Inspired by life. A Timisoara- Berlin- Warsaw- Bucharest clothing collection
The cloths that are part of the Inspired by life. Timisoara-Berlin-Warsaw-Bucharest clothing collection are created, transformed and re-used starting from what is around us, in our everyday environment. We think of our environment, of the objects we come across, of the people we want to identify with, of our bodies in their most physical aspects, of the ways in which fashion and concepts of beauty are influencing us, etc in order to transform clothes into vehicles for ideas. By transforming clothing, the practical, everyday objects into concepts (reflecting the interactions we experience, the discussions we have, the texts we read, the ideas we exchange) and then transforming these concepts into practical, familiar, everyday objects – cloths – back again, we intend to realise once again that dichotomies between body and mind, “high” (art) concepts and everyday life, theory and practice need to be constantly demolished.
We use different practical methods to make visible the narratives that are informing the cloths and the raw materials that we use are of varied and multiple nature. We could mention here the actual physical objects such as clothing items that we transform or fabrics that we use to make new cloths. We could also mention actual events, facts, encounters and discussions that triggered the motivation for a certain piece and that informed its concept and its design. We could mention as well the theoretical texts (present in the collection in the form of the several quotations that we use) texts that are important for us in the understanding of our situation as persons, as women, as artists, as members of the society. These are texts that are exposing our present situation in the times of global capitalism as times when life has no value in relation to capital and texts that envision possibilities of resistance and of reclaiming life.
Inspired by life, although names itself a “collection” will not follow a certain formal line such as common compositional elements for the pieces, or a certain type of fabric, a certain colour scheme etc. that would give the different pieces a feeling of formal unity. Each piece that we do for the collection follows its own story, and we move from one piece to another, according to the ideas that we want them to become the bearers of. Some cloths are carrying quotations that are a direct reaction or response to the origin or “story” of that particular item that we are using or transforming. Other pieces are using the clothing as a somewhat neutral surface on which carbon copied images of our (already mediated) reality are exposed as constructed and are connected to quotations that are exposing and explaining the artificialness of the things depicted in this images even further (things taken for granted such as the “naturalness” of gender, for example, or the “normal” disconnectedness between the women working in a sweatshop and the women who get to wear the cloths). Other pieces have on them parts kept together by zippers, parts with texts of protest and revolt, in a society in which the possibilities of revolt are more and more normalised, limited, absorbed and policed, and in which protest, in order to be possible, often has to take the subtle forms of the quotidian. In this sense, the zippers are holding together different fragments of texts explaining different aspects of a multifaceted reality. Some pieces already took a form or we already know how to make them, some pieces will maybe remain only sketches and plans.
Read more here:www.moodboard4inspiredbylife.wordpress.com
Priveste-ma asa cum sunt. Cuvinte si imagini ale femeilor rome
Dikh man kadă sar sem. Lava aj dikimata le rromnenqe
See me as I am. Words and images of Roma women
Priveşte-mă aşa cum sunt. Cuvinte şi imagini al femeilor rome
Peste tot în Europa, majoritatea romilor trăiesc sub limita sărăciei, cu un acces scăzut la educaţie şi la piaţa muncii, în condiţii care determină ca speranţa lor de viaţă să fie mult scăzuta faţă de cea a majoritarilor, în condiţii care anihilează stima lor de sine şi care îi determină să-şi reprime sentimentul propriei lor identităţi.
