The only thing necessary for the persistence of evil is for enough good people to do nothing

Women in Their Own Right

Via Kathimerini

A study of female immigrants in Greece was published today by the Research Center for Gender Equality (KETHI) and its findings are depressing but not surprising.

Of some 500,000 female immigrants in Greece, most work as babysitters, cleaners or housekeepers, even though 25 percent are educated to degree level, the KETHI study found. Many of the younger female migrants (in the 18 to 39 age group) would like to start their own business – as many have done in other countries – but barriers to social integration and bureaucracy ensure that most of them remain in low-paid jobs

Discrimination, bureaucracy and employers not paying their social security contributions are blamed for the fact that most of these women will never achieve their potential as vibrant members of this society. They are exploited. Many are basically slaves, working long hours with no benefits and no security.

The Kathimerini article is (as usual) a muddled summary of the report but you can read it here.

I have serious problems with the way the paper reports immigrant issues. The article entitled The foreign woman at home (in the same issue) reads to me like an ode to slavery rather than a commentary railing against the inactivity of the government and the exploitation of “foreign” women. You know like, these foreign women are raising our children and looking after our old people and we have now accepted them as “family members”. Rather than recognising them as women in their own right. With skills, ambitions and dreams other than taking care of you and being the saviors of your happiness.

The article really bothers me…

What do you think ?

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  1. philip
    May 9, 2008    

    I probably wouldn’t have read it that way, if you hadn’t said it. I would have read it as praising foreign women and as being positive towards accepting them into the family. But I am a white man living in the country I was born (US) so I don’t see or feel the subtext that is obviously there and I see now that you have pointed it out.

    Thank you DD. I’m a long-time reader but have never commented before. I just want to say you’re doing a great job and to keep up the great work. I am thinking about things I haven’t had to think about before.

  2. danilena
    May 9, 2008    

    I wouldn’t read it that way.
    to say that someone is part of your family is an honour to them if you are greek. the sentimental-cheesy way the writer uses to describe the issue is his way of speaking to greek people who will respond to things like family much more than equality rights talk. unfortunately equality is a different standpoint, and greece is not there yet. we are very much a traditional society, and the fact that these women take care of children and the elderly makes people such as the writer feel in debt to them .
    I don’t think phrases such as this one can possibly mean anything else:

    “There is no excuse for useless bureaucracy, for employers who do not pay social security dues and weak-willed politicians who allow problems to fester.”

  3. savannah
    May 9, 2008    

    I know exactly what you mean Diva ! And I think danilena is agreeing in some way by saying that the style of writing is appealing to Greeks who are not able to grasp the idea of equality yet.

    I am an immigrant woman so this is article is talking about me.

    I am not just my job.

    I think you are pushing the boundaries of understanding on these issues dd. Bravo!

  4. kastor
    May 9, 2008    

    Danilena says:
    ‘describe the issue is his way of speaking to greek people who will respond to things like family’

    I hope danilena we stay this way!

  5. Margaret
    May 10, 2008    

    I, too, see exactly what you mean … though I tend to think the same thing whenever I hear about a mother with children working full-time at a wellpaid job thanks to the poorly paid woman who stays in this working mother’s home doing the cleaning, child care and shopping. Of course, if I was to raise an eyebrow, I would be reminded that these women wouldn’t otherwise have any work at all, and isn’t it better that those of us who can earn large salaries do so, and so on. I don’t think we’ve worked out the answers yet, but often other women pick up after us.

  6. zardoz
    May 10, 2008    

    the article
    i believe ,,,, loses a lot in the translation,
    but i have to agree , basically, with DANILENA .
    Its written in classic sentimental greek bourgoua form.
    THEN again , i believe immigrants have done more harm than good
    none of course,, of their own accord.!
    .supporting the weaknesses
    of a freakish capitalist system as undignified as they come.
    fo both greeks and immigrants .
    for without immigrants , maybe a lot of economic problems
    would have been raised and solved in a different way
    by and for greek society ,,and …IT
    would have had to take a long hard look at itself
    and see that it cannot live off a giant bureaucratic public sector
    with out …..toiling in the fields or in construction ,,,,
    .IMMIGRANTS IN GREECE solved nothing for greece.
    . they solved ONLY the reason
    they were forced to flee their country of origin .
    .and that unfortunately, in this greek havoc is ” TEMPORARILY”
    .as all greeks discover growing up in this mess of a country.

