Men`s talk II - solidarity
My last week`s column drew several reactions. Only from women - and all the same. It was for me a little bit a surprise, to be honest. I would call all reacting women "Czech feminists". To me, that does not mean that they are in the image and liking of what the Czech population thinks are feminists, but women that are inspired by the feminist movement and tradition, have a progressive forward look on life and make a real change in the position of women in this country. They all reacted with: "I completely feel like your friend - I also cannot talk with Czech women very long". Two of them then added: "But I cannot talk much with Czech men either", leaving them only foreigners as interesting discussion partners?
I indeed was surprised by this reaction. Mainly because it lacked completely a sense of "solidarity". I write it between hyphens, because solidarity is yet another of these other terms that has a different definition in each mind. And especially between me as former Westerner and people that grew up under the real existing `socialism` of this region. Solidarity with small farmers in Nicaragua in the nineteen eighties was for me something completely different than for my friends in Eastern Germany (the GDR) - until they started their state-independent church initiatives with Nicaragua. But solidarity has been an important factor in gender relations throughout the centuries.
First of all... in building patriarchate. Solidarity between men can have outrageous forms, even today. The exclusion of women from higher church functions, from state functions (both already happening in the Roman times and continuing until the 21st century), from a lot of work - but also the exclusion of men from caring work, building the machismo image of the strong prince on the white horse, all this is in my opinion based for 90% on male solidarity image building and maybe 10% female subordination to that block of power.
But hold on... the picture is more complicated than that nowadays. The male solidarity that forms the basis of the (in comparison with surrounding countries) extraordinary strong patriarch society in the present day Czech Republic is supported here by a strong female solidarity towards these men. How often have i not been shooed away from the kitchen-block in offices i worked in by women saying "You don`t have to wash these dishes, we`ll do it!"... (Until now, the following discussions because i refuse to go away still belong to the highlights in my life here :-) ).
The reactions on my last week`s column surprised me, because the feminist movement knew to make a difference in the position of women, because it copied quite a bit of the male solidarity. Women from different ideological streams supported one another over the last two centuries to get into better positions, become role models, develop theory and practice - all under the umbrella of feminism. The female solidarity knew to brake the power of male solidarity, and seems to me a key-factor to the success of feminism in the world - that is, maybe, the world outside the Czech Republic.
The kind of solidarity i had expected was the one saying: "You men can`t talk to these women, because you are not interested in what they really think. Take the time to adapt to them instead of wanting them to adapt to your male patriarch style. Maybe talk less and listen more. Don`t get bored, but curious. Try to get to understand together the why behind the talk you don`t like." I suppose it can be excused, however. Because, aren`t the women that reacted not the forefront of the development that may lead to a situation of gowing solidarity amongst women in the Czech Republic? They have only just broken out from their position in which women solidarise with the patriarchal Czech society. They stick out their necks and are attacked from all sides - criticising their thoughts, their friendships, their choices, their work and on top of that their appearence. It may be a bit too early here for this cross-class feminist solidarity amongst women... but it will start at some moment - as will this new kind of solidarity between men start at some moment: men that support one another to explore the new ways of living that more equal gender relations offer to society.
|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. Besides that he is facilitator in the ZHABA facilitators collective. 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.