Ca membre ale unei etnii care a fost oprimată timp de secole şi care continuă să fie marginalizată, situaţia femeilor rome este cu atât mai dificilă, acestea aflându-se la intersecţia a multiple discriminări: de etnie, de gen, de clasă socială. Majoritatea femeilor rome îşi trăiesc viaţa între aceste coordonate, prinse între discriminările societăţii majoritare (care le priveşte ca fiind parte dintr-o etnie „nedemnă”, „periculoasă”, „primitivă”, etc.), între discriminările unei societăţi organizate patriarhal (care menţine femeile într-o stare de marginalitate şi tăcere, punând asupra lor povara muncilor socotite exclusiv „feminine” şi povara unor norme şi prescripţii inerente „feminităţii”) şi între discriminările unei societăţi axate pe individualism, proprietate şi consum (care are nevoie pentru reproducerea capitalului ca anumite categorii de persoane sa fie menţinute într-o stare de continuă izolare şi sărăcie). Femeile rome sărace trăiesc într-o lume în care discriminarea, excluderea şi marginalizarea par a fi un destin de neevitat, perpetuat de generaţii, în condiţiile în care ele îşi asumă în exclusivitate responsabilităţile pentru muncile casnice şi de îngrijire, au un acces precar la sistemul de sănătate şi de educaţie, suferă violenţe fizice şi verbale din cauza genului şi etniei lor, trăiesc adeseori în adăposturi improvizate, cu veşnica teamă a evacuării de către autorităţi sau a incendierii de către grupuri extremiste, în condiţiile în care majoritatea muncilor la care femeile rome au acces sunt cele refuzate de populaţia majoritară – muncile dificile şi socotite degradante -, în care reproducerea lor este considerată „periculoasă” pentru „puritatea” naţiunii, în condiţiile în care ele asistă la felul în care copiii lor trăiesc aceleaşi discriminări ca şi ele, în ciuda discursurilor neoliberale care promit o aparentă evoluţie spre o societate mai democratică.
În ultimii ani, un val de reacţii negative împotriva populaţiei rome în general şi a femeilor rome în special se poate observa în mass media românească şi europeană, confirmând încă o dată că opinia publică e încă dominată de stereotipuri şi prejudecăţi în privinţa etniei rome. În acelaşi timp, studii recente arată o creştere a nivelului de intoleranţă al societăţii româneşti faţă de populaţia de etnie romă. În acest context, prezenţa femeilor rome în sfera publică europeană a fost şi continuă să fie un subiect controversat, aspecte relevante ale vieţilor lor fiind neglijate, în timp ce sunt scoase în evidenţă elemente tradiţionale sau acte antisociale, aceste femei fiind trecute la categoria „cauze” ale unor probleme sociale ele nefiind considerate, aşa cum ar fi corect, persoane ale căror vieţi/condiţii reflectă politici publice şi construcţii culturale nedrepte. Acest fapt conduce la construcţia unei imagini false care nu reflectă identităţile femeilor rome.
Acest fenomen (de învinovăţire/blamare) nu este caracteristic doar societăţii româneşti actuale, ci are adânci rădăcini în istorie, atât în cea românească cât şi în cea europeană, femeile rome fiind în mod continuu prezentate, prin intermediul diferitelor medii, în posturi stereotipice şi denigratoare. Construcţiile acestor imagini false ce nu reflectă identităţile femeilor rome (ci reflectă doar situaţiile de marginalitate în care le plasează societăţile majoritare) se constituie în adevărate cercuri vicioase, care acţionează atât la nivelul mentalului colectiv, accentuând rasismul din societate, cât şi asupra altor mecanisme sociale, şi care predetermină/prefigurează în mod negativ modul de viaţă şi perspectivele copiilor de etnie romă.
Această broşură este rezultatul colaborării unui grup mixt de femei rome şi non-rome şi se doreşte a fi o analiză a imaginii femeilor rome în cultura şi spaţiul public românesc şi european, atât a felului în care această imagine şi procesele construirii ei participă la crearea stereotipurilor şi a practicilor de excludere şi marginalizare, cât şi a felului în care posibilităţile femeilor rome de a-şi construi un spaţiu al lor – eliberat de rasism şi prejudecăţi – şi de a vorbi prin propria voce, se pot contura. Analiza intersecţională a situaţiei femeilor rome pe care prezenta broşura şi-o propune rămâne profund conştientă de faptul că noi, cele care am contribuit la alcătuirea ei, avem privilegiul de a vorbi dintr-o poziţie favorizată, prin faptul că noi toate am avut acces la educaţie, prin faptul că o parte dintre noi suntem femei „albe”, prin faptul că avem posibilitatea să dăm voce opiniilor şi dorinţelor noastre de schimbare. Vocile acelor femei care sunt cele mai marginalizate, cele mai exploatate, cele mai precare, cele mai ignorate rămân încă să se facă auzite. Păstrând în minte acest fapt, această broşură – al cărei scop practic este să fie folosită în licee pentru a provoca dezbateri despre rasism, sexism, marginalizare şi strategii de combatere ale acestora – îşi doreşte să se adreseze atât celor marginalizaţi/marginalizate, în speranţa că ar putea servi ca un instrument care să provoace o analiză a situaţiei lor în perspectiva unei schimbări, cât şi majoritarilor, ca un instrument care să-i determine să conştientizeze şi să-şi recunoască propria situaţie privilegiată, indiferent că e vorba de privilegiul de a fi „alb”, privilegiul masculin, de clasă socială, etc., recunoaşterea acestor privilegii deschizând posibilitatea unei contestări eficiente a relaţiilor ierarhice din societate, relaţii care menţin anumite categorii într-o stare continuă de marginalitate.
