to be lacking. In a sentence, women became men to share in their rights. Western women look at Eastern women's liberation as having barely happened at all. In a sentence, they're still booty call receptionists but now they actually answer the phone too.
I read an article once that described the difference as being based in where women in Western and Eastern Europe get their power. Western women get it from their careers. That is the defining difference between modern women and previous generations on that side of the continent. Eastern women get it from their sexuality. That is the defining difference between modern women and previous generations.
The idea was that, for example, a Bosnian model posing in her underwear on some giant billboard is equally satisfied as some German housewife who's stated a home-based business. That I don't believe, but I do see some wisdom in the sexuality-based power for Eastern European women.
"Western European girls dance for themselves, Eastern girls dance for everyone else."
- DJ Bobo
It's sex that usually drives the wall between us an Western European women. They get just as much of it as we do, truth be told, so more accurately it's the idea of sex that separates us. Eastern European women are (in)famous for their make-up, skimpy outfits, and all of the associated stereotypes.
I think that's the source of our power, in many ways. It's certainly one of the main differences that has come about in the last several generations. Being in charge of our sexuality allows us to manifest the same rights in our society that other means give women in Western societies. The way we sit, the way we walk, the way we blink our eyes - all of this is instinctual, and it's all very annoying to some if not most Western European women.
I can always tell an Eastern European woman when I'm in Western Europe, just as easily as I can sense all the hateful stares of other women. When I'm at the airport, and I see a girl laughing as a boy offers to carry her bags, as other women - equally beautiful - roll their eyes. When I'm at a nightclub and one girl has three men trying to dance with her while other women, equally beautiful but dancing together, glare at her. I pick up on all these things, and when I approach such women I've yet to meet a Western European.
Likewise, in Eastern Europe, I can spot a Western European woman fairly easily. The clothes are always frumpier. Even the most Eastern-style clothes from Western Europe are looser, cover more. They layer their clothes differently, they walk differently. They don't look like they're going to bend over and announce they're running for President. They have different facial expressions, they have confidence as well but it's based in something else entirely.
So, what differences do you think exist? Why do they exist? Is either side worse than the other? What are your thoughts?