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Women’s Rights All Over The World: Latvia

Interviewer’s Introductions: Welcome to my third of several articles based around women’s rights worldwide (Read the past ones here, here, here, and here)! This series is meant to bring awareness to people who may not know what life is like in different countries as a woman. None of this is for debate, as it is the interviewee’s opinion and view of their own country and their experiences within it. Thank you!**

1. What is your full name?

I actually prefer to keep my full name a bit more private, as I usually just go by Ella Harrison 

2. How old are you? Do you feel like your age has affected your worldview? How so?

I am 22 now and turning 23 in the beginning of November. I definitely think age affects your worldview as you grow and expand your worldview. Someone who is 10 will not have the same view as someone who is 50. Though I must say, age is not the key factor to worldview, or let’s say ‘an understanding of the world’. I would actually attribute my worldview more to my life experience. Having lived in several countries, visited a couple as well, and having mostly international friends. I also have a bachelor degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology which has influenced my worldview a lot too. 

3. What is your gender and preferred pronouns?

I am a cis woman, she/her

4. Do you think sexuality is perceived differently from where you live compared to the rest of the world?

In Latvia, it is still a bit new to discuss sexuality to the same degree as in the USA. The LGBTQ+ community is by far not as large and there are still a lot of stereotypes. Latvia was under communism for a very long time, and it is only the first generation now that has not grown up with it directly. It will definitely still take time for people to be accepting of sexuality in a broader spectrum. But that’s really a book-worthy topic in itself.

5. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

Yes! Definitely! I think the confusion arises when people associate ‘feminist’ with extremism or man-hating. 

6. In your personal experience how do you think your life differs from a mans?

Oh gosh, I think my entire existence differs to that of a man. My whole perception and reality is different. From the most basic things such as personal hygiene, to more complicated topics such as work-life. I think we are inherently similar due to being humans, but also inherently different due to being a different gender. This is actually an amazing question. I will definitely need to think about this one more! 

7. What are some things that you think of as a woman but wish you didn’t have to?

Safety. For sure! Having to take pepper-spray with me on the public train or having to worry about the time I walk home is honestly horrible. We should not have to be so frightened to do these basic things. Of course psychopaths will always exist, like murderers. You never know, but the fact that we are so scared of these situations is sad. 

8.Do you think customs for women are different where you are compared to the rest of the world? If yes, how so?

Yes of course! It also depends on which countries you compare. Are we comparing Latvia to Papua New Guinea? Or Latvia to the USA? Or even Latvia to Russia? Latvia is in a bit of a juxtaposition, as there is a large Russian population, and of course communism. The idea that women should be independent and work for themselves is still rather new. In Russia for example, it is customary to work very hard on physical appearance. It is customary to be able to get a good husband who is able to provide and work for the family, so the woman doesn’t have to work. I’ve talked to Russian girls who find it strange that women in other countries actually want to go work all day, instead of staying at home and doing what they want. The wording here is quite important. People in the USA would probably consider Latvian women to be ‘too dependent’ on a man. Russians, and many Latvians, would consider women in the USA to be ‘too masculine’ let’s say, working when they should not have to work.  

9. How has religion altered your experience as a woman? Is it hard being out in the open with your beliefs where you live?

I actually think that being a practicing religious Wiccan is to a certain degree ‘easier’, as the stereotype is that a witch is female. I’ve seen and heard men being mocked or made fun of for identifying as witches. Luckily it has been the easiest of all countries here in Latvia, as Latvians have very strong paganism ideals to this day. Even though many may officially be Christian, they still practice the old religion in some way or another. I feel it actually is easier to be a witch as a woman, because witches are more often thought of as being female. There are less stereotypes about female witches. Especially in Latvia. Whereas men identifying as witches are not as common, and there seems to be less acceptance towards that. 

10. How has your culture molded you? Did you pick and choose through the experiences you’ve had to shape you into who you’ve become or do you believe everything you’ve lived through has created who you are now?

Out of the perspective of an Anthropologist, I would say we are the product of our environment. We were raised by our family, by our school, by our friends, and by social media. I think it would scare people if they knew how little we are actually in control of creating our own avatar. My culture is difficult to define, as I grew up in very different cultures and therefore am a mix of these. I actually suggest reading Frederik Barth on Ethnic Groups and Boundaries for this topic! 

11. If you could change one part of society in regards to human rights, what would you change? Do you think this is specific to where you’re from or should it be changed throughout the entire world?

I think this is a very difficult and broad question to answer as we would never know what the long term effects would be and how it would play out in society. For the sake of hypothesis, let’s pretend I am a Goddess and can truly just rearrange a part of society. As if it were always like this and not an abrupt change. I would definitely say honesty is incredibly important and that we lack it nowadays. We are not honest with ourselves and we are not honest with each other. The government is not honest with its citizens and religions are not honest with their followers, but who is to say what is honest, and what is true? It would be easy for me to say ‘we should all stop being racist’ or ‘we should be kinder to one another’. These are virtue signalling answers in my opinion. Of course we should be all of that, but humans are not that simple. We are vastly different. Region to region. Group to group. There are matriarchal societies and patriarchal societies in the world, and they have equally as many issues and virtues. This question I don’t think I can fully answer without writing 50 pages worth. We would have to go back to the creation of humanity. Changing one part of society changes everything, as everything is interwoven and dependent on each other. 

College kid just trying to survive
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