Feminist Street Actions in
In spite of several feminist activist alliances of the past years, it would be wrong to assume that activists initially chose temporality because of its advantages as an organising principle or tactical tool. Instead, the provisional nature of cooperative actions reflects problems that are specific for post-socialist countries and only partly coincide with problems of western feminist perspectives: the reluctance to identify and be recognised as feminists due to the general misunderstanding and stigmatization of feminism as a separatist and misandrist ideology; the depoliticised attitude towards a number of issues including social differences within the fictionally unified subject of women; the lack of solidarity between feminists and other potential allies as an expected consequence of depolitisation in an atomized society that, at first sight, leaves us with only one common denominator: “class-blind” consumerism.
Feminist academic, non-governmental and grassroots groups in
My essay is focused on some promising exceptions.
“Are There Any Feminists Left?”
“After the fall of the Berlin Wall, in the period of great social and political changes, one part of women’s and feminist groups in Slovenia was sucked into ruling structures while the other continued to develop in academia. (…)” In the eighties, the feminist movement was more condensed and perhaps that is why it was more visible. In the nineties, several focal points appeared and the feminist perspective was incorporated into the social body as a whole. Feminists are present at universities, institutions; there is very lively publishing activity, with many small presses releasing feminist works (*cf, Sophia, ŠKUC’s Vizibilija and Lambda editions, Krtina, Analecta, Studia Humanitatis,…); there is Delta magazine; Radio Študent is doing an excellent job when it comes to feminist issues; an active part of feminist scene consists of women’s groups (SOS phones, Association Ključ); a number of cultural and artistic projects with women’s or feminist themes (festivals like City of Women and Rdeče zore) is growing” (Bahovec in Simčič, 2006). The one part not mentioned by Eva D. Bahovec can be placed within (post)feminist politics only in retrospect. Artists who founded Disko FV and theatre FV 112/15, also organised Festival Magnus, the first gay and lesbian public coming out in
Vlasta Jalušič observes that proliferation of Croatian, Bosnian and Serbian women’s and feminist groups during and after the war was enabled and (NGO-ed!) with international foundations’ support. For obvious reasons, the support for Slovenian groups was smaller. After 1995, the lack of funds, pacification of feminists during the war (many women’s groups’ focus shifted from political, educational and preventive work to humanitarian and social work) and their defensive policy (they organised only in defence of already existing rights) decreased the number of feminist initiatives and activities (Jalušič, 2001: 173-196) to the extent that they became invisible and ineffective in the political arena. Today, many young feminists are unaware of these local traditions. Instead, they are influenced by women’s studies and feminist theory courses based on British, American and French literature. They accept these as the only available feminist genealogies. Leaving aside the fact that local and specific feminist traditions do exist, the monopoly of Western feminisms and their unquestioned application to post-socialist situations is problematic. It “consents to the populist conviction that the era of accelerated globalisation is not an appropriate time for stipulating distinctions between East and West”. The idea of our fundamental sameness and equality is a “symptom of an ideological blind spot, a blindness which is unaware of its own claustrophobic impulse and totalitarian flavour; both of which characterise every ideology of privacy” (Gržinič, 2005: 60).
In 2006, journalist Valentina Plahuta Simčič wrote about current feminist movements in
Feminist Street Actions (2000-2007)
The first feminist street actions of the new century in
De-privatising the Public
On the same day, Nada Hass (“nada” = nothing in Spanish, “hass” = hate in German), an improvised all-female activist choir performed at Klub Gromka in ACC Metelkova mesto. Dressed up as cleaners and housekeepers, they sang: “Let’s set things straight with our past, let’s wipe away the borders, let’s make our relationships work and wipe away the violence…” (Ozmec, 2001:14). Nada Hass was a fictional public relations personality invented in order to “avoid exposure of individual activists and avoid media production of “leaders” (…) Nada Hass did many phone interviews but never appeared on television. Many were disturbed by Nada’s combination of playfulness, irony, performance and political issues” (Zadnikar, 2004:16).
