Somewhere near the end of 2006 and beginning of 2007, a sparkle of a discussion on this issue appeared in our public, dying out even before being developed into a debate. Everything started with an interview of Elizabeta Šeleva for the Croatian web portal Iskon, in which she followed up a statement of Dubravka Ugrešić, that there is literature with a capital L, and parallelly to it, a ghettoized women literature. “In a state of lack of strategic behavior to these fundamental questions, in the dominant patriarchal mental structure it often happens that the women writers are mentioned, but the approach of the media is not a straight line one or followed with such an attention and an appropriate impact as when it comes to men writers.” Says Elizabeta Šeleva. This thesis was modestly informed about by the culture parts of the Macedonian daily newspapers (the same ones who elaborately and restlessly inform us about every new line in the new novel that is being written by some of our “big, well-known and recognized” writers (men), which international festivals he is prepared to participate and in which new language his latest big work has been translated into). On the same topic, Vreme (no. 947, 5 January 2005) concludes that “unofficially, the writers’ circles state that there is a ghetto of women literary scholars and professors at the Faculty of Philosophy, unlike the Writers’ Association of Macedonia, where most of the members are men.” And, I would add, several women who are there by accident, having the roles of honorary men.
Coming back to the original question, I would like to conclude – the pink ghetto in the Macedonian literature is a fact. The women who write (prose) often remain unnoticed – criticism, which despite all of its transformations, remains a primary promoter of literature does not deal a lot with books written by women. Even when these women receive some of the well-known awards (Racin’s Award, Stale Popov, Utrinski Vesnik novel of the year), their contemporaries pay little attention to them. As far as some systematic following or studying of the Macedonian women writing (understood in the most narrow sense, as literature written by women) is concerned, it is not even worth mentioning. Women writers or critics are the ones who most often write about other women writers, sporadically, rarely and shortly, and they are read by few. Are the reasons for this situation outside the domain of the literary creation, that is, are they in “our Christian Orthodox orthodoxy.. male axis, in which all great-great-grandparents, great-grandparents, grandparents, fathers and sons live” as Goran Stefanovski says (Forum, 13 March 1999), so “in this world there is neither space nor need of women’s rights, tolerance and democracy” (ibid)? Or, are the reasons inside, in the very women authors, that is, in what Gilbert and Gubar call “anxiety of authorship”, or the impossibility of the women writers for a complete creative expression, so because of complex and often barely aware fears of authorities (or a classical auto-censorship) they can not write works that would be equal in their values and artistic force to those written by their male colleagues?
Getting involved in the above mentioned short discussion, one of our (rare) renowned women fiction writers Olivera Nikolova (1936) said: “There is partial truth in the thesis that women’s literature is somehow neglected. But, the main reason for this is with the women themselves. Their agility is not always present. The women writers themselves withdraw from the battle field. And, what is most important, I think that they expect some special treatment, some privileged treatment, not because they are the weaker sex, but because of the fact that they are burdened by their many everyday tasks.” With all of my due respect to Oliveral Nikolova (whom I believe to be one of the best contemporary Macedonian prose writers), and to her literary experience, I do not think she is quite right. Women writers deserve the same special treatment as any other author who, for one or another reason, is placed within a group: post-modernists, haiku poets, urban literature, etc. As far as the many everyday tasks are concerned, it is even distasteful to speak, but I will comment something more on the fact that further on, in the same text (Vreme, no. 947, 5 January 2007), Olivera Nikolova says that she only minds her business in silence and dedication to what she loves, and the rest will come on its own. However, it is a fact that if women only “minded their business” and waited for “the rest to come on its own” throughout human history, we would still be without our own writing rooms. Now, since we have this space in which we create, we also have the right to come out of it.
Close as a generation to Olivera Nikolova, but quite different in her views, Erica Jong (1942) says in a recent essay (Ghetto (Not) Fabulous, 28 May, 2006): “Feminism didn’t change deep-seated priorities about what – or who – matters. I see deeply diminished expectations in young women writers… they dare not make a fuss for fear they won’t be published at all… My generation expected more.” In this essay, she finds the reasons for the prejudices against women writers in their topics, that is, in the very essence of women writing: “War matters; love does not. Women are destined to be undervalued as long as we write about love.” However, she further also adds that “fear of reading may be at the heart of the problem. In countries that don’t read books but look for the news peg… prejudices against women writers are harder to eradicate.” Thus, I come to the heart of the problem – the Macedonian pink ghetto will become a real part of the overall Macedonian literature of this moment only if the understanding of what the latter one is changes. The problem, much broader than the borders of the pink ghetto, is the lack of aware reading on one hand (so the readers are hypnotized by the bombastic recommendations of the book sellers and swallow the so-called best-sellers instead of shaping their own literary taste) and the absence of critical awareness on the other hand (so critics who are most often writers also write praises heavy with decorated epithets for their friends, and ignore everybody else who is unknown to them). It is this lame practice that all of us who want to come out of the pink ghetto have to handle, instead of continuing to live in its blessed isolation.
Translated by the author