Dikh man kadă sar sem. Lava aj dikimata le rromnenqe
And-e savorri Euròpa, e rroma зiven and-o baro ćorripen, biedukaćiaqo aj bibutăqo, kaj keren ka von te na зiven but, aj lenqo patisarel te avel peravdo. Sar membrùra le etnìaqe kaj sas but uśtăvdi bute sekolenθar vi adies si kadă, e situàćie le rromnenqe si phari, kadale si k-e intersèkćia bute diskriminàćia: etnìaqo, gender aj klàsa soćiàlo. Jekh baro gin le rromnenqo зiven palal kadave koordonàtura, astarde maśkar e diskriminàćia le societaqi (kaj dikhel len isindoj jekh etnìa ”laзani”, ”traśarni”, ”purane”, etc) aj maśkar e dikriminacie jekhe societaqi patriarxàlo( kaj inkerel le зuvlen and-o peravipen aj aćhipen, aj ćhon len te kerel bută kaj von phenen k-e si nùmaj andar e зuvlă) aj maśkar e societaqi kaj si na maj andar o individualìsmo, konsumo( kaj kamel vaś e reprodùkcia le kapitalismosqe ka aver kategorie manuśenθar te aven inkerde and-o baro ćorripen).
E ćorre rromnă зiven and-e jekh lùmă kaj i diskriminàćia, e exkluderea aj o dinipen avri fal amenqe sar jekh baxtipen nasul kaj na daśti te na dikhas les, kaj e rromnă asumin lenqe peravde bută, si len jekh akceso tikno k-e edukaćia, k-o sastipen, inkeren but dukha aj butvar зiven le traśaça ke daśti aven dine avri kaθar lenqe khera; but rromnă keren butĭ aj si dine rigaθe.
And-e palutne berśa, generalosθe,sas but nasul reàkćie and-e rumunikani mass-mèdia vi europeanikani andar e rromani populàćia aj speciàlo andar e rromnă sikavindoj inke jekh var k-e soćietèta rumunikani si pherdi diskriminàćia, xatărimata andar e rroma. And-o sa kadă vaxt, e palutne studiòvura sikaven jekh bari intoleranća la societaqi rumunikani anglal e rromani etnìa. And-o kadava kontèxto, o dikipen le rromnenqo and-e publikani europaqi sfèra sas aj si vi akana jekh subièkto kaj kerel nasulimata, aj von na si sikavde sar von, si biprinзarde, aj si sikavde e elemèntură tradićionale vaj antisoćiale bută, kadave rromnă si nakhle k-e kategoria ”kaùze” le socialenqe problèmură aj na si sikavde sar manuśa kaj o lenqo зivipen sikavel e publikane politika aj kultùrane kerdimata bilaćhe/bićaće.
Kadava butĭ gelel k-e jekh xoxavdi imàgina, kaj na sikavel e identitètură le rromenqe. Kadava fenomèno (dośalipen) naj karakteristilo nùmaj andar e rumunikani societaqi andar kadava vaxt, ci si len bare darina and-e istoria, rumunikani vi europanikani, e rromnă si sikavde palal bisarane mèdiura, stereotìpură. Kadava xoxavde imàgina kaj na sikaven e identitètură le rromnenqe( sikaven e situàćie kaj e rromnă si diskrimine) keren pen and-e niśte truja nasul, kaj butăren o godipen le manuśenqo, barindoj o rasìsmo aj kaj influencil negatìvo o зivipen le ćhavenqo aj o lengo avutnipen.
