Which political role can feminism play in contemporary Russia?

In Russia , like in other countries with transitional economies, the emergence of weak political feminist groups runs parallel to the discursive backlash toward patriarchy. This backlash confirms archaic ideas of the rightness of the male and female; its public sexism and its dreary biologizations of sexual difference are followed by the legitimization of inequality. This is actually the arena in which “our” feminism currently operates. Our main goal is to explain why feminism is such a hobgoblin to Russian intellectuals. What are they so scared of? Why do they laugh feminism off so often, without even trying to understand what it’s all about…

Which strategies of solidarity between women of different social, national, and ethnic backgrounds are possible today?
Or is it better to shift our focus from the differences between men and women in order to address different universal features, such as political power-relations or social class?

I don’t think that it makes much sense to supply a universal answer to the quesiton of whether to give a priority to feminine solidarity or to any other kind of status-solidarity. I feel that solidarity “pulsates” in dependance of the social problems at hand. I immediately experience solidarity when women are prohibited from singing on a stage in some country because of their sex, when I hear people legitimizing rape, when I find out that a schoolteacher announces that girls are – by nature – less intelligent than boys, when girls are deprived of the chance for higher education some place in Central Asia… However, other contexts will activate other aspects of identity, leading to the solidarity of class, age etc.

Do you feel that qualities like “vulnerability” will die out as unnecessary capacities?

Understanding the Other, the ability to perform emotional labor, the ability to listen: are these weaknesses? Or strengths? If no one were to do this form of work, we would soon be left with nothing but a factory of robots in place of humanity… However, these qualities-resources can become hidden means of manipulation whenever they are declared as secondary, when they are not valued and rewarded according to achievement. Both men and women use the manipulative practices that you describe. Furthermore, they are used by underlings and all of those who are sure that they will be put down and shut up. The tactics of manipulation allow you to reach your goal in a society that will fail to hear you otherwise.

Or is it possible to engage in a certain revolutionary politics of vulnerability?

Of course, these are beautiful words. The revolutionary politics of the weaker sex? The demonstrative vulnerability of geisha-girls and spies? Weakness as an explosive strategy? Having been nominated as the weaker and gentler sex, women either violently reject weakness to step forward with emancipatory pretences, or admit that they are weak, propagating the slogan “You’re the head, and I’m the neck…”

How can feminism convince human beings of both genders of the need for emancipation and of the benefits of real freedom?

Feminism’s point of departure is the fact that patriarchy’s “treasures” are not accessible. The hopes for a masculine protector or an economic provider are ephemeral. Still, the desire to be protected is an undying dream for most Russian women. But counting on help from the strong often leads to complete bankruptcy and collapse. With many of the weaker sex’s representatives, this is often the case. While economic and political fragmentation erase the hope for patriarchy’s benefits, they also preserve and heighten patriarchy’s ills, such as symbolic racism, chauvinism, violence, and dependence. In order to avoid them, we need to reach independence and equality. Of course, the choice is not a simple one to make. But who said that freedom is pleasure? “It’s better to be needed than to be free” – this is something I know from experience. A line from a children’s song. However, we can’t count on always being needed by someone. We only need ourselves…The advantage of freedom is the lack of deprivation and the gain of a readiness to cope with problematic situations on one’s own. But there are so many situations like these. What we actually need is a balance of economic and political freedom and emotional dependence, which is actually a part of any human existence’s base. This is why love is a dependency that should not be discarded.

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

I find it difficult to talk about love in such categories. I think that love has many faces. Furthermore, the currency of love’s different forms varies according to the different phases of an individual’s life. It is extremely dangerous to politically manipulate emotions, which bring on collective passions, collective love, collective rage, and then, collective guilt, collective atonement… Love is a personal matter, but its political potential is dangerous…