  7. danilena
    May 10, 2008    

    you are right savannah, I do agree with the essence of what DD is saying, I am just trying to point out that the article should be read in context with greek standards.

    I have a problem with the use of language by the greek media in general. the quality of journalism is very low and plagiarism is commonplace. however, kathimerini is an exception to this rule. they mention which of their articles are translated (which means they actually pay royalties !)and people like boukalas or mandravelis (and quite a few others too) constantly produce high quality pieces. of course there are weaknesses and greek to english translation is one of them. I read the article in greek too, and I agree with zardoz that it lost something in translation. I think it’s because it’s an opinion piece, not a straightforward report.

    I do think however, that this type of article is the only thing out there that balances scores of other articles that attack immigrants, and in that sense the writer’s intentions should be taken into account, and weigh more than the fact that he is not well versed in equality talk. remember that the standards of political correctness are not the ones western europe or the US is accustomed to.

    greece is simply not ready yet to proceed to another level of debate about these issues.from portraying all immigrants as thieves and criminals, to actually recognising the fact that they have helped this country immensely is a first step. I am an optimist and believe things will change, but not in an instant. you are right DD, for being impatient with greece, but this is only the beginning. hang on in there :-)

  8. George
    May 10, 2008    

    One point that I thought of after reading Zardoz and Danilena’s comment is this. Do Greeks in general know that there are many things that foreign people are upset with Greece about? (i.e., immigrant rights, animal abuse, littering, rudeness etc…)

    Whenever I read a great article from Papahellas that highlights things above, I often wonder if average Greek people are even aware that foreigners are complaining about these things in Greece or even if they realize this is bad behavior? From my own experiences in dealing with Greek neighbors, I’ve been looked down upon for picking up the garbage on the street and when I’ve answered that I only want to keep Greece clean, it seems they still don’t get it. They seem to think that they are too good to do things like this.

    In the past, I’ve asked Kathemerini why they don’t print the letters to the editors that US/UK writers post in the English version for the Greek version readers to see. I was told they don’t. Maybe if more Greeks were exposed to foreign views on how we see their Greece, could anything be changed??

    Sorry this is off target a bit, but it does tie in to how maybe Greek people fail to realize that their foreign employees are people and not “things” to brag about it.

  9. May 10, 2008    

    Thank you for your responses. Clearly, I am losing something in translation as some of you have explained. I think you are spot on danilena, I am impatient for the next level of debate but I do recognise that this is a first step. Sometimes I think a little push helps but in other cases it makes people dig their heels in deeper.

    I do really appreciate your thoughts and your constructive remarks. You force me to think harder and that’s always a good thing. 😀

  10. Paul
    May 11, 2008    

    I think that what Margaret and Zardoz have to say is extremely relevant, and I share many of their concerns, which is undoubtedly one reason that the article makes me uncomfortable. Basically, it’s just good old-fashioned liberal guilt. (And I should declare an interest here, in that I employ [Greek] women to clean my house and look after my kids.)

    But I also think that that the discomfort that I feel derives from the way that the article is written. For me (and perhaps for DD as well) there is an uneasy echo of the tone adopted by newsreels “welcoming” immigrants to the UK back in the 1950s: not hostile (very sympathetic, in fact) but deeply (and unconsciously) patronising.

    On the other hand, as other posters have said, in the context of so much negative reporting, articles like this can be seen as a positive step forward.

  11. May 14, 2008    

    dd: you should have a problem with that article and the whole structure of attitude and reference (Edward Said coined that term) of that particular newspaper towards immigrants. See, ?????????? is supposed to be the paper of the Greek ruling class: hence, yeah, immigrant women are so far ‘welcome’ in the greek ‘family’, but only to the degree they do jobs nobody else will and by the way help the greek pension system –if they’re insured at all. A majority of the bourgois class plus the nouveau riche tends to see (all) immigrants as an expendable and cheap labour force, nevertheless its racism remains handy.

    Of course there are other voices. But you won’t find out about them reading that paper.

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