Feminism... in a country of (male) anti-ideologists
As former marxist-leninist educated people, many Czechs seem to love ideologies. Not in a litterary sense that they say that they adhere to an ideology - even less Czechs will probably say they adhere to an ideology than say they belong to a certain religion. They rather love to see everything that happens around them as driven by ideologies: presidents, right-wing parties, left-wing parties, environmentalists (or like they prefer calling them: "ecologists"), anarchists, roman catholics and even... feminists. Many of those that look this way to society behave, however, as if they themselves are active followers of some kind of an ideology, or rather anti-ideology. They categorize so much that they fail to see how their reasoning exposes itself as a mirror of their own thinking.
This i had to think of when somebody made me aware of the interesting discussions on www.feminismus.cz on a question like: "What is feminism?" First of all, almost all participants of this discussion are men. All of them have problems grasping the length, depth, wealth and intensity of the feminist movement. And they depict it like any pre-1989 Warsaw pact communist party would depict it`s capitalist carricatures.
Three quotes from one of the starters of the discussion that shed an interesting light on how many men and unfortunately also women in this country think about feminism... with remarks...
"Feminism lives like each ideology in the spell of its mistakes..." writes one of the discussion partners.
Obviously a lot of education still needs to be done. Like anarchism, or environmentalism, or even socialism and liberalism, feminism is not an ideology - it is rather a movement or a social tradition. I prefer to talk about movement. It is multi-coloured and multi-dynamic. There are guru`s and people that don`t like these guru`s - all still calling themselves feminists. There are people that don`t call themselves feminists, but still advance the ideas that have appeared from the struggle from this movement. To live with this complex reality seems to be difficult.
[Feminists ideology:] "The discrimination of women makes it possible to explain all bad things, including nationalist, racist and religious conflicts (a bit like `the suppression of the working classes` in communist ideologies)"
Interesting to see that the writer indeed recognizes that there is no one communist ideology. That means that we are dealing with an intelligent view. It is only a pity that his anti-ideologist ideology does not make him see, that like a factor as class-struggle, discrimination of women is one of the important factors in many problems that this world faces. And not only in the ones he mentions - also in environmental, political, drugs-related, commercial and and and... conflicts. Not the sole explanation - but i have never met a feminist who claimed so.
[Feminism has] "Absence of tolerance towards other ideas, religions, views on life (for instance the non-competent criticism on Islam)."
This quote maybe illustrates best how difficult it is within the Czech modern culture to see the manyfold truth. Just let`s follow a recent discussion (last week!) in the Dutch feminist movement. One of the old "feminist guru`s" in a public debate made a remark that muslim women in the Netherlands that wear a traditional muslim headscarf could not be feminists, because the headscarf symbolises for her the oppressing ideology of islam. She even went so far to say that she would not hire any woman wearing a headscarf as editor for her feminist monthly `Opzij` (the most important Dutch feminist magazin). She could not face the truth - as pointed out by leading feminist muslims in the Netherlands - that reality certainly nowadays is differnt: the headscarf stresses a muslim identity - but at the same time the weareress can be strongly fighting for a feminist theology within Islam. As a result of the discussion, some of the `Opzij` editors started wearing headscarfs.
The critique from Zdenek Remes (the writer of the discussion piece) is important, however. It shows feminists that there is still a long way to go in this country in explaining what feminism is and isn`t. It also can keep feminists alert not to fall into the trap of ideologisms. For men... (who am i, to say what feminists should do ;-) )... for men it is important to look at these inputs as in a mirror. How much of our behaviour is led by critiqueless (anti-)ideologies? Can we break out of the male cultural pattern of over-systemizing - which we always were taught to do (or born with?) in order to keep control of situations? Can we open ourselves up for the multitude of life? And can we lear to deal with the uncertainties that that brings?
Feminism is as rich as many other -isms... maybe - because of the special position of women in society - even richer :-). Feminism is one of the scenes in the great theatre of life. I challenge Czech men to watch this riches of theatre, to join in, enjoy it and be - hopefully positively - surprised about the outcome!
|Jan Haverkamp is of Dutch origin and immigrated into the Czech Republic in 1997. He worked as organizational development specialist for Central and Eastern European environmental organizations and is currently Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigner for Central Europe. He lives with his partner and daughter in Cvrcovice near Kladno and has a son in the Netherlands.|
Názory z druhé strany - Thought from the other side
In this weekly column, pro-feminist men - men that are strongly influenced by the feminist movement - write their observations in daily life on the role of men and women in the Czech Republic.