Kadava liloro si o rezultàto andar o sombutĭpen jekhe mixto grpo rromnenθar vi gajenθar aj kamel te avel jekh analìza le rromnenqi imàgina and-e kultùra, vi publiko rumunikano spàcio vi europanikano; aj sar kadale imàgina aj lenqe procèsura daśti te keren stereotìpură, diskriminàćia aj sar daśti e rromnă te keren jekh than kaj te avel na maj lenqo aj kothe te daśti te phenen so kamen. E analìza intersektionàla le situaćienqe la rromnenqe kaj o amaro liloro kamel te sikavel lan, зanas k-e ame, kaj kerdem lan, si amen o lośalipen te das duma andar jekh than laćho, andar o fakto ke amen si amen akceso k-i edukaćia, ke jekh rig amenθar si ”parne” зuvlă, ke daśti te phenas so ame kamas te paruvas. E vaka le зuvlenqe kaj si but peravde, diskrimine, ignorisarde aćhon te keren pen aśunde. Inkerindoj godĭ kadava butĭ, kadaja liloro- si lan i res te avel labardi and-e liceura kaj te keren vakărimata andar o rasismo,sexo, marginalizacia, aj sar te keras te na maj aven- kamel te avel andar e manuśa marginalizime, kamas te avaa jekh instrumènto kaj te kerel jekh analìza lenqe situaćienqe ka te paruven pen, vi le gaзen sar jekh instrumènto kaj daśti te keren len te den pe godi ke von si baxtale, ke phenas andar o baxtalipen ke san ”parno”, ke san murś, ke aves andar jekh soćiàlo kategoria ,etc; o prinзaripen kadave baxtalimata daśti te putres o sajipen te phenes andar e relàćie kaj mukhen nesave kategorie and-e jekh marginelitèta kaj tavdel maj dur.
See me as I am. Words and images of Roma women
Roma live under the threshold of poverty all over Europe. They have limited access to education and labour, which causes their life expectancy to be much lower than that of people in the majority and annihilates their self-esteem, thus determining them to repress their own identity.
As members of an ethnic group which has been oppressed for centuries and continues to this day to be marginalized, Roma women have an even more complicated situation, as they are targets of multiple forms of discrimination: ethnic, gender and social. Most Roma women live their life inside this coordinates, trapped between the discrimination of the majority who see them as part of an “undignified,” “dangerous,” “primitive” ethnic group, as well as the discrimination of a patriarchal society (which maintains women in marginalization and silence, putting on their shoulders the burden of labour considered exclusively “feminine” as well as the burden of prescriptions inherent to “femininity”) and the discrimination of a society revolving around individualism, property and consumption (a society which needs the multiplication of capital, which is based on the continuing status of isolation and poverty of certain categories of people). Roma women of poor economic means live in a world in which discrimination, exclusion and marginalization seem to be an inevitable destiny, perpetuated for generations. They exclusively assume household and caring labour, they have precarious access to the health and education systems, they suffer physical and verbal violence because of their gender and ethnicity, they frequently live in improvised shelter, in perennial fear of being evacuated by the authorities or being put to fire by extremist groups. Most labour that Roma women have access to is rejected by the majority population as it is difficult and considered degrading. Their reproduction is deemed “dangerous” to the “purity of the nation.” They witness their children suffering the same discrimination as themselves, despite neoliberal discourse promising an apparent evolution towards a more democratic society.
In recent years, a wave of negative reactions against Roma population in general and Roma women in particular can be noticed in Romanian and European mass media, thus confirming yet again that public opinion is still dominated by stereotypes and prejudice about Roma people. At the same time, recent studies show an increase in the level of intolerance of Romanian society towards Roma people. In this context, the presence of Roma women in the public European sphere continues to be a controversial topic. Relevant aspects of their lives are overlooked while traditional or antisocial elements are highlighted. Roma women are listed under “causes” of social issues and are not considered as persons whose life/condition reflects unjust public policies and cultural constructs. This leads to the construction of a false image which does not reflect the identities of Roma women.
