#4 International Now-Here


 

1. Which political role can feminism play in the contemporary world?

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

 

Historically, feminism is closely linked to anarchism and socialism. It was feminism that produced such brilliant figures as Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin, or Emma Goldman, to name just a few. In the final analysis, one can see the politics of woman’s emancipation after the October Revolution of 1917 as this movement’s main success. In the West, many feminist thinkers have understood the struggle for gender-equality as the most consequent strategy for reaching social equality, considering feminism as the most radical form of struggle to come from the Left.

By today, the political struggle of women’s liberation has successfully activated a broad spectrum of “gender identities” and played a decisive role in redefining how we consider subjectivity and the notion of the Other. Many varieties of feminism have become an integral part of the dominant neo-liberal ideology. At the same time, the universal strategy of solidarity between all women in resisting patriarchy has been called into question on a fundamental level. There is good reason to doubt the traditional feminist solidarity, which arguably ignores a great many differences between women all over the world.

For an example, in post-Communist Russia, any reworking of both feminism and socialism seems nearly impossible. At present, both forms of resistance to exploitation have been marginalized from political and social discourse, as Russian society voices its reactionary demand for the “law and order”. Women are attributed with the status of a “leisure class”, as their lack of economic and political independence becomes the norm. The liberalization of the economy has given rise to new, especially inhuman models of sexploitation. All of this demonstrates the pressing need for a critical re-examination of feminist politics both in Russia and in the West.

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?

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?

 

Read More

2. Solidarity between women of different backgrounds? Or universal solidarity, based on class?

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

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?

 

Elena Zdravomyslova
Activist//Petersburg

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.

 

Martha Rosler
Artist//New York

Feminism insists on the importance of a series of social "becomings" or processes of transformation rather than simply an improved status for women. Feminism, it is true, has already potentiated the recognition of previously "invisible" subjectivities and subject positions, a process that, in turn, has gone beyond the crucial questions of gender to also allow for post-colonial recognitions of the Other. The necessary solidarity of women in the face of patriarchy, thus, is only part of the story, in the face of growing income disparities in every area of the globe and the rapid pace of neo-imperialist "globalization" of labor, including the increase in sexual slavery that sends women and children across borders to the developed North and West from the former East Bloc and the so-called Third World of the global South.Feminists have traditionally included demands that affect poorer women (and children) as part of their agenda, providing a place for those women and children to voice their own concerns and provide testimony and make demands. This is the feminist solidarity that I recognize, not a reductively universalizing one. At the same time, I believe enough in universal human rights to insist that social practices in "traditional" societies (or social sectors) other than my own that damage women, such as genital cutting and mutilation, or purdah, bride burning, child marriage, and other horrors, should not be treated as local customs worthy of silent respect but rather should be investigated as onerous customs that impede women in those societies. Unlike religious missionaries and arrogant "civilizers", what is required here is a respect for the opinions of indigenous women as well as their suggested solutions, and a long-term commitment to working with them for change.

 

Keti Chukhrov
Philosopher//Moscow

Are there any chances for feminine solidarity in contemporary Russia? I don't think so. As paradoxical as it may sound, such possibilities were far more frequent during the Soviet period. In any case, even if the woman was a secondary part of society, the universalizing model of the homo sovieticus was still in effect as something she could share with men. Today, business (i.e. finance) serves as the symbolic model for reaching equality. Some say that during the post-Perestroika period, women received their independence, along with the right to self-determination and the right to display their own inventiveness. All of this may be true. However, if one examines the sources of the start-up capital in the feminine business-world, one sees that this capital was probably a gift, and what's more, a gift presented by a man to a woman on the strength of her sexual characteristics and not her qualities as a business partner. To put it differently, woman's business in Russia is still highly eroticized. In professional life, women are likely to exaggerate their feminine qualities, viewing other women as competitors. In this situation, there can hardly be any talk of solidarity as far as women are concerned.

 

Katy Deepwell
Editor, critic//London

Do I believe that women can work together for social change and that solidarity and political and social alliances are possible? Certainly, but like any coalition, such co-operation relies on mutual respect and trust, which patriarchy and women who believe that the current political and social arrangements are the best (ie neo-liberal consumer capitalism) do not value. Without trust and mutual respect between women, regardless of their background, education, age, sexual orientation, etc, women will be unable to work together for any form of change. Is gender enough to form such coalition? For me, this depends on the problem and the skills in organising a campaign or a movement for social change.  Women collectively have supported so many political and social movements as strong factions: as abolitionists, Cuban rebels, in nationalist liberation struggles, in many civil rights movements. Women have hoped these movements would free them but they have always been bitterly disappointed by the low regard in which their male colleagues held them and their constant complaint that the "larger" struggle was the only goal and women's liberation or demands constituted a minor issue to be resolved after the revolution.

 

Olga Lipovskaya
Activist//Petersburg

Searching for strategies of solidarity is an extensive and continual process. It takes place within the framework of international organizations and through the exchange of information between social and political groups of women all over the world. This exchange uses the resources of big international institutions. An especially striking example of this kind of solidarity can be found in the anti-war organization "Women in Black". Aside from regularly www protests, its members support one another in different countries such as Israel and Palestine, or Serbia and Croatia etc.

 

Ekaterina Degot
Critic, curator//Moscow

The discourse of the "Other" has been very harmful in all of its variants, be they synthetic-deconstructivist or rehabilitational. The Other does not exist. What we need today is a reassertion of the subject's universal heroism, not as androgyny, but as something abstracted from gender (and ethnos). This abstraction DOES NOT mean any coincidence with "masculinity". People who identify themselves as to whether they are women or men fail to understand that this status is no more important that than a congenital illness like asthma or stuttering: it simply conditions the bounds of our possibilities; it is something to be taken into account, but little more. Solidarity between women of different social or ethnic backgrounds is possible and necessary in the same measure as solidarity is necessary between the ill. Incidentally, there is no place better suited toward solidarity than a hospital.

