Buy This Issue
The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 17 August 2019
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 17 AUGUST 2019 23 OPINION they would subject me to a barrage of criticisms and insults, alleging I was trying to "sell-out" the club under its members' feet. "During the time I was in- volved with the club, I devoted all of my spare time to it. It even began to impinge upon my work as the mostly retired male members of the committee would insist on having meetings during the day and I would be forced to leave work to attend, to make sure decisions weren't being made without my knowledge. My club involvement also took its toll on my family life as well. My husband became indignant at my treatment and we would argue every time I had to do something for the club. My children, who were in the club's dance group were picked on by the grand-children of the committee members. I began to have panic attacks, my confidence in myself was shattered and I was distraught. One day, after a particularly nasty barrage of insults at a meeting, where I was actually told to 'Shut Up,' I discovered I was on the brink of a nervous breakdown. I came to the realisation that I don't need this kind of behaviour in my life. I resigned and have never been back. I look upon my time at the club with regret. Certainly, if my children expressed the desire to take an active role in a Greek brotherhood or club, I would do everything I can to stop them. The culture of these clubs is totally misogynistic. They are not places to which you would want to expose your children." Of course there exist within our community, a multitude of organisations where anecdotes such as those related above appear bizarre, at worst, relics of the past. In many such groups, members of all sexes work together to ensure the vibrancy of their endeavours, often under difficult circumstances, for the lingering memories of past mistreatment, along with the struggle to maintain their relevancy to the modern discourse, and the rise of social media as a key preoccupation, means that it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract younger members. Generally, it is those organisations that enjoy the active participation of their female members that are making efforts to restructure and position themselves for the challenges of the future. Organisations such as the Justice for Cyprus Committee, Pontiaki Estia, the Pan-Corinthian, the Pan-Messenian and Pan-Arcadian Associations have or recently have had younger generation women at their helm. In smaller, more isolated regional brotherhoods, however, the reality is many of these, are still dominated by first generation males, even as they lapse into obscurity. We have the historical and residual presence of entitled sociopathic males within Greek community organisations, displaying toxic masculine behaviour towards women and members of the younger generations partly to thank for feelings ranging from indifference to anger and disgust directed towards local Greek organisations. I We have the historical and “ residual presence of entitled sociopathic males within Greek community organisations, displaying toxic masculine behaviour towards women and members of the younger generations partly to thank for feelings ranging from indifference to anger and disgust directed towards local Greek organisations. asked one former committee member of an organisation, who had a particularly acrimonious relationship with a second generation female committee member, which led to her resignation, whether he regretted the abusive manner in which he treated her. After much prevarication, he admitted: "Could I have been politer? Maybe. But we are not there to be polite. We are there to make sure things are done our way. Each of us has an opinion that we want imposed. And you do anything and everything you can to make sure that happens. That's politics. She should have known that. It's the same whether she was a 70-year-old male. It has nothing to with her gender. But that's the problem with your generation. You are all soft. You can't take it." But it has everything to do with gender and generation. Second generation committee members are generally subjected to a power imbalance based on the fact that a) the proceedings of these organisations are largely conducted in Greek, limiting the ability for most of them to express themselves with as much clarity and force as they would like, as well as to refute opposing arguments, b) the age disparity means that older community members cannot be treated as equals and subjected to the same level of criticism as younger members and c) otherwise assertive second generation Greek females are often called upon to internalise and perpetuate outmoded and deeply entrenched gender stereotypes when engaging with community clubs. Furthermore, there is often a complete disparity in perspective. While some first generation committee members view their involvement in their chosen organisations largely as a political process, one where they can indulge in conflict, impose their will and validate their egos, second generation members tend to view their clubs as places where they can socialise, enjoy other's company and explore their regional roots. They are often thus ill prepared for the illogically antagonistic culture of governance pertaining to many of these clubs. They are also often ill prepared for the side effect of this phenomenon: its flow on effect to second generation males, some of whom replicate the reprehensible conduct of their forefathers. Although gradually, toxic and antagonistic behaviour of the nature described above is declining, it still subsists in pockets of the organised Greek community. It, or its memory is one of the key causes of women turning away from active involvement in our community organisations and a main contributor to the belief that many such organisations are not safe spaces for children to participate in. While community service is not always harmonious at the best of times, it is high time that our community resolve that moving forward, all those members of Greek community organisations who engage in displays of toxic masculinity and all those who enable their deleterious behaviour need to be named and shamed. There are a menace to the survival our community. Dr Konstandina Dounis examines the two realities of growing up Greek and Australian at the same time. A parallel universe: Growing up Greek in the 50s and 60s DR KONSTANDINA DOUNIS The offspring of the postwar, mass-migratory wave of the 1950s and 60s grew up in the parallel diasporic space of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne. It was a distinct enclave within a wider Australian postcolonial milieu, the defining features of which were an endemic mono-culturalism and mono-lingualism. The southern Europeans were then referred to as the 'not-quite whites', while the Greek immigrants, sensing the host country's condescension at best and racism at worst, set about building networks that included schools, community groups, churches and sporting groups. Greece was the eternal homeland, while attendance at an after-hours Greek school was a non-negotiable reality. This 'Greekness' was further reinforced through Greek movies, dances, weddings or baptisms on a Saturday, the Greek Orthodox Church every Sunday morning, an even more religious attendance at the Hellas soccer matches on a Sunday afternoon; Greek food on the table. And so, 'home' was ir- revocably aligned with being Greek. Day-to-day school life, however, was irrevocably aligned with being Australian. The two realities were utterly distinct, like two Venn diagrams with an indiscernible point of overlap. At school, the same children that belted out the Greek national anthem on the weekends, raised the Australian flag every Monday morning and sang, with hand on heart, the then national anthem 'God Save the Queen'. They learnt to read and write in English. They barracked for an Australian Rules football team, played other sports; took part in choirs and plays. This presentation aims to shine a spotlight on the experiences of the children of post-war Greek immigrants. Due to the paucity of what we might term official historical recordings, the findings are based on Greek-Australian literary texts, oral testimonies, photographic images and, inevitably, my own personal recollections as I, too, was one of these immigrant children. * Dr Konstandina Dounis is a cultural historian and literary translator with a particular interest in immigrant stories and their impact on the Australian literary canon. Greek-Australian literature, history and culture has been the axis around which her research has revolved. Her doctoral research, 'The Shadow and the Muse: Journeys within the thematic tapestry inherent in Greek-Australian women's writing' entails extensive forays into unearthing immigrant women's texts, examining their propensity to challenge canonical formations, to enrich historical documentation and to widen the parameters of their diasporic community. She is a prolific translator of both poetry and prose, from Modern Greek to English, and has an extensive list of publications in this regard. Her parallel passion is teaching, a preoccupation that she has been proud and exhilarated to engage in throughout her working life. She currently teaches within the Faculty of Education, Monash University and, in 2018, was the recipient of the MSA Award for Teaching Excellence. Dr Konstandina Dounis will be presenting a lecture on Growing Up Greek in the 50s and 60s as part of the Dardalis Hellenic Archives Research Seminar Series at the Greek Centre (168 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne) at 7pm on 21 August 2019.
10 August 2019
24 Aug 2019