This phenomenon (of blaming) is not typical only to current Romanian society, but is deeply rooted in history, both Romanian and European. Roma women have been consistently presented, through the different media, in stereotypical and denigrating positions. These false images which do not reflect the identities of Roma women (but only the marginal situations in which they are placed by majority-led societies) have become a vicious circle which impacts not only the collective mentality, and thus lead to increased racism in society, but it also negatively impacts social mechanisms which shape the livelihood and horizons of Roma children.
This brochure is the result of cooperation between a mixed group of Roma and non-Roma women and it proposes an analysis of Roma women in the Romanian and European culture and public space, looking at how this image and the processes by which it is constructed are connected to the appearance of stereotypes and the practices of marginalization and exclusion, and looking also at the ways in which Roma women may come to build a space of their own, free from racism and prejudice, where they can have their voice heard. The intersectional analysis of the situation of Roma women that this brochure presents is based on the awareness that us, those who have put it together, have the privilege of speaking from a favoured position, because we had access to education, because some of us are considered as “white” women, because we can freely express our opinions and desire to change the status quo. The voices of those who are marginalized, ignored, exploited, living in precarity, remain yet to make themselves heard. Bearing this in mind, this brochure – whose practical purpose is to be used in high schools for debating the issues of racism, sexism, marginalization and solutions to effectively address them – is addressed both to those marginalized, in hope that it will become an instrument of analysis and change, as well as to those in the majority, in the hope that it will determine them to become aware of their own privileged situation. Whether we talk about the privilege of being “white,” male, of higher class etc., acknowledging these privileges will open the perspective of truly challenging social hierarchies, which have been maintaining certain categories of people in marginalization for a very long time.
Positioning in borderless Europe
A conversation between h.arta and Kontekst
Kontekst: You are living and working in a former Eastern European country which is now part of the EU. We are currently witnessing general euphoria in Europe regarding the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. Many exhibitions and projects related to the topic have been organized, art works produced, etc. How would you comment on that?
h.arta: In the early nineties, after the end of the communist regime and during the period of “transition” in Romania, there was a sentence commonly used in the political speeches from the entire ideological specter and broadly reproduced through the mass media: “Now finally, Romania can start to belong to Europe again”. This sentence repeated in sentimental references to the sacrifices of the revolution or in practical observations about the sacrifices needed to be made by the population in order to insure the success of the transition and the process of joining the EU, meant the same thing in both cases: the communist period was such a powerful abnormality that it had the ability not only to stop time and keep our country away from the developments of Europe, but also to challenge its spatial perception. This was the message sent out during the transition period and this is the message also contained now in the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall: the countries of the socialist block lived for almost 50 years in a confined space and in a gap in history that should be erased in order to return to the “normality” signified by the freedom of circulation (more of capital than of people). The “borderless” Europe that is celebrated this year through so many cultural events (and perhaps the current economic crisis and the questions this crisis raises regarding the success of global neo-liberalism is a catalyst of this celebratory euphoria) is the end result of this process of erasing all differences, the process through which poverty and exploitation are hidden under an apparent freedom of movement for everyone.
Kontekst: What you describe is symptomatic of how the EU-Europe constructs itself through the idea of belonging: belonging to Western Europe (liberal capitalist). This idea is actually an ideology that means expansion (of course of its markets). To belong to Europe means to belong to Western Europe. This process is not a dynamic process of exchange (though it is often presented as such). It is a one-way process as Tihomir Topuzovski explained. To belong means to adopt and implement a wide range of so called values belonging to Western democracies which of course make the process of exploitation possible and secure. However, if we take a look at the history of colonialism as the European modernity project and also if we are not blind to what is going on at the moment where Europe is increasingly sinking into processes which Žarana Papić termed the fascisation of societies, we must ask ourselves what values we are really talking about here.
h.arta: How is the topic of Kultur Kontakt’s broader international project “Without Borders” relevant in the context of your work?