 

Love Corporation
Artist group//Iceland

Respect and creative dialogue between women of different backgrounds is the key. All individual characteristics and peculiar wisdom of different social backgrounds should be cherished. 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? People should talk to one another with a focus on learning more about life.  Man and woman working together is the ideal.

 

Read More

Question 1 /// How important is it to appeal to the Communist roots of globalization today?

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

“Hold high the banner of the Communist International!” Anyone who grew up in the Soviet Union remembers this call, repeated ad naseum. Does this call mean anything at all today?

Today’s situation is usually sketched out in poetic descriptions of the opposition “multitudes vs. Empire” or even in gleeful Lacanian Leninism from Slovenia. While such intellectual radicalizations may briefly inflame narrow circles of international activists, such local flash-fires are quickly snuffed out, as neo-conservatism and fundamentalism make their explosive appearance. In this sense, the legacy of the Marxist International  – though still appealing and even sexy – seems compromised. Historically, it was a response to the global expansion of capitalism and its seizure of new market territories. Its answer: solidarity between the disenfranchised, be they workers, peasants, or intellectuals, regardless of ethnic, religious, or national location. As such, the International dislocates traditional conceptions of community and resistance. Both now/here and no/where, its utopia is clearly messianic but at the same time – as a philosophy of practical solidarity – it demands tangible results. One of these results is the current process of globalization, which actually rests upon universal movements like the International. This movement is in danger of being forgotten.

Bart de Baer
Curator //Antwerpen

It seems crucial to understand these, and it will be unavoidable, since they remain to be as a potentiality. They may lead to a critical awareness, a possibility to think the future. What seems important to me too is the roots of the Communist roots, the strands of thinking it comes forth from, so that it doesn’t become an isolated image but a multiplicity.

Viktor Mazin
Critic, curator, psychoanalyst // Petersburg

It is important to address a variety of globalization’s roots. In my opinion, the “romantic” boundlessness of capitalization played a far greater role in globalization than the Communist Manifesto. Notwithstanding the tangible historical connection between the International and the transnational corporations, they actually belong to different orders. It is not advisable to mix up an economic order with a political program, all the more since the political program has been discredited, while one might say that the economic order has been given the “green light” in terms of ideology. Any radicalization should not have the effect of eroding this thought, but should also not tarry in the utopia of its activity of resisting the state’s ideological apparatus. In my view, it is important to develop a poly-ethical position rather than the desire to influence a multitude of millions, in symmetry to the desires of the controlling bureaucrats, who serve the transnational corporations.

Read More

Question 2 /// Is it possible to break out of exclusive global representation?

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

The pathos of international solidarity was a key component for many a modernist movement, including Dadaism, Futurism, Fluxus, the Situationist International etc. Despite their aesthetic and practical divergences, they all accentuate the fact that we live on a common planet, where the political boundaries of nation-states do not play any role in defining the processes of the personality’s creative development. Regardless of this internationalist tradition, the system of contemporary art is far from fulfilling the proclaimed ideals of internationalism and solidarity. Many artists and art-professionals have been corrupted by “big events”, international success and trans-national competition. This dictatorial market neutralizes any and all progressive tendencies.

Which chances do you see for the ongoing democratization of art? Is it possible to break out of the framework of market hierarchy and exclusive global representation?

Ilya Budraiskis
Historian, activist // Moscow

The future of contemporary art and its strategies and forms is connected to changing the social context. It seems to me that there are no grounds for singling out the art-system for its cynicism and corruption, even if such accusations may be just. After all, one can apply this form of interrelation to capitalism as a whole. As mass movements grow, updating international solidarity in the face of Neo-Liberalism’s onslaught, they can supply new meanings to the figure of the artist.

Dmitri Bulatov
Artist, curator, critic// Kaliningrad

The growth and preservation of any process depends on physical differentiation. It also depends on a heightened unity of the field. This is how I would characterize the rhizomatic essence of any community’s existence, no matter whether they are artists, activists etc. Note that we are not speaking of solidarity as a constant quality – the community faces each motivation as it arises, forcing the community to change its vector of development each and every time. However, the ideology of “big events” or institutional success does not play any decisive role, in my opinion. I would characterize one of the Rhizomatic International’s attributes as the capacity for self-organized criticism. The combined effect of a multitude of small communities can break into the exclusiveness of global representation. Technological re-tribalization  – the gradual reversion of communities into a tribal state, accompanied by a strong technological dominant – is our time’s most important need. Without it, any progressive idea will inevitably become a decorative idiocy, once it takes its place at a trade-fair.

Read More

Question 3 /// How important is it today to stop the conveyor of big events?

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

The pathos of international solidarity was a key component for many a modernist movement, including Dadaism, Futurism, Fluxus, the Situationist International etc. Despite their aesthetic and practical divergences, they all accentuate the fact that we live on a common planet, where the political boundaries of nation-states do not play any role in defining the processes of the personality’s creative development. Regardless of this internationalist tradition, the system of contemporary art is far from fulfilling the proclaimed ideals of internationalism and solidarity. Many artists and art-professionals have been corrupted by “big events”, international success and trans-national competition. This dictatorial market neutralizes any and all progressive tendencies.

How important is it today to stop the conveyor of big events, opting for internationalist work on location instead?

