Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 23, Issue 4, pp 1208–1229 | Cite as

“The Western Feminists Want to Make Us Gay”: Nationalism, Heteronormativity, and Violence Against Women in Bulgaria in Times of “Anti-gender Campaigns”

  • Shaban DarakchiEmail author
Original Paper


The abolishment of women’s and LGBTQ rights has become one of the main goals of the so-called “anti-gender campaigns” emerging on a global scale. This study investigates discourses and notions that reject the concepts of “gender” and “gender-based violence” in times of “anti-gender campaigns” in Bulgaria. Based on discourse analysis and data from social media comments, the study demonstrates how “gender politics of fear” in Bulgaria have been included in the heteronormative, political, religious, nationalistic, and anti-feminist discourses and how gender and LGBTQ equality policies are identified as a threat to the traditional Bulgarian values. Engaging with the concept of hegemonic femininity, the analysis identifies four main types of notions among women opposing women’s rights policies and demonstrates how the socialist past of Bulgaria has strengthened these beliefs. Finally, the analysis discusses some possible directions towards a constructive and evidence-based dialogue in times of “anti-gender campaigns”, taking into account the strategic “delegitimization” of gender studies globally and the potential of the progressive and feminist religious scholarship and “contextual reasoning”.


Anti-gender campaigns Women’s/LGBTQ rights Gender-based violence Politics of fear Istanbul Convention Eastern Europe 



The theoretical framework and part of the empirical research of this study were completed during my visiting fellowships at Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki and the Department of Anthropology, University of Latvia (Latvian Governmental Scholarship).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The author confirms that there is no conflict of interest regarding this study.

Ethical Approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants performed by the author.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for the Study of Societies and KnowledgeBulgarian Academy of SciencesSofiaBulgaria

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