Kontekst: Regarding the question of context and since we are speaking from two contexts (as one of us currently lives in Vienna and one in Belgrade) we would like to mention two events from our contexts, which are paradigmatic for the current situation in contemporary Europe which would also answer your question. One is “Operation Spring”, the biggest police raid since WW2 launched in Austria in 1999 when more than a hundred African migrants were imprisoned and accused without proper proof in the trials under the shield of “fighting organized crime”. This operation is part of the ongoing practice of criminalization and violence against migrants in Austria in the last 10 years (the same situation also exists in other EU countries). The other event is the “Belgrade Universiade 2009”, an international sports event for which occasion an informal Roma settlement situated next to the athletes’ residential area was brutally dismantled by the city authorities in order to produce an image of “clean” Belgrade and “clean” Serbia. Thus, both events tell us a great deal about alarmingly institutionalized racism and nationalism which must be seen in connection with European colonial history, European nationalism with its war politics and present neo-liberal policy that values profit more then human life and that needs hierarchies in order to keep running. Hence, Europe after 1989 tells us about these and many other discriminatory developments and not about justice and democracy which is only nominally mentioned.
h.arta: Perhaps, further on, we could discuss our approach to the topic of the present “Without Borders” project. Later on we could also answer this question ourselves.
Kontekst: Concerning our conceptual approach to this topic, we think it is the only possible one: as soon as you are framed in such a way, you have to discuss the frame, and you have to analyze all processes that are hidden or invisibilized. Therefore, we want to show how capitalism functions and how hazardous it is.
On the methodological level, our decision was to consider how to attempt not to reproduce established hierarchical representation regimes immanent to the curatorial practice as we know it today (a practice that fails to question the division of labor and working conditions), and immanent to the institution of contemporary art. So, we are interested in researching work procedures and formats such as collective authorship, collaborative projects, and not hegemonic curatorial selection processes for the sake of pure representation and reproduction.
In that sense, we can go back to your own artistic practice. Can you go into more detail about your approach in developing your own concepts, methods and formats? As you have based your artistic practice on the rethinking of art space as space for informal networks, interdisciplinary joint work, reading texts, debates, workshops, screenings, etc, do you think such an approach can challenge “the neutrality” of the art space? And do you think it can generate a potential for new subject positions and practices?
h.arta: What is most important for us in our practice is to constantly question our position as artists, as citizens, as women based in a country that used to be part of the former „East“, as “white” women living what is now a „European“ country, as cultural workers who are part of a system with all its contradictions, with all its fakeness and hypocrisy sometimes and still with all its potential to produce meaningful analysis and critique. And, of course this work of continually examining one’s own role and position cannot be done outside collective practices, outside collaborative work and inter-disciplinary practice, trying to create models for work that bring theory as close as possible to practice and that also encourage debate and continually attempt to correct the inherent hierarchies that are created inside groups. We consider art to be a good method of making this sort of analysis possible, of creating the situations for meaningful encounters and discussions.
When you describe your own work it is always difficult to clarify within the structure of your writing the gap that always exists between some sort of ideal projection of what your work wishes to be and the actual accidents, failures, and compromises that your work inherently contains. And we think that it is in the very analysis of this gap where the potential for change lies.
We consider that perhaps the most relevant thing one can do in a world where exploitation and violence is always hidden under a screen of words (communist propaganda, Christian „morality“, neo-liberal „democracy“, etc), is to constantly make yourself aware of this gap between the words and the actual realities they conceal (while also constantly trying to correct your own gap between your words and your actual everyday life and decisions). This brings us back to our question about our position towards the topic of a „borderless“ Europe. We completely agree with your answer and we share your approach: when the general tone is one of celebration of the end of all contradictions, it is important to discuss exactly those contradictions and inequalities that are the fabric of the capitalist system.
Tihomir Topuzovski, “FROM THE IMAGINING OF THE BALKANS TO THE INVENTION OF THE WESTERN BALKANS”, Reartikulacija, Issue 6, Ljubljana, 2009, http://www.reartikulacija.org/RE6/ENG/hardcore6_1_ENG_topu.html
Žarana Papić, “Europe after 1989: ethnic wars, the fascisation of social life and body politics in Serbia”, in: Filozofski vestnik, special issue The Body, (ed.) Marina Gržinić Mauhler, FI ZRC SAZU, Ljubljana, 2002, p. 191–205
FEMINISME. Recapituland concepte si afirmand noi pozitii/ FEMINISMS. Reviewing concepts and affirming new positions
Book project, Timisoara, 2010
Contributors: Petja Dimitrova, Lina Dokuzovic&Eduard Freudmann, F.I.A. Group, C.A.R.E. Centre, Carmen Gheorghe, Simina Guga, h.arta, Reni Hofmueller, Katharina Koch, Monica Melin, Nita Mocanu, Katharina Morawek.