Viktor Mazin
Psychoanalyst, curator, critic//Petersburg

It is impossible to “stop the conveyor” since art is not isolated from life’s other registers. And by the way, this utopian isolation would hardly lead to anything. But I agree that it is necessary to “work on location”. Regardless of what they say about globalization, we all work in specific cultural contexts. Once again, it is necessary to render the meaning of this work from the context that it affects.

Read More

Question 4 /// Is it important to consider the experience of new local communities?

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

Contemporary philosophers and theorists prefer to speak of communities rather than the International, of alternative groupings, pulsing and networking in affectation, eroticized in symbolic exchange. Whether you’re a Punk, a Raver, a Hip-Hopper or even a member of ATAC, radicalization is coded into your way of life. Because you can only be consequently authentic if you drop out from society’s general production in favour of relating to your community. For this reason, such communities are very site-specific. On the other hand, they are only possible thanks to the global language of pop-culture. Today, the experience of such groups appears as an important model for artists in search of the connections between local marginality and global significance.

In how far is it important to consider the experience of new local communities that draw their linguistic legitimacy from global pop-culture? In how far do they influence the development of contemporary art?

Olesya Turkina
Curator, critic//Petersburg

New international communities appear as pockets of resistance; then, pop-culture legitimates them. You might consider art as one of these communities; in some cases, there is a direct connection between art and resistance, as is the case with graffiti. But neither hip-hop, punk nor rap are capable of exerting any real pressure on art; the source of the pressure is actually consumer society. The speed with which consumption makes its appropriations is constantly growing.

 

Read More

Question 5 /// Is international style the only relevant possibility for addressing the local problematique?

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

The Soviet experience is a unique example of how internationalism was perverted and discredited, as Stalin’s projected realization of “socialism in one country” reduced internationalism to the idea of party-loyalty. Among other things, this doctrine also formed the conception of art “national in form, socialist in content”. This lies in stark contrast to contemporary art in the age of globalization, which has developed the converse ideological recipe for the artwork, executed in a unified style but referring to the parameters of the local situation.

Is international style the only relevant possibility for addressing the local problematique? Is there any space left for creative misunderstandings, lost in translation, experiences that are both subjective and local? 

Which experiences have you made in highlighting the uniqueness of a local cultural context as something of general relevance?

 

Gia Rigvava
Artist//Stuttgart-Moscow

Internationalism was perverted, but not discredited. The Soviet experience was a unique, valuable lesson. It taught us how and what to do, and what not to do. As to for art that is “national in form and socialist in content”, I don’t see anything wrong with it: it was a good formula for that place and time. Here, language was also already being unified in painting and sculpture, combining the genre basics of early European 19th century modernism with the elements of classicism. The style itself differed depending on national aesthetic preferences. I would say that nowadays we have the same situation. Of course, there is one big difference – there is no socialist content. But then again, there is no content at all. Just as socialist politics were trying to fill the work of art with a particular content, capitalist politics drain artworks of any content. All productions of meaning are constantly aborted. The world is cluttered with individualities, whereas presence is not tolerated as an identity.  Here, I don’t mean paper-controlled identity, but authentic identity, an identity which has something to say. If people could ultimately tell themselves “I am the one who…” instead of humbly occupying their places in the existing order, it would anticipate a different social climate and we could actually expect something to change.

I myself work on a particular ground – on the territory of a deterritorialized subject. The material I work with is my localized experience. I believe it is generally relevant. What I am doing can be asked anywhere, whenever the discourse of deterritorialization or adjacent discourses are brought into focus. I would say that I am committed to “highlighting” the experiences spotlighted by my identity. I guess I am not too far from the issue of “highlighting the uniqueness of a local cultural context as something of general relevance” which I think is not a wrong idea, it can work when things are done elaborately. But the question is how can any work be done elaborately on the peripheries? There are so many things missing there that unfortunately, usually, one ends up with no more than painful frustration.

 

Read More

Editorial Questions

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

Historically, feminism is closely linked to anarchism and socialism. It was feminism that produced such brilliant figures as Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin, or Emma Goldman, to name just a few. In the final analysis, one can see the politics of woman’s emancipation after the October Revolution of 1917 as this movement’s main success. In the West, many feminist thinkers have understood the struggle for gender-equality as the most consequent strategy for reaching social equality, considering feminism as the most radical form of struggle to come from the Left.


By today, the political struggle of women’s liberation has successfully activated a broad spectrum of “gender identities” and played a decisive role in redefining how we consider subjectivity and the notion of the Other. Many varieties of feminism have become an integral part of the dominant neo-liberal ideology. At the same time, the universal strategy of solidarity between all women in resisting patriarchy has been called into question on a fundamental level. There is good reason to doubt the traditional feminist solidarity, which arguably ignores a great many differences between women all over the world.


For an example, in post-Communist Russia, any reworking of both feminism and socialism seems nearly impossible. At present, both forms of resistance to exploitation have been marginalized from political and social discourse, as Russian society voices its reactionary demand for the “law and order”. Women are attributed with the status of a “leisure class”, as their lack of economic and political independence becomes the norm. The liberalization of the economy has given rise to new, especially inhuman models of sexploitation. All of this demonstrates the pressing need for a critical re-examination of feminist politics both in Russia and in the West.


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?
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?


Feminism strives for equality. But when a woman attempts to reach equality in the contemporary world, she will often adopt a male model of behaviour, becoming forceful, aggressive and conceited. Suddenly, a great number of important human qualities such as patience and the ability to understand the Other appear irrelevant. They are displaced onto the periphery and hidden in privacy; society is apt to experience them as completely unwanted forms of weakness. If this is subjectivity, then many women would prefer not to become subjects. In Russia today, we can clearly see in how far women have been successful in developing their own manipulative practices in order to reach their goals by playing with their “weaknesses” and their vulnerabilities. And men? Even they are hardly free in all their machismo. Real emancipation must free both sexes!