Sexual Autonomy and Reproductive Choices
In 2000, the new right-wing government attempted to implement legislation making artificial insemination available only to couples who are married or cohabiting. This serious violation of women’s reproductive choice faced severe opposition from a wide array of feminist, lesbian and other groups. It culminated in the Festival of Resistance on
A second sexist and homophobic attack on women’s rights by the state followed in November 2006, when the former Minister of Labour, Family and Social Affairs, Janez Drobnič, proposed a “fertility raising strategy” which, among many other discriminatory suggestions, limited access to abortion. The strategy proposed a 400 € fee for certain abortion procedures, thus making sure that abortion would become inaccessible for a large number of poor women. This unconstitutional “strategy” attracted considerable public criticism from experts and non-governmental organisations and was followed by the Prime Minister's proposal to remove Minister Drobnič from office Criticism was expressed in many public discussions, which resulted in the creation of the Public Initiative for the Formation of a Comprehensive National Strategy, in January 2007. The new initiative was formally sent to the new Minister of Labour, Family and Social Affairs, Marjeta Cotman, and the government.
The criticism was first expressed by activists. On 17 November 2006, The Feminist Initiative in Support of Abortion Rights entered ministry bureaus and awaited the employees with statements objecting to the proposed strategy: “The state reduces women to irrational beings who are unable to decide for themselves (…) and whose primary function is reproduction. (…) We strongly oppose the proposed strategy and ask ourselves how is it possible that Slovenian government is systematically violating and abolishing human rights. Who is going to be next?” The activists used posters and banners to surround the bureaus and expose it to the public as a violator of women’s rights. The slogans – “Women = birth machines”, “Defend abortion rights - tomorrow it is going to be too late”, “Yesterday migrants and Erased citizens, today Roma people and women; who is next?” – placed discriminatory policies against women in the context of institutionalised violence against marginalised minorities. On November 30th, The Initiative also co-organised a public discussion about the proposed strategy together with
In addition to the actions mentioned above, an anonymous group attacked the strategy with a graffiti action that included witty slogans like “Let’s abort Drobnič!” or “I’d rather be a test-tube baby than Drobnič’s child” (or in Slovenian: “Bolje epruveta kot Drobnič za očeta”).
Poverty and Solidarity
In 2003, official statistics estimated that 260,000 Slovenian citizens live in poverty. Since then, many textile and shoe companies (Prebold, Polzela, Beti, Peko, Alpina, etc.) have “reorganised” their production and “forcedly retired” many of their workers: middle-aged women with no chance of finding new employment in the shrinking labour market. Since factories were located in rural areas, their protests (and hunger strikes!) were ignored by everybody – the media, the labour unions, the feminists. There have been, at least to my knowledge, no feminist street actions addressing the social and economic exclusion of these women. I therefore mention two responses from The Anarchist Federation (SAF) and The Anarchist Union even though their members have no explicit connection to feminist politics. Romanticising the working class as a unified revolutionary subject, they believe that the problem of women’s exploitation is going to be “solved automatically” in the context of worker’s liberation and the “fall of capitalism”. In spite of their backdated ideals, their solidarity actions managed to bring media attention to the textile workers’ strikes and consequently demanded answers from the labour union that was supposed to support them in the first place.
Her Reinterpretation of History
The recent rise of right-wing political parties in
“The rise of patriarchy and sexism that we are facing in the last years is incredible. I think it is necessary that women take to the streets; that they go into action. The situation is ripe for feminist activism” (Slapšak in Simčič, 2006). Indeed. The actions and alliances described in this paper suggest that small groups of people who are willing to deal with concrete problems can come up with tactical and constructive criticism. They suggest that one of the places where we can start rethinking and practising feminism in relation to struggles for social justice is – the streets.
I wish to thank Ana Jereb, Taida Horozović, Carla Ferreri, Nada Žgank and several “anonymous informers” for their precious help and comments.
All unattributed quotes are from anonymous sources.
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, Ljubljana March 19th 2001.
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, Ljubljana March 28th 2003.
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, Ljubljana October 13th 2003.
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, Ljubljana March 30th 2006
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, Študentska založba, 2004. Ljubljana
 Other examples of playful de-privatisations of public spaces in relation to commodification of woman’s bodies can be found in the works of the artistic duo kitch™. In 2005, kitch™ made a living room in a public park; their street installation / sales action Public Air consisted of balloons filled with “public air” that was sold for 4 € per balloon; their XXX Sale project portrayed a disembodied female doll whose body parts were priced and exhibited in a shop window.
 Also in 2003, journalist, costume designer and video artist Marija Mojca Pungerčar dedicated her installation Singer and the accompanying publication Singer: A Newsletter for Closed Textile Factories in Slovenia to women workers of the Slovene textile industry. “The machine that first promised, and also made possible, economic independence,” she wrote, “has led millions of women all around the world into a future of poorly paid work. For many of