The book is available for download here:
Feminism reduced to the communist failure of “state feminism”, which, although it led to the inception of an emancipation process by including women on the labour market, ended with the state controlling women’s bodies, through Nicolae Ceauşescu’s birth rate boosting policy.
Feminism reduced to gender mainstreaming, which resulted in Romania’s passing of laws related to gender, under the pressure of European Union accession conditions, resulted in a “normalization” of gender issues and in creating an appearance of democracy and gender equality imposed “from above.”
Feminism reduced to the concept of “equal opportunities,” integrated in a context which put competition and meritocracy among the chief elements on which democracy is based.
Feminism reduced to women’s possibility to “choose” between having a career and having a family, even if this choice is possible only for women financially capable of making it (since for most women this means dividing their time and energy between work-related responsibilities and housework-related responsibilities, which are often not shared), and even if most women are under constant conservative pressures that makes it difficult for them to renounce the idea of matrimony and motherhood.
Feminism reduced to political correctness both in mainstream culture as well as in the discourse of intellectual elites, reduced to an imported form of hypocrisy, alien to the Christian “values” of our people.
Feminism reduced to a movement that deprived women of their “femininity” and which is aiming to undermine “natural” relations between the two sexes – in a context in which misogynistic, homophobic and racist discourses (which, for example, question Romanian women’s right to abortion but express concern regarding the fertility of Roma women) are becoming a more and more frequent occurrence.
These are the meanings of feminism most frequently encountered in the mass media and public addresses. These interpretations range from an inclusion of feminism in a neoliberal apparent democracy in which women are important as participants in consumerism, to a conservative condemnation of feminism as a dangerous trend that undermines “natural” gender roles, or a trend that is alien to the orthodox foundations of Romanian culture.
Reacting unfavourably to these interpretations and replacing ideology with genuine interest for real people’s lives, different initiatives, groups and persons act upon the knowledge that it is necessary to approach feminism not as a label, but from multiple angles which allow the exploration of this mobile and flexible semantic and action platform.
As a result of cooperation with some of these groups, we organized between September, 2008 and May, 2009, a project entitled Feminisms. Histories, free spaces, participatory democracy, economic justice, a project which aimed to be a place of reflection on different feminist practices in Romania and abroad, on those questions, actions, approaches and practices which questions situations considered “normal,” which create new spaces and enlarge perspectives, which engage our creativity and courage to believe that there are alternatives to the existing system, that there are freer, more democratic ways and dignified ways of living, and that finding these alternatives depends on the gestures and actions of each and every one of us. This publication is an outcome of our project.
Starting from topics discussed in Feminisms, such as the importance of assuming feminist positions and methods in education, women’s labour, and precarity, the issue of feminist visibility and visibility of gender topics in general, the need to create spaces that are free of inequality, spaces where a more democratic and inclusive society can be projected, we have put together the chapters of the present book. This book aims to be a manual covering different aspects of feminism: labour and precarity, gender mainstreaming and postfeminism, heteronormativity, feminist education, transnational feminism. Each of these chapters are nuanced by “supplementary reading” consisting of texts and artistic interventions that, in their majority, have a connection to the events that took place in the project. These contributions, as examples of analysis and resistance, are the ones that actually give substance and concreteness to the concepts explained in the chapters of this book.
In 2006, we put together About Art and the Ways We Look at the World, a guidebook that resulted from our work as teachers and our practice as artists interested in triggering learning. About Art and the Ways We Look at the World was the outcome of our search for ways to teach and learn that go outside the narrow perspectives that so often present the only “Truth.” The decision to edit this book in the format of a manual addressing a wide circle of people and with a practical purpose, came from the same desire to avoid narrow definitions of the kind that this introduction begins with.
This publication is aware of its own limitations (some of a practical nature, such as the fact that we only had access to Romanian and English texts during the research stage, but also conceptual limitations deriving implicitly from the first category – since perspectives from certain parts of the region and the world remain unknown to us). Who determines what is relevant? Who has the power to give definitions? Whose experience is relevant? Why do we learn the things we learn? How can we establish which information is important to us and to our peers? How can feminist strategies and perspectives be used to analyse the power structures that global capitalism relies on? How could we best catalyse a process by which knowledge can no longer be the instrument of a society based on inequality, and how can we make it the instrument of dialogue and achieving a less suffocating reality?