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?


In the contemporary world, there is much sex and much sentiment, but very little love. All too often, love is defined as a form of uncomplicated romantic relationship, welcomed as a brief interruption in professional and social life. In this case, love is a part of the machine of consumption, an example of how people are unable to deal with their own freedom and how they are incapable of truly accepting the freedom of the Other. On the other hand, love is often experienced as a traumatic addiction, requiring liberation or therapy, since it robs the human being of her-his independance. Is this something we should accept? Or can we search for love as a revolutionary possibility for freeing one another?


The act of love offers a possibility for stepping into a relationship of solidarity and becoming a part of a network of resistance to the capitalist order. Love has always been the fundamental means of breaking the illusion of existential loneliness. Today, it becomes the most relevant way of countering a notion of privacy that is trapped in autistic consumption. In this sense, the notion of love can hardly be confined to the bounds of the couple or the family; once it is opened toward the world at large, love can create communes of resistance and desire.


At the same time, love is a “ordinary” experience of the relation between human beings, men and women alike. This “ordinary” experience is only possible because it can be repeated again and again in the act of giving and liberation, withstanding the urge toward exploitation and consumption. Everyone knows this experience of stepping out to meet the Other. Now, it is time to bring this experience to the politics that define the life of our society.


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

Read More

Irina Aktyuganova, Petersburg

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

Which political role can feminism play in the contemporary world and in Russia specifically?
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?


Feminism is fate. No matter how the circumstances of your life or your inner attitudes develop, feminism is something you can never ignore, once you have been drawn into its discourses. Feminism is struggle. And if we want to reach some positive goal in society and politics, we cannot make do without its intellectual and political successes, its potential possibilities, and, in the final analysis, without its experience. More concretely, for us, the feminist frontline has shifted, becoming internal. Hence, it runs through our heart and our minds. Our only hope for transmitting all that occurs on this inner line-of-conflict, our only means, our only medium is culture.

Read More

Keti Chukhrov, Moscow

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

Which political role can feminism play in the contemporary world?

The goal is not to achieve simply to achieve legal equality; instead, we need to transform the problem of sex, bringing it beyond the system of binary oppositions. In my opinion, feminism has a great future, since it has proven capable of not only opening discourses on gender and its socio-economic backdrop, but also touches upon an ontological problematique. By asking questions of the feminine sex, feminism also raises questions as to its various modes of co-existing with the masculine part of society. Is the woman really an Other in relation to the (masculine) Others? This is probably one of the most fundamental questions that feminism has been able to ask. For the woman has always been no more than a narrative: she could even be the central object of an artwork, but her ontological status of Otherness, as the existence of the Other, was displaced from society’s communications at large, only to surface briefly in the event of love, which, in turn, could only present itself as an artwork. A contemporary reposing of feminism’s question cannot be reduced to criticizing the masculine or criticizing the feminine. Communication needs to be re-marked in non-binary terms, as does the event that occurs when the two sexes meet, even in this meeting’s erotic option. This does not mean that communication needs to become unisexual or purely based in groups. Instead, it means that we need to get beyond the phantasmal sexual expectations associated with the Other.

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?

Are there any chances for feminine solidarity in contemporary Russia? I don’t think so. As paradoxical as it may sound, such possibilities were far more frequent during the Soviet period. In any case, even if the woman was a secondary part of society, the universalizing model of the homo sovieticus was still in effect as something she could share with men. Today, business (i.e. finance) serves as the symbolic model for reaching equality. Some say that during the post-Perestroika period, women received their independence, along with the right to self-determination and the right to display their own inventiveness. All of this may be true. However, if one examines the sources of the start-up capital in the feminine business-world, one sees that this capital was probably a gift , and what’s more, a gift presented by a man to a woman on the strength of her sexual characteristics and not her qualities as a business partner. To put it differently, woman’s business in Russia is still highly eroticized. In professional life, women are likely to exaggerate their feminine qualities, viewing other women as competitors. In this situation, there can hardly be any talk of solidarity as far as women are concerned.

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

The qualities of vulnerability cannot die, since they are not sexuate qualities but psychological states. Nevertheless, weakness is a symbolic category well-suited to manipulative use by both women and men. In Russia , feminism is not only unacceptable to many men, but also seems intolerable to many women: men actually represent one of the most important stages of a woman’s formative process in both economic and social terms. It is interesting that – despite all of the nominal improvements – the woman is not capable of refusing her own phantasm, even (or because) it makes her an object, waiting for the man to present her with some selfless gift. This situation’s corruption does not lie in its expectation of such “alms”, but in that women come to expect this gift in the name of their sex; they are incapable of separating their persona from its sexuate projections. In other words, the woman defines herself by cultivating her sexuate traits. Her sex is the motor of her personal semiotic machine.

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

Revolutionary politics as well as any form of protest can be constructed according to any semiotic model. The image of vulnerability is one such model. However, this image will hardly be feminine. If it is, we will no longer be talking about politics. I am afraid that politics cauterize or burn out any feminine plasticity completely. This is not because they elevate masculinity above all else. Instead, politics do not tolerate the intimate or the sacrificial image of the Other. In fact, sacrifice is something apolitical. Of course, this brings Antigone to mind. Does she carry out the burial of her brother as a political or a familial claim? Is her protest political, or does it attempt to extrapolate the essence of femininity and every-day feminism, long since realized in the framework of rituals? Unfortunately, this question demands a more extensive answer. As far as revolutionary politics are concerned, it is only possible to play out the revolution by counterpoising a given quality to the system at hand, but not through strategic methods of re-politicization. This counterpoise might consist of becoming vulnerable, becoming an animal, a woman, a bum etc. Yet these have little to do with the “politics of weakness”, which are an oxymoron.

