“A Woman on the Political Scene of Montenegro”

Interview with Aleksandra Vuković Kuč

– MP in the Parliament of Montenegro –

Aleksandra Vuković Kuč, an MP in the Parliament of Montenegro for the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), is a dedicated advocate for societal improvement and the advancement of women’s rights. Her political engagement, educational background, and media expertise contribute to her relentless efforts in these areas. With her extensive professional background in education and the media, she has become a prominent player in the political and social landscape of Montenegro. Vuković Kuč discusses the significance of women in Montenegrin politics, the obstacles they encounter, essential efforts to empower them, and the current status of political and media literacy in the nation during an interview with “Diplomacy & Commerce Montenegro” magazine. Our interlocutor articulates the imperative of implementing changes that would foster a more egalitarian and equitable society for all Montenegrin residents, driven by a clear vision and unwavering commitment.

You have served as a longstanding member of the Democratic Party of Socialists in the Parliament of Montenegro. What is your perspective on women’s current position in Montenegrin politics, and what specific measures would you propose to enhance their representation and impact?

Our society, like several European ones, has not achieved a significant degree of representation of women in politics and other areas. Irrespective of her occupation as a minister, MP, director, or otherwise, a woman is perpetually engaged in competition with men. Throughout the race, she maintains a well-earned lead, but her male colleague consistently crosses the finish line before her. It is an unspoken and unquestioned norm of the patriarchal system. Women are denied the right to the throne, even when they occupy it, as judgments are made in a clandestine laboratory where a man’s hand manipulates the test tubes. This viewpoint is not just a feminist ideology, which I wholeheartedly embrace; rather, it is based on the observations of someone who has witnessed the reality of the situation. Despite my resilience and unique idiosyncrasies, I frequently encountered a glass ceiling on my path to success. Men find it more effortless to reconcile with a male figure of higher status and acknowledge his dominance in the everlasting political struggle rather than acknowledging a woman’s power over them. That they exist is more tolerable than not ignoring the circumstance, as recognizing it would imply an apparent surrender. I recommend that women engage in unwavering self-improvement rather than focusing on appearance. Education and training are the only avenues available to a woman in her journey towards personal and societal transformation. One must possess a resilient personality, unwavering determination, and immense bravery in order to convert personal matters into political ones. It is imperative to bring together women, irrespective of their political affiliations and beliefs, based on shared interests. Once we reach a consensus on them, a significant milestone towards success will be achieved.

As a member of the Parliament of Montenegro, could you please elaborate on your political engagement and primary focus on advancing women’s rights and achieving gender equality?

My path is only mine, but I would like it to one day become the path of Montenegrin female politicians. Being yourself, it seems to me, is important both in life and in the public sphere. To be honest, to work for the common good. I want to put a full stop there. It seems simple, but many people lack these qualities. Politicians must have high moral standards; they must be incorruptible. Never sell your idea for anything, let alone influence. Corruption is the greatest evil, a crime that deserves the strictest sanctions. Put all of these in the feminine gender, and that’s it. A simple human formula for planetary ascension!

Which political efforts do you deem essential for enhancing the status of women in Montenegro, particularly regarding their economic involvement and safeguarding their rights?

The political objective of establishing quotas is of utmost significance. To eliminate the underrepresentation of women in parliamentary democracy, it is imperative to ensure that women constitute a minimum of 50% of the members in parliaments at the national, state, and municipal levels. All other things are the excruciating simplicity of agreeing to nonexistence. Legislation should govern the labor rights of women to prevent a multitude of abuses. Women should unite and collaborate, even if it means overthrowing a government that aligns closely with their political preferences. The matter of inheritance needs legal regulation due to the longstanding practice of favoring male descendants, which constitutes a flagrant mistreatment of female children and is a form of discrimination that carries criminal implications rather than being a mere customary matter.

Aristotle said that man is a “zoon politikon,” i.e., a political animal. However, it seems that many citizens in Montenegro have animosity towards politics. What is the cause of this, and how much do citizens in Montenegro understand political processes?

Aristotle’s assertion regarding the expediency of politics and the state as a means of organizing individuals is accurate. Can they provide individuals with happiness and well-being? This question pertains to both philosophical and ordinary aspects of existence. The effectiveness of our previous systems in establishing institutions failed to persuade citizens of their inherent purpose, namely, to guarantee the well-being and contentment of the populace. Consequently, there is a lack of trust in politics and a lack of motivation to actively engage in it, except for passive involvement. Citizens, as well as politicians, engage in politics in an ad hoc manner, lacking prior reflection, planning, and visionary thinking. The current situation is characterized by short-term decision-making that leads to long-term political uncertainty and negative consequences. At present, we are all at a loss.

You are a professor of Montenegrin language and literature by profession. In addition, you earned a master’s degree in international relations. At the University of Donja Gorica in Podgorica, you work as a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. As an educator, how would you assess the level of political literacy in Montenegrin society?

Political literacy in Montenegro surpasses basic reading and primary levels, as seen by the abysmal performance of Montenegrin students on PISA and other assessments. These outcomes can be attributed to the influence of teachers, the educational system, the level of social awareness, and political (il)literacy. The educational system has experienced a decline, with the absence of highly educated individuals and independent thinkers working in schools, except for those who are still able to maintain some level of order. Therefore, it is not surprising to observe a lack of standards and meritocracy at all levels of education. It is a fundamental starting point for the overall turnover and restructuring of society.

