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#4 International Now-Here

Elena Petrovskaya, Moscow

 


 

Which political role can feminism play in the contemporary world?
Which strategies of solidarity between women of different social, national, and ethnic backgrounds are possible today?


I must note that feminism has never paved its way under the aegis of universalism. Quite on the contrary, feminism has always emphasized the multiplicity of differences. As an event, universalism is an idea that stems from an alternate interpretation of difference and its role in political struggle. To be concise, one could express this as follows: why should we strive for difference if it already exists, if we encounter such a great variety of genders, ethnic identities, faiths etc.? As strange as it may seem, the truth is what is never given in advance, which is why it demands universality. Yet this universality does not come first but last: universality demands nothing more and nothing less than a change – a liberation, if you will – of subjectivity itself.


However, I do not think that it is feminism’s contemporary vocation to fulfill universal goals: instead, local problems usually take center-stage. In our country, for an example, even traditional forms of feminism are still extremely marginal. I would even say that they are unwanted. As ever, one must bear the burden of the elementary discrimination against women, which is but poorly camouflaged on all layers of social life. This means that women themselves will need to play no small role if they are ever to face the purely practical side of these issues.


Do you feel that qualities like “vulnerability” will die out as unnecessary capacities?
Or is it possible to engage in a certain revolutionary politics of vulnerability?
How can feminism convince human beings of both genders of the need for emancipation and of the benefits of real freedom?


It makes little sense to oppose weakness and strength to another. By doing so, we involuntarily substantiate weakness, transforming it into a variety of presence (in the philosophical sense). But weakness is actually related to a different situation, namely to a situation in which objectification fails to take place, where there is only a redistribution of power. In philosophical jargon, we call this the situation of immanence. Weakness is good in that, in failing to become political (i.e. a figure for power), it present a challenge to the hierarchies that social language calls ‘success’. Weakness is a way of life that circumvents the powers-that-be, which include the much-cited bounding of gender-roles. Weakness does belong to femininity, especially if one understands the latter as a quality color-coded by gender. Non-violence is a well-known variety of weakness; furthermore, it is weakness recast politically. But on the other hand, the politics of non-violence are highly questionable, because they – and more broadly, weakness – do not contain any form of teleology. Weakness means the positive absence of goals, of goal-acquisition, and of the pretence to power. In this sense, weakness is not simply a form of “defenselessness” in the face of “masculine” aggression.


Does love have any political potential in your opinion?
Do you think that there is anything specific in the feminine experience of love?


I doubt that everyone knows the experience of love. Love does not only consist in stepping out to meet the Other; it also means that you are permanently ready to become an Other yourself. The experience of love is the experience of becoming. In this sense, it contradicts love’s existing institutions. For an example, marriage’s socio-economic components are quite concrete, setting the boundary for love’s anti-social aspects. And love really is anti-social. Yet we all indulge in love’s culturally illuminations and in its psychological experiences. To understand its liminality, its anti-sociality is an impossible undertaking. More often than not, our experiences of love are as pre-scripted as contracts. This even applies to love’s more odious guises. But if these experiences were not predetermined, they would not be experiences. This brings us back to vulnerability. To be unafraid of losing, to love with any guarantee, without any certainty that this will ever happen again, to love at full risk… Is this what makes up the specificity of “feminine” love? It may well be.

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