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

The possibility for liberation is something that begins in our minds. The relationship between the sexes, their erotic conflict, is based upon a phantasm. This phantasm is fed by narratives (cinema, literature), history and culture. (There is also dreaming: in dreams, the problem of sex exposes itself in all of its nudity). This is why I can only think of feminist liberation in a futurological key. In the first place, it would lie in freeing ourselves of the phantasm that produces the well-worn consumer clichés of physicality, speech, language, communication, and, finally, socio-economic relationships. Yet this is actually rather utopian, since “liberation” from the phantasm presupposes being freed from the greater part of desire. But desire is actually contemporary consumer-society’s main trick, since its satisfaction creates the illusion of immanent, authentic freedom.

Does love have any political potential in your opinion?

Do you think that there is anything specific in the feminine experience of love?

Love is an ontological problem. It only becomes a problem of gender or politics later on in the game. This is why love is so complex. We should remember how often narratives on love are intertwined with death: the aesthetics of love are thanatographic. In this sense, politics plays the role of an obstacle. Creon’s political demands on Antigone are more than justified. After all, he is trying to keep society’s peace. When Antigone carries out the ritual of burying her brothers, she is not motivated by love, but by a sense of obligation. She sacrifices love in the name of a ritual that serves an older society and its political system, its ancien regime. In the cases of both Creon and Antigone, politics bury love. Creon suppresses his love for his niece in favor of his responsibility to society at large. Antigone’s fulfillment of the ritual burial of her criminal brothers is – in a sense – also a political act, but it aims at an electorate that has already passed away. In both cases, the projections of love and eros undergo a drastic castration. Is love possible as something that takes place among couples or families, but that is “open toward society”? Probably. But I am afraid that such descriptions are very similar to the notion of a “civil society”. While the civil society is a wonderful institution, it is based on the Kantian ethical paradigm, which is only relevant thanks to its exclusion of any erotic ecstasy.

Nevertheless, communality based on love is possible through an attentive understanding of Christianity (cf. Slavoj Zizek, “13 Attempts on Lenin”). I do not think that the everyday experience of the relationship between people – especially if it is only based on respecting the Other – has much to do with love. The experience of “stepping out to meet the Other” is not that easy, since help often requires the sacrifice of personal interest. Human love – though virtual and universal – immediately constructs a hierarchy of greater and lesser intensities. The different intensities in the relationships to objects that come from differing subject are actually what compose love’s most painful problem. Only god can love everyone in equal measure. When it comes to the question of extrapolating love to society, political honesty and revolutionary ideals don’t help much. Let us at least remember the excellent film “The Communist” or Ostrovosky’s novel “How the Steel was Tempered”: like many other similar narratives, they are talking about real physical sacrifice and heroic self-effacement. And yes, this is probably love. Only it has very little to do with sex or gender, not to mention coitus.

Read More

Katy Deepwell, London

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

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?
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 start from my political perspective as a Western socialist feminist, for whom feminism is a resource and a source of strength. Feminism is not irrelevant to any form of political, social or cultural question today – especially as a form of critical and creative thinking about women’s position in the world to enable women’s perspectives to be heard. Women are 52% of the world. They possess intelligence, wit, untold capacity for endurance, invention, creativity and patience but what they frequently lack are opportunities, advanced forms of education and material resources (including money) to realise their ambitions. What women can produce in the world is still an unknown. It is impossible to specify what a feminine side of anything really is, only to realise that the feminine is usually the rubbish-dump for everything that masculinity does not value. Would social organisation be different if women’s imagination ordered the world – we don’t know. Plenty of women have written of their aspirations for social change and their utopian hopes for revolution on a macrocosmic and microcosmic level. Yet, the women leaders we have had in the world have suprisingly come largely from the right of politics, and their role has been to maintain and expand a social order which they did not invent, and this they have done with passion and conviction and very negative consequences. Do I believe that women can work together for social change and that solidarity and political and social alliances are possible? Certainly, but like any coalition, such co-operation relies on mutual respect and trust, which patriarchy and women who believe that the current political and social arrangements are the best (ie neo-liberal consumer capitalism) do not value. Without trust and mutual respect between women, regardless of their background, education, age, sexual orientation, etc, women will be unable to work together for any form of change. Is gender enough to form such coalition? For me, this depends on the problem and the skills in organising a campaign or a movement for social change. Women collectively have supported so many political and social movements as strong factions: as abolitionists, Cuban rebels, in nationalist liberation struggles, in many civil rights movements. Women have hoped these movements would free them but they have always been bitterly disappointed by the low regard in which their male colleagues held them and their constant complaint that the “larger” struggle was the only goal and women’s liberation or demands constituted a minor issue to be resolved after the revolution. The point is that women must also free themselves, morally, emotionally, socially as well as politically.


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?


Is feminism only about striving for equality? And equality in whose terms and in what social order?


