In large areas of culture, there are very few women. Or there are few women we know. Throughout formal education, women are almost absent from textbooks. Now it’s more about being ignored and not taken seriously. On the school’s walls, we see only the portraits of famous men. How do you explain this reality?
It is a centuries-old tradition that the public space, where decisions are made, is reserved for men. It comes from the ancient times when women only dealt with the private space – the household, and they were not allowed to go beyond its boundaries. A kind of prison woman tried for centuries to make it pleasant gardening, wiping carpets, wowing clothes, tasty food, stories told to children. In order to understand why the pictures illustrating men are still on the walls of some institutions today, it was necessary to explore the past. In ancient times, when women were considered an animal, and put in the same line as cattle. Male supremacy also needed an iconic representation to exercise its authority, as these pictures were on the walls. I wouldn’t want my picture hanging like this. Of course, we can talk about an evolution regarding the individualization of female identity, which was achieved through resilience and solidarity, a difficult and long-lasting process. But all the misfortunes of the world proved that the woman represented a pillar of resistance. Even if it is war, pandemic, famine, or earthquakes, the fear is just the same. We all cling to the image of our mother when we are afraid, because of the security we felt in her womb, then in her arms, we have never met again. The reality is that patriarchy is still present today, not just through pictures of men on the institutions’ walls.
All the misfortunes of the world proved that the woman represented a pillar of resistance
There are many Romanian female writers deserving to be included in the educational curriculum – Sofia Nădejde, Gabriela Adameșteanu, Ioana Nicolaie, Nora Iuga, Ioana Pârvulescu, Laura Grunberg, Ana Barton, Petronela Rotar, Tatiana Niculescu, Angela Baciu are just a few examples. What are they missing to be included in the school books? What do they lack to have their own pictures on the walls of schools, libraries, and academies?
I really wish these questions were asked to those who decide what is appropriate for the curriculum. And I would be very curious to know the answers. I don’t think it’s about deserving, but normal. Gender identity and equality are normal, regardless of the field in which women and men can perform. Until they have their own pictures on the walls, there are other aspects that should be normalized. Who is afraid of women? And why? I would ask.
From children’s stories to Romanian literature school books – there is a lot of misogyny, stereotypes and violence against women and children. If you were to write a story for children, what would be the red thread of the story?
The red thread would be that mom and dad love their child and they are both equally involved in the child’s growth and education.
How long was the road from a muse to the author of a published book!
Feminism is also about voiceless women. And you are among the writers who bring in her novels the life stories of some female characters whose experiences would have remained anonymous. A lot of women identify with the characters in your books. Is this one of the missions of women’s literature?
The literature’s mission, which I believe should have no gender, is to bring stories to light. Literature represented a kind of salvation for women, the form of expression and shaping of identity, of self-disclosure to empathize with the sufferings of others. But how long was the road from muse to author of a published book! Objectifying the female body, a way to annihilate her power of persuasion and credibility, is unfortunately still used in the advertising industry. My books have many female characters, mostly real ones. Readers identified themselves with these characters. I remember Marlena, from the novel “Temptations” (2016), the story of a contemporary 40-year-old woman, with two children and a husband, with broken dreams, but with the great power of reinventing herself. She succeeded to change her life with the help of her office colleagues. Women wrote to me that this book helped them a lot, and that after reading it they had the courage to make decisions for themselves. A quote from the book became viral: “Happiness is an act of courage.” Literature has this extraordinary power to neutralize prejudices and break patterns in order to reach the hearts of readers. The hermeneutics of language you can encode symbols and messages is one of the golden keys of communication through books.
The Internet has played a tremendous role in unveiling women’s voices, from blogs to social media and multimedia.
You are a writer very active in the digital environment, especially social media. How do you think it would have been if your novels had appeared in the “analog” era of literature, without benefiting from the Social Media agora?
If the virtual environment did not exist, I certainly would not have written books on controversial subjects. Most likely, if I had written, I would have aligned myself with the patterns specific to that time. This exercise in imagination is difficult after living the experience digitally. The Internet has played a tremendous role in unveiling women’s voices, from blogs to social media and multimedia. For me, social media communication is a convergent act of telling stories in multiple ways. And the great advantage is that it requires creativity.
What do you think about misogyny in society? Do we live in a misogynistic culture? A patriarchal one? Especially after the recent misogynistic offenses in social media released by some influencers.
How you can handle this misogyny depends a lot on the area in which you work or activate. As you know, I worked for many years in mass media, where I did not feel gender discrimination. On the contrary, I went to strikes, protests, violent miners’ protests, and fights between clans – side by side with my male colleagues. We used to make good teams and I have nice memories from those times. But that doesn’t mean I don’t see misogyny or that I haven’t felt it on my own. Misogynistic culture involves all the principles and values that have been passed down through generations according of the woman must obey to man. Mass media, the film industry and literature worked a lot for this awareness and awakening. It is sad that in the age of drones, satellites, and rockets sent to Mars, there are still so many outdated ideas. It is even sadder when they are issued and promoted by influential people. But there is no evolution without agents resistant to change. Their time will pass.