The format of this book was also influenced by the nature of its relationship with the audience of our project. Because this project was a platform where different fields intersected, a debate arena that did not exclude domains other than art, we had not only a very diverse audience, but we even became the audience for the activities that our guests performed and the topics they brought to the discussion table. This fluid understanding of the concept of “expertise” involving both ends of the transfer process was the underlying premise of the way we decided to organize the contents of this book. This kind of book is a learning instrument both for us (who have been editing it at the same time as learning more in-depth about its topics) as well as for its readers. This seemed the most appropriate manner to reflect a project that aimed at being a prototype for methods that trigger knowledge anchored in daily life and situations that impact on how we acquire that knowledge. These methods are the result of cooperation and sharing by people from different environments and contexts, and they are permanently under scrutiny and change.
histories, free spaces, participative democracy, economical justice
september 2008- april 2009
Histories: emancipation, „transition’s costs”, politics of reproduction
Free spaces: solidarity, difference, queer, sharing, resist exploitation, grass-roots democracy, net activism, alternative economics, alliances
Participatory democracy: emancipatory education, empowerment, knowledge production, public space, visibility, culture jamming, free speech
Economical justice: women’s labour, transnational ethics, immaterial labour, precarity, women’s economic rights, reproductive labour, „efficient” bodies, glass- ceilings, gender hierarchies, sexual division of labour, migration
“Feminism” is a difficult word to use in present Romania. After the emancipatory politics of the early communist regime, that at the beginning of 1950’s led to a development of women movement, later, during the regime of Ceauşescu, “emancipation” and “feminism” became only empty words, covering the gloomy reality of the thousands of deaths of women as a result of the pronatalist politics. After 1989, during the transition time and in the present women and men publicly declaring themselves as being feminists have to face a double blame. On the one hand the word carries the implications of the former communist regime, and on the other hand, in the present mostly conservatory public discourses, “feminism” is generally considered as being a concept “imported from the West” that has no relevance for our society based on “Christian” rules.
As condition to the integration in the European Union, Romania adopted a series of laws with a gender content (the Law for Preventing and Combating all Forms of Discrimination (2002), the Law on Equality of Opportunity between Women and Men (2002), the Law for Preventing and Combating Violence in the Family (2003). The adoption of these laws is an important step in the struggle for gender equality. But still, the fact that these laws where adopted on a purely legislative level, without the appropriate institutional frame that would put them into practice, and the fact that their adoption was a result of external pressures and not an outcome of the pressures made by the civil society, by the ones whom these laws are actually addressing, all these are diminishing the effectiveness and the power of change of these laws. These laws are reflecting the “democratical” face of capitalism. Aspects with an important gender content, such as precarity, poverty, migration, aspects that have as a direct result violence and discrimination, are not under the incidence of these laws. If you consider that you live in a society where all the gender issues were successfully normalized, then the problems that you are actually living are becoming only your personal failures, without any general relevance. The illusion of normality that these laws are creating have an effect of desolidarization, in the conditions of a society where all the facets of life are commodified and where living beings and ideas are important only if they are contributing to the accumulation of capital.
An efficient discussion about patriarchy can be made only if its connection to capitalism is clearly shown, only if the network of privileges and power, on which global capitalism is structured, is analysed. A discussion that would not limit itself to the listing of different forms of oppression but that would refer also to the responsibility that each of us has to oppose these oppressions.
Feminisms is a tool for analysis and action.
Feminisms is a structure that brings together different initiatives, with their different purposes and approaches, a structure that creates a platform for discussions, interactions, alliances, for a multiple definition of the term “feminisms”, a definition that does not take the form of a label but that is a mobile and flexible basis for interpreting and for acting.
Feminisms is an artistic project that is motivated by our need to demonstrate that there are alternatives, that there are efficient tools by which a reality always seen as a monolith, all-encompassing and unchangeable can be questioned and transformed. Even if this transformation is constructed out of small gestures.