Anthe, a pretty village girl, falls in love with Giorgis, a handsome village boy, and embarks on an illicit love affair. Anthe’s father, who runs the local grocery store, however wants to marry his daughter to Nikolos, his ugly albeit hard-working shop assistant, for the good of his business. Giorgis asks Anthe to elope but, intimidated by the strength of her father’s wishes and his influence, the young woman declines. She decides to bury her feelings and walks down the aisle with Nikolos, ultimately finding stability and security.
It’s been more than a century since Andreas Karkavitsas, a Greek novelist from Ilia in the Peloponnese, wrote “Lygeri,” a psychological portrait of Greek society back in the day and one certainly founded on strict, patriarchal rules. Over those 100 years, the status of women in Greece has significantly improved. Most of them no longer seek their father’s permission to study, work or marry.
That does not mean, however, that gender inequalities have been eliminated, particularly in the job market. Nor have the stereotypes that give the man the upper hand in the family, a hand that often proves to be harmful, if not fatal.
Data show that cases of domestic violence against women (but also against children) in Greece are on the rise. The trend was exacerbated during the lockdowns that were imposed to stem the spread of Covid-19. According to the General Secretariat for Demography, Family Policy and Gender Equality, the number of women who called its 15900 helpline to report abuse quadrupled over that period.
Regrettably even the rise in reported cases of domestic abuse does not fully reflect the true magnitude of the problem. The issue remains taboo in Greek society, which largely tolerates incidents of so-called “low level violence” at home.
Worse, a lot of this violent behavior is the result of a poor education – which mostly takes place at the family level – that entrenches in young men the conviction that masculine behavior is not always incompatible with violence. The men-will-be-men stereotype is still very much alive in Greek society. If it is to vanish from young boys, it must first be uprooted from their fathers.