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Subverting the Media to Boost Support for LGBTI Rights

Mima Simić
Still image from “The Power of Media Subversion in Croatia.” In a country where LGBTI individuals remain a persecuted minority, this activist believes that by subverting media messaging, advocates can influence public opinion and make Croatia a more hospitable environment for all.

Mima Simić believes that subverting the media is the key to influencing public attitudes on LGBTI and gender issues in Croatia. She knows from personal experience—in 2007, Simić became famous when she outed herself on the quiz show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, at the time the most popular show on Croatian TV.

She has since appeared on everything from talk shows to cooking programs to promote LGBTI rights. Her visibility and personal approach have changed perceptions in a country where gay people remain an oppressed minority.

Simić’s activism is crucial at a time of worrying regression in Croatia. In January, an exhausting two-month political power struggle resulted in a new center-right government. Restrictions on fundamental freedoms have emerged since, with attacks on activists, independent media, culture, and education on the rise.

For instance, recent political pressures resulted in the resignation of the main person behind an effort to reform school curricula. The reforms would have introduced, among other things, civic education in schools. (Open society advocates struck back: on June 1, mass protests in support of curricular reform took place in Zagreb and more than 10 other cities across the country.) 

The first signs of the current illiberal regression appeared a few years ago. In 2013, a “pro-family” referendum attracted 800,000 signatures in just two weeks and constitutionally outlawed same-sex marriage. Against this backdrop, it’s vital that advocates find new, creative ways to communicate with people, tell human stories, and subvert messages of fear and hatred.

Across Europe, traditional political structures are being rearranged, and civil society is evolving along with them. New activists are supporting the transformation of European democracy, one of whom is Mima Simić.

She wears different hats—translator, feminist, film critic, lecturer, writer—and is not affiliated with any formal NGO. Yet her impact in her home country of Croatia and beyond has been significant. By embracing the changing trends in activism, Simić is reaching out to people through a medium they trust, in a way they understand.

Mima Simić is a fellow with the Open Society Effective Activism Project. At Open Society is a video series highlighting the people and ideas that are inspiring our work—and changing the world.

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