There is an illusion that the following “human rights” if extended to all will automatically bring to women equality: the right to vote (alongside the political freedom to express one’s views), the right to education, equal pay for equal work, the right to medical care, to shelter, to security and safety (ie. freedom from exploitation, violence and abuse) and to freedom of movement. These United Nations-style human rights should be defended by everyone in the world for all their citizens. Yet is women’s claim to be “full citizens” in the world which remains in doubt in many countries where women’s access to political participation as representatives, to education, to safety, security or shelter, to travel and even to health care are controlled or specifically limited by either the state or their husbands, fathers or male members of their families. In the West, women’s secondary status as citizens in relation to such rights was the impetus for the women’s movement (which is not over yet) and for campaigns for women to gain access to the different opportunities in the job market, to have control of their person, to live a secure and safe life free from abuse and exploitation (sexually, financially or emotionally). In the East, while Soviet administration enshrined certain rights for women in its social apparatus, women constantly complained of experiencing the “double burden” of a full day’s work and the sole responsibility of domestic work and childcare at home. The illusion of a matriarchal home life (where women controlled domestic politics) was matched by the Soviet machismo worlds of culture and politics. Maybe this was no different from life in many other Western countries (e.g. Spain where machismo and matriarchial domesticity also co-exist) although many more opportunities appear to have existed in Soviet times for women’s employment, participation in the political process and for their general education and training. Is the privatisation and confinement of women to the “home” in post-Communist regimes, a liberation or a trap? Does it represent a refusal of women’s responsibility to be “full citizens” of the world or just a temporary concentration on consumerist, private pleasures in their lives to the maintenance of their home and families (for consumer capitalism). Vulnerability and dependency in the home are not qualities on which freedom and emancipation can be organised, in spite of the fact that freedom and emancipation is premised on moving from a position of weakness to one of strength and full participation in a democracy. If you are truly aware of the politics which inform your domestic life and in your neighbourhood and your city, then maybe this is the basis from which to become politically motivated and act. The desire for autonomy, the ability to make informed choices and to negotiate the circumstances in which you have opportunities, these are the pre-requisites of freedom.


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


To think of love as an energy for revolution is so romantic. When we talk of love we usually reserve it for one kind of love: the sexual love for an adult partner. This kind of love is unpredictable, explosive, all-consuming, fleeting, dramatic and powerful: we “fall”, we “are”, we “have” and behave as if no one else in the world ever felt or had love before. Everyone would like to see love as the solution to their problems. Sexual love is a joy but it is a private quest between two people and its most pleasurable moments are experienced as such: however illicitly or secretly obtained. Sexual love has social consequences:- marriage, divorce, separation, the birth of children, social approval and disapproval, social sanctions and taboos. It leads to the reinforcement of some of the most oppressive social codes of behaviour in both public and private life: where control of sex and/or reproduction is attempted. But love itself is so perverse. Think of the terrible consequences of certain kinds of “love”; sado-masochistic love as a struggle for power (in fantasy or reality); unrequited, ending or embittered love where it produces murder, violence against the ‘loved one’ and/or physical, sexual or verbal abuse; or even that patriotic form of love for one’s country (in the excesses of nationalism and war). We are encouraged to think that finding (sexual) love would mean the end of loneliness, the end of desparation, the end of despair. Women are taught to think that this form of love is their salvation whereas it may ultimately be just a form of torture, producing long-lasting and unwanted suffering. Maybe this conception of sexual love is just too limited but for me it does not provide a basis for emancipation. Possibly what we need more is emancipation from the idea that this kind of love is the only goal – if we want a better society and not just more forms of personal pleasure. Maybe we need to invest less in this form of love between two people and more in other forms of love (social, collective, familial) and think more carefully about love not just in terms of ‘having’ or ‘not having’ but giving as well as receiving. What about the love in friendship or the value of love within and from our families, the love of life, the love for building and changing our environment, investing in a love of nature? We cannot forget that there is always in our society the love of money, the love invested in consumer materialism, in “having” the best of everything – even if this produces an incredible poverty of thought and imagination or spiritual well-being. And then there’s the love of knowledge, the love of books, of ideas, of thought processes, of knowing that there are other incredible people out there in the world who made and wrote and produced the most marvellous and the most terrible things before we were born and who have lived or now live in cultures which we are not familiar. Perhaps this is a love of knowledge which is worth investing in if we want to build respect for all citizens of the world and thereby change the world.

Read More

Olga Lipovskaya, Petersburg

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

Which political role can feminism play in the contemporary world?


Seen from the vantage of contemporary thought from the West, feminism’s goal can be summarized as follows: the discovery, recognition and preservation of the multiplicity of feminine identities, in all of their socio-political aspects and their variation of identity. Racial, ethical, religious or cultural differences are just as important as individual aspects: differences of the body, of psychology, or of sexuality and so on. However, it is also feminism’s aim to search for common goals for women in struggling with the dominant culture of patriarchy. The results is a continual process of mediation between two tendencies that would seem to contradict one another.


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?


Searching for strategies of solidarity is an extensive and continual process. It takes place within the framework of international organizations and through the exchange of information between social and political groups of women all over the world. This exchange uses the resources of big international institutions. An especially striking example of this kind of solidarity can be found in the anti-war organization ” Women in Black “. Aside from regularly www protests, its members support one another in different countries such as Israel and Palestine, or Serbia and Croatia etc.


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


The quality of “weakness” is no more than a part of patriarchal ideology as far as women are concerned. Opposed to dominance and aggression, qualities that are self-evident in people of both sexes, weakness is part of a gender-dichotomy that facilitates different paths of forming these qualities in boys and girls. To simplify, the boy’s aggression is condoned and even encouraged as self-realization, while the little girl’s aggression is repressed. I agree that emancipation should concern both sexes; as a process, it is indeed taking place in developed regions or countries like Scandinavia or Germany , where the social-democratic or liberal models of society have been realized. As a result, we know many examples of how men are more actively involved in caring for their loved ones or their children, and of how women are represented in society’s power structures. I am convinced that this is one of the factors that determined the successful socio-economic of these countries to date.


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


Rather than talk about “the politics of weakness”, I would prefer to operate with the notions of universal goodness and justice, notions that feminist thinking extends to women as a class. I do not think that it is necessary to reinvent the bicycle: these ideas are essential to Christianity, Buddhism and many other philosophical schools. Thank god we have a choice: some might prefer Confucianism, while I feel better about Buddhism, for an example, about its ideas of non-violence, “edited and enhanced” by feminist theory.


