Anarchafeminist Festival in Zagreb (April 2007)

From 13 to 15 of April, an anarchafeminist festival took place in Zagreb, organised by the Croatian group of Anfema. Various groups and women gathered in Croatia from all over Europe, mainly from the Balkans (Bosnia, Macedonia, Rumania, Serbia), from Eastern (Poland and Czech Republic) and Western Europe (Switzerland, Austria and Germany)! This festival satisfied one of our main needs: the need of Balkan anarchafeminists to get in touch and meet each other. So, this first contact became true thanks to Anfema that took the initiative and we all are grateful for this (and also for their flawless preparations about accommodation etch). Almost everybody noted that should be a second step in these meetings: to cooperate on our common issues, to create a network among us, to encourage each other on our words and deeds. These perspectives of a future cooperation, especially between the Balkans, seem to me more urgent, as we see 10 more countries from Eastern Europe getting into the European Union [ironically, in this way it’s easier for us too to communicate in an international level with people of the movements because the borders are now open for many of us – though the problem between Greece and the comrades of Macedonia still remains]. For instance, our “common issues” and fields of cooperation could be women trafficking and unification of legislations (e.g. in abortion or rape laws, on prostitution etch) through the Union’s Law.

 

The three days of the festival were full of workshops and gigs, group self-presentations, presentations of some special issues from different countries and even talks about various topics. Because, I was not given much room here, I will mention only three of the festival’s discussions, without de-valuating the other workshops and talks. I believe that these three “moments” that I will refer to, actually can give you a point about the political, not concrete though, speech that this festival managed to express.

 

3 moments

In the 6-hour (!) workshop of the Croatian group of Queerilica, the organizers pointed to discuss over the “unstable” of the gender categories. Through personal narratives of our engendered experiences, discussions over the gender differences, the definitions of “male” and “female”, we tried to de-fetish these terms in daily life and, thus, to give emphasis in the gaps of continuity of this part of ourselves. The discriminations, the concept of difference as hierarchy, the stereotypical thoughts were filtered through a critical glance that pointed the engendered elements of the mind and body of the dominant discourse. “Exodus” from the engendered relations was considered, for some of us, to be a part of the “exodus” of the dominant social relations, wherever those would be embodied: in the political group, in bed, in the streets, in work or in family. There was a big interest for me on this workshop, cause usually in Greece “this kind” of talks is given mostly a spicy and not a liberating content.

 

During the presentation of Sister-to-Sister from Poland, the organizers were trying to point out the limits of an anti-authoritarian women’s speech towards a central political issue in Poland, as was this of the abortions. They presented the political establishment’s speech on abortion, which is inaccurately called “pro-life”, meaning that takes the side of Life (of the unborn child!) and against the women’s right in abortion. Then, they presented the alternative leftist speech, which is called “pro-choice” (that is, for a woman to have the choice to make an abortion or not), giving emphasis in the difficulties of such a struggle into a conservative, Catholic, sexist society. Today, in Poland the right of abortion is recognised only for the victims of rape and these women that will deal with heavy health problems during the birth. And the doctors usually show unwillingness to conduct an abortion. I found a great interest in this discussion, as it concerns things in Greece, even if the situation is not exactly the same. In Greece, the feminist movement won the “abortions law” struggle, at the 80s’, but this heritage soon became a weapon in the hands of an equally depressive sexist behaviour. A woman’s right to have an abortion was distorted through its bad use and the abortion itself became a… kind of daily prevention from getting pregnant – a situation that equally aggravates the female body as a result of the dominant sexist culture in bed (e.g. being careless about “safe sex”).

 

Finally, I will try to say some words on a third discussion that took place with an initiative from Anfema and had to do with the need or not of (still) making today women’s only groups. Those that took part in this talk were somehow divided. There were people that stood for the mixed groups, pointing out – I think – a more general and abstract speech about social revolution and the concrete of the anarchist movement. This “side” exercised some critic on the separatist, “therapeutical” (healing), ephemeral and partial character of the women’s groups. The other “side” that defended the women’s groups (along with the mixed ones) gave emphasis in the need of political socialization of women’s experiences, “so as to have the women learn to listen to their voices in public”, of a development of a women’s self-consciousness and of a claim of a space for women in world that has been built by men for men. It’s telling for me that this second aspect was argued mostly by women of European countries that experienced in the past some rich feminist movements, or at least by women that had similar influences from such movements and they had built their socialisation in a similar way. The important thing for those that supported the creation of such “closed” women’s groups was that these structures were considered to be a profound continuing of the good, old feminist slogan “Personal is Political”, that sexism is been built in daily life and around things that we are not used to talk in a political manner and which become visible only through a definite and concrete resistance to them. Thus, the women’s groups themselves, where we did find them in history (e.g. from Mujeres Libres to parts of the Italian and German autonomy), didn’t wait any man to exercise a critic on them, so as to evolve to something better. They kept this right (to criticise themselves) to their selves.

 

Between these arguments, there was made another point also: about the lack of interest that characterizes many men towards the field of women and, generally, gender oppression. So, some women said that their women-only form of group was not made by choice, since no man was ever interested in such a speech and action. I personally think that this was telling even in the festival in Zagreb! Even though, more men than in the Skopje festival (2005) took part in the Zagreb festival (about 40% of the 120 people that I counted were men), only a 20% of the people that watched the discussions were men. These are some perspectives that should worry us too, here in Greece.  

 

I want to end this report by repeating something that was told by Karin from Vienna in this final discussion and expressed my feelings very much, something between a joke and a serious political statement (at least, that’s how I took it!): “If today women’s groups are called “therapy groups”, then yes, I accept it, because someone has to cure us from this sexist society!” I think that the festival in Zagreb was a part of our treatment, a treatment everybody knows that doesn’t cure us in a definite way though it does makes us recognise and challenge in a more essential way ourselves and society in general.

Comrade from terminal 119 (www.terminal119.gr)

Published in “Blackout – in the social factory” magazine in May 2007 (www.blackout.gr)

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