Is there female solidarity among female writers? Here, in Romania, but also internationally?
Yes and do, it depends. Barriers are about competition, women are competitive. For example, there are women who are key roles in promoting women and they only promote men. Things are debatable, of course. Being a woman does not imply vulnerability or a disability. But when the gender ratio hangs too much on the same side the difference is noticeable. In the US, for example, there are tour events that include about ten female writers from different publishing houses and with varying styles of writing. And it’s not a feminist act, but a promotion that involves diversity. A good thing is that the number of women editors has increased, because the editor can also make very important decisions. I have female writer friends from other publishing houses, we go to events together, and we invite each other to launches. And writers, of course. I could say, however, that women do not have that fellowship specific to men.
Women’s literature – a culture of disclosure that helps women survived
As a woman, what was the most difficult moment in your professional and personal life and how did you overcome it?
There were quite a few problematic moments, starting from childhood and reaching adulthood. Over time I learned how to turn threats into opportunities. I had the chance to work in the media, but that also came with many prejudices. It was a time when female journalists were considered whores and treated from this perspective: indecent proposals, erotic allusions etc. It is true that no one had the courage to go further when they were refused. But the insidious part is that this gender discrimination doesn’t express directly, but through obstacles that appear in your way or around you for reasons seemingly unrelated to the fact you are a woman. If I have an unpleasant memory, it is from the time when my daughter was a pupil at a very well-rated school in Bucharest at the time, and her principal called me one day and told me that she had heard that we were a disorganized family because I was divorced for years from my daughter’s father. The stigma carried by a woman who decided to divorce for the good of herself and her child was a huge social barrier. It has been worn by generations of women who dared to break their “vows” and make changes in their lives. As I said, I was fortunate to work in a more democratic area, but many women were victims of social isolation caused by outdated mindsets. Of course, a family is the basic cell of society, but no one forces you to stay when it becomes a prison cell.For the rest of the difficult moments, I trained myself with patience, and time teaches you how to react. In my case, education and work were my passports. But I had to work twice as hard to make myself visible and listened to.
How has feminism helped you in your personal, professional and social life?
It depends on how it is reported from the perspective of personal experiences. Trauma can lead to radical attitudes or excesses. I believe that balance is essential in everything you do, just as it happens in nature. But it is good for everyone, women and men, to be informed, to know their rights and the limits of their privacy. Intimacy is associated with freedom.
What does feminism involve as a lifestyle?
It means respecting people, regardless of their gender and orientation, of any kind. To know when my integrity has been violated and how to defend myself.
How do you comment on the fact that the recent laureate of the Nobel Prize for Literature is a dedicated feminist, Annie Ernaux?
I am glad that there have also been women awarded recently. Annie Ernaux seems familiar to me especially from her “writing like a knife” manifesto, which refers to the power of language, which I talked about above. I think that she was awarded for her entire career, her writing being a suite of revelations, of autobiographical testimony. She represents a culture of disclosure, as I said, that helps women have survived. So it seems that nothing is accidental.
I invite you to demystify one of the most common myths about feminism: “Feminism is only about women.”
Our entire conversation was about it, talking about the level of equality at which women and men should live, in the roles assumed in their lives: husband and wife, mother and father etc. About the fact that everyone should know their rights regarding their own freedom.
Corina Ozon’s career has 10 years of investigative journalism in print media and television and an update of 2 years in TV production. Converted for another 10 years to PR&Communication, which she currently manages at CN Imprimeria Naţională SA. She is a graduate of the INDE-CNAM Paris MBA Program, 2010 and a proud mother of a young daughter, Iulia.
In 2014, she started with the novel “Zilele amanților” (Days of Lovers) (Herg Benet publishing house), a book started on her personal blog, after a post written for the reader’s amusement. They requested a new one after each episode. In a short time, the novel was a huge success, becoming a must-have for readers active on social networks. The novel was an inspiration for fashion events and a line of perfumes named after the main characters from the book. The novel has four sequels – “Lovers’ Nights”, “Lovers 3.0”, “Lovers’ Divorces” and “Lovers’ Roads” received by the public with the same level of enthusiasm. The campaign promoting the Lovers trilogy was rewarded with the Silver Award for Excellence at the PR Award Gala 2015. She also published the novels “Temptations” and “Zoran’s Code” (Herg Benet publishing house), and “About love, with instructions for use” (Univers publishing house). Since 2016, she coordinates project 35+, by Corina Ozon, (dupa35.com), whose concept is the basis of the stories in the novel “Until I’m cured of you”.
Currently, she is a co-supervised doctoral student at the Doctoral School of Communication Sciences, University of Bucharest and at CTS-IARSIC, CORHIS EA 7400, at Paul Valéry University Montpellier (France).