Given that political literacy is synonymous with the acquisition of knowledge, I shall critically examine how it is received. Mere participation in voting does not suffice to claim political awareness. One must go beyond casting a vote for or against individuals, ideas, or programs. It is the initial point. In order to achieve a comprehensive understanding of societal dynamics, both external and internal, it is imperative to go beyond simply monitoring media placements, as media literacy is currently lacking, but through valuable insights that can only be obtained through meticulous and reflective analysis. In the contemporary era of an open society, when everything seems transparent and accessible, it is actually quite challenging since it remains a complete enigma.

What are the biggest challenges faced by women who want to be actively involved in politics in Montenegro, and how can these challenges be overcome?

The primary obstacle lies in the persistent opposition to women achieving equal status. It is present in Montenegrin as well as in all other societies. The entrenched mindset and prevailing perception of women as inferior hinder societal progress. The general women’s uprising and feminist waves have had a long-lasting impact on both men and women. Women endured a prolonged period of accepting their disadvantaged condition and male dominance for centuries, while for a century or two, society gradually embraced equality as the norm. Another obstacle is the widespread presence of misogyny and sexism. Women’s femininity is consistently targeted, and women are reduced to the status of mere sexual objects. It remains the sole ‘trump card’ left in men’s and women’s pockets in the fight against the dignity of women and their supremacy, which was announced to the world in the form of powerful women who change the world. Hannah Arendt, a long time ago, stated that evil is banal, but many women withdraw when confronted with it. The objective of degrading women in politics is evident: to remove them from the male-dominated sphere that challenges numerous notions, to intimidate them, and to render them susceptible. While those approaches have historically been effective, they are now becoming increasingly detrimental to individuals who employ them. The global landscape has seen significant transformations. Women are in a position of power and authority. They will rule. In order to contribute to the greater good, individuals must address and overcome their personal limitations. Women should strive for a singular objective that transcends gender, which is to enhance the quality of politics and elevate it to an exclusive pursuit.

For ten years, you were present in the media as an editor of TV shows. The primary focus of your shows was culture and art. How do you view today’s media scene in Montenegro, with particular reference to cultural and artistic content?

I have experience working in the private television industry, but I now realize that I missed out on the chance to work in public service, and I feel regretful about it. I am aware that I would make numerous modifications. I would establish a dictatorship of culture and art, ensuring that managers’ wages were commensurate with their contributions. The current situation is somewhat chaotic and disorganized. The uninformed employees of politicians earn the most substantial incomes. Our media industry requires significant and rapid expansion, a complete reversal of its current state. We need journalists with exceptional education and literacy skills. We require individuals who possess creativity, expertise, extensive knowledge, and extraordinary imagination to infuse a fresh and innovative approach into media organizations. Observe the media content. Pay attention to the people involved in the television programs. Television serves as a source of education for citizens, primarily through politicians who act as tutors. The media exclusively features them, reducing everything to a level of insignificance that borders on derogation. The media has elevated them as the ultimate authorities, resulting in a situation where individuals engage in self-promotion without a genuine desire for their words to impact others or inspire action profoundly. In the media world, those who produce nothing but remain complacent have emerged as the winners. Culture and art are suppressed.

Engaging with them is not financially advantageous. Balzac asserts that everyone reveres money as a modern god, and we can see that he was right. Occasionally, I contemplate the notion that the positive contributions made by influential figures in the media industry have become obsolete since mediocrity has proliferated to such an extent that its eradication seems insurmountable. The plant has engulfed the tallest trees, rendering them invisible due to its unreflective and narcissistic presence. However, those thoughts will soon dissipate, and I am confident that we will effectively organize everything. It requires a minor action. Remarkable individuals can adapt to their surroundings and embark on a successful journey in Montenegro within a year.

How would you assess Montenegro’s progress in achieving gender equality in politics and society, and what are the key steps for further improvement of that process?

Montenegro has made advancements, and we no longer witness the presence of a woman who remains seated in a corner, maintaining silence in order to avoid disturbing the established home order and custom. However, it is evident that instances of women being physically assaulted and murdered resemble the practices of despotic rulers in the past, particularly in Oriental societies, when women were subjected to divine judgment for their supposed transgressions. They would be enclosed in a sack filled with stones and thereafter submerged in a profound river. If she becomes liberated, she is not guilty. We have not made any progress beyond this point. As long as there exists any male who believes to possess the entitlement to control the lives of a woman, such as their spouse, we find ourselves in a precarious situation. It is an issue. While there exists a male who believes it is acceptable to harm a woman physically, we remain in a regressive state, devoid of any superiority above the perpetrator. We are all compelled to take responsibility for any wrongdoing, with the purpose of rectifying it, as we best know. Perseverance is unwavering. Anyone who observes the mistreatment of a woman and remains silent is complicit. Societal equality is attained by collective public efforts that benefit everyone.

The revolution and the operations of the Women’s Antifascist Front granted Montenegrin women the right to vote in 1946. However, this did not eliminate the “depression of women” that existed, as even King Nikola recognized the disadvantaged position of women who were unable to vote or hold elected positions in the previous system. Subsequently, no groundbreaking advancements have occurred in enhancing the position of women in Montenegro. The debate over quotas, namely whether to allocate every third or every fourth position on electoral lists to women, economic problems, and workplace discrimination against women are evident in society. A woman is often also a mother, so she is denied rights in that field as well and given rights that discriminate against her and eliminate her from regular life and progress, such as the so-called Mothers Act. Montenegrin society establishes the value system for women incorrectly, leading to the consistent implementation of an incorrect gender equality policy. However, the political party from which I draw inspiration, whose vice-president I am, has enacted transformative and indeed progressive and beneficial legislation for the Montenegrin society pertaining to the LGBT population, which gives us a reason to be optimistic. Human rights are inherent and absolute rights that pertain to all individuals without any exceptions.