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


Again, feminism has not thought of anything new; it has only spread general liberal ideas in relation to women. On the whole, feminist theorists have made a great effort to deconstruct the mechanisms of patriarchy as a culture that keeps the woman in a subordinate role on all levels of existence. These effort have been undertaken with a great deal of success for the last 50 years, producing a great number of new tendencies and directions in the liberal arts. More importantly, their praxis has shown that the equality of human beings is beneficial to society as a whole. Is it really necessary to give examples of how gender-equality results in a better quality of life? Compare Afghanistan or Tadzhikistan to Sweden or Norway . Or maybe we should look at the reaction of Russian women, when someone wants to introduce polygamy to Russia ? It may be that our women have not yet realized how advantageous independence and autonomy really are, but do they really become the second or the third wife?


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


I think that there is a specific kind of heterosexual relationship in which one can probably identify characteristics such “feminine” or “masculine” love, but even in this case, this specificity will change in parallel to the relationship in society as a whole. To simplify, if we separate sexuality, reproduction and love into different “conceptual clusters”, slowly cutting down heterosexism, all of our notions of love will inevitably change. In my bright future, the choice of partner will be free from all sides; virginity will lose its sacrality (or its obligation), reproduction will become considerably more conscious, sexuality will be more free, and love will define itself through the individual qualities of its participant subjects, rather than through romantic or mythologized factors, regulated by society and culture.

Read More

Love Corporation, Iceland

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

Which political role can feminism play in the contemporary world?


We see feminism as a strong tool to strengthen individualism and self confidence. If people feel that they are in charge of their life they function better in all ways. If people stop looking at themselves as victims but start to figure out ways to control their surroundings and their lives everything becomes more optimistic and better.


Which strategies of solidarity between women of different social, national, and ethnic backgrounds are possible today?


Respect and creative dialogue between women of different background is the key. All individual characteristics and peculiar wisdom of different social backgrounds should be cherished.


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?


People should talk together with the focus to learn more about life. Man and woman working together is the ideal.


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


To us feminism strives for equality but not uniformity. The politics of feelings are super important and should not be suppressed. If you feel free to express your feelings in a healthy manner it makes you feel better and stronger.


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


All artistic expression creates certain vulnerability. Artistic expression at it’s strongest addresses universal human experience on a personal level. So telling the truth can continue to be a revolutionary act as it has always been.


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


By showing this in reality and a encouraging self-confidence in all manner. And refusing to be put into categories or labeled in anyway.


Does love have any political potential in your opinion?


Yes. Love conquers all!


Do you think that there is anything specific in the feminine experience of love?


We hope that every human being experiences something specific and personal in love throughout their life.

Read More

Viktor Mazin, Petersburg

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

Which political role can feminism play in the contemporary world and in Russia specifically?
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 feel uncomfortable about writing for women. And this isn’t because I think that I am a man. Hell no! I can’t speak for men either, even more so because I don’t even want to speak for them. I don’t feel comfortable about speaking for anybody of any category at all. Speaking for women (for the elderly, for children) is a task that can be left to the politicians and their “masculine” mugs. After all, they need to go on and on chopping their teeth in order to divert our attention from the Black Flag. In this sense, I agree that feminism is “an integral part of neo-liberal ideology”, or to be more precise, of “neoliberal” oligarchy. But this does not mean that the “liberal” does not turn into a patriarch at home, nor does it imply that the laws passed by “liberals” have any pro-feminist quality. Was the trial of the American president’s phallus really a perfect example of in how far feminism has spread to the American legal system? In the end, the President didn’t only launch his rockets into the open mouth of bureaucracy; he also fired some missiles at the Third World, even if this wasn’t the only reason. Phallocracy may well wrap itself in the cloak of feminism, but does it ever really succeed? Isn’t the entire neo-liberal discourse perforated by rockets, missiles that you will never be able to hide?


Perhaps we should remember that any talk that addresses the variety of feminism will still be refering to a mass of highly complex theories, of variagated interweaves of Marxism, psychoanalysis, criticism, deconstructivism etc. In sum, the American capitalization of feminism, even in its legal guise, is nothing more than camoflage for neoliberal ideology. In this context I remember this one thing that happened in Rio de Janeiro. One guy from America, a professor for psychoanalyis and feminism, totally turned “the discourse of the Left” upside down. One night, he happened to find himself in a certain club, which was actually a whorehouse. By morning, he had already forgotten all about how the girls had reached this place. With a shaking voice, he was babbling deliriously: “They’re all mine, if I want them, they can be mine and mine alone”… I don’t want to pass judgement on him. I also don’t want to talk about what the United States have done to Brazil. Read Chomsky. I simply want to emphasize the following: discourse is commerce, among other things. Discourse can be exchanged for money. Discourse helps you to valorize yourself, reserving a place in society’s structures. That American was just plowing the fields of feminism. Feminism is a way of making money.


In Russia, “feminism” is perceived as a four-letter word. Patriarchal “men” will say that it is because of feminism that women have gotten out of hand, that they have become incapable of doing anything, which is why the family as such is falling apart and the whole country is going to hell, that our only hope is a strong president and so on. On the other hand, some “women” who call themselves “feminists” are ready to tear apart any “man” who dares to hand them their coat or to light their cigarette. It would be great if we could start by really understanding what “feminism” and “feminists” actually are. I am rather pessimistic as far as this is concerned, even if books on gender-studies are being published, even if Irina Arikhstarkhova or Irina Zherebkina are prolific writers…How many people actually read these books? And how many people listen to the psychologist who says that women should serve both men and god, because this is how psychology works? How many people listen to the biologist who says that nature has adapted women to hearth-keeping, monogamy and subordination? And how many people read woman’s magazines and watch woman’s TV, all of which have been inculcated with positions rather distant from any kind of feminism. More often than not, TV shows for women provoke little more than horror and disgust. It is as if they only had one goal, namely either to emasculate women or to transform them into slaves. One constantly has the feeling that these TV-women live by the Lacanian equation of “Woman = Other = thing”. They do everything to make the woman into a Thing. A Thing on the same level as a car, a mobile-phone or a thick gold chain, belonging to a “real man”. “Wow, if I had something like…” As far as the differences between “men” and “women” is concerned, this has always been and still is a very difficult question. The only thing I can say with certainty is that the differences between “men” and “women” do not take place between “men and women”. Wherein does this difference lie? In the social construction of gender-roles? Not only. In the biology of childbirth and monthlies…? Not only. In psychic structuring in relation to the phallus? Not only.


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?


Contemporary Russia’s means of mass disinformation have market-launched two saleable models for “femininity”. The first model is indepedent, self-assured, strong, and aggressive. The self-made woman , to put it differently. This ideological ready-made is called the “Self-made Woman”. Recently, I was reading a magazine and saw that one of the two or three most popular women of this type is Condoleeza Rice. In how far can this aggresive model can be called “feminine”? Well, friends, it’s up to you. It’s still a mystery to me how this political monster could have ever become a role model for women in Russia. Maybe you’re right: “coldness” is considered cool, while human qualities like patience, passivity, and the ability to understand the Other are totally out of fashion. At the same time, I remember the Tao and its finely argued victory of the weak, passive, and flexible, all of the things that do not correspond to the Western model of the “real man/terminator”, “Condi Rice”, but they do correspond to the Russian model of “tobacco and a three-day-beard reeking of vodka”. What you call “the revolutionary politics of weakness” sounds incredibly attractive to me. But I don’t think that weakness will die out, since it is actually no more than a phantasm of the “strong”, self-assured paraoiac, taking on “responsibility” for the fate of the other, bringing phallocentric “freedom”, which supply “women” with goods and production or making lots of little bunnies (the Russian version of “coolness”).


The second mass medial model transports the woman as a thing. This market brand can come in two variants. One of them is custom-tailored to the majority of Russian women, who are stilled keyed into the patriarchal order. This type feeds on the discourse of “tradition”, on “nature” or “that’s the way things are” and “it was always like this”, or “this has been the Russian way since day of old”. This is the functional type, the “woman” who cooks and cleans well, the woman that raises offspring. Under more recent circumstance, she functions much like a refridgerator, a vacuum cleaner, a washing machine or some other appliance. She is the hearth-keeper (while he is the “bread-winner”, the “hunter”). This “woman-thing” caters to broad segments of the working-class. The other type caters to the businesspeople and the oligarchs. As a rule, it is connected to the marketing of the modelling business and its schoolyard, the so-called “Golden Youth”. Unlike the first type of “thing” model, the second type has already been objectified beyond belief. According to the media of mass disinformation, especially those that serve the “Golden Youth”, this “woman thing” has already been robbed of any capacity for thought and speech; she has become a purely decorative element. This “thing” does not have to function properly as a house-wife. Instead, she works for the business-views of her partner and competitors. This type has replaced the older type of the femme fatale who will drive you out of your mind, a phantasm thought up by “knights”, poets and Don Quixotes, “unreal men”, that is. But in the economy of total consumption, it is impossible to drive anyone out of their minds. From what mind can you be driven? The real man is a brand manager.He still has “that thing”. This is the business-perspective that the women’s magazines and women’s TV shows all propogate: get “that thing”, what’s it called, you know, like…


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


Sex+sentimentality instead of love – this is how Jean-Luc Nancy has characterized the “American way of life”, i.e the image that they offer us as something that is better by default, since there is no alternative. A quick roll in the hay, a few tears from a cheap Hollywood melodrama, and it’s off to work, out into real “life”, down to the Golden Calf. Love will only distract you from your work. Show me a lover that makes a good worker. What the hell is he thinking about? He’s supposed to be working. So, dear friends, it seems like love has a great deal of political potential! Love and death force us to consider what our lives actually mean. Love forces you to reconsider the values that have been imposed by the American ideology that has come to dominate Russia today. Love is what allows subjectification. Love is the one horse upon which you can place all of your stakes, e.g. your career, all your money, your effectivity, your success. “Everything” will suddenly seem petty and unimportant, nothing more than a “paper sword”, according to the poet Shnur (=the lead singer-lyricist of the rockgroup Leningrad). But in a society that forces you to love the bodies of products, where you dream of BMWs and Motorolas, it seems unthinkably difficult to love. It is so unthinkably difficult because already prerequires subjectification. The vicious circle: to love, you need to be a human being, and to be a human being, you need to love.


Note that we’re not talking about being in love. Those in love are prone to the hysterical and even psychotic consumption of goods and services. I call this behaviour psychotic, because this kind of consumption is connected to the disorder of narcissism. In this context, consumption is a kind of supporting treatment, preventing complete collapse. The “branded” girls of the so-called “Golden Youth”, its “golden lionesses”, constantly live in this state of psychosis. The male world of capitalism has turned them into products. In this final analysis, this means that they can only see themselves in shop-windows, as tradeable goods. But in a society of consumerism and information, products are fluid. The environment is subject to constant change. In this industrial zone of constant obliteration, it is nearly impossible to stabilize any image at all. This is the world of patriarchy, but simply no more than a patriarchal hallucination.

Read More