Book presentation: Feminism on the peripheries of Europe

On Friday the 9th of June EFAy was proud to launch the book Feminism on the Peripheries of Europe alongisde Centre Maurits Coppieteres.

A collection of essays, the book is the product of almost a year of research, reflection and writing on feminist possibilities and transformations that followed a two-day event “Feminism on the Peripheries of Europe” held in Wales in June 2016.

The aim of the book is to educate and engage young people on intersectional feminist issues and together with the authors of this book, we approached the ambitious task of centring young voices in discussions on feminism with both critical and liberatory intent.

The launch was presented by Iva Petkovic of CMC and Fflur Arwel of EFAy and Plaid Ifanc. The panel discussion, which consisted of five of the book’s authors – Marta Sorlí, Guðrun i Jákupsstovu, Angharad Lewis, Karolina Rzepecka, and Lena Kolter, explored various themes touched upon in the book.

 

“Europe’s peripheries”

By using this notion of “Europe’s peripheries” we are evoking the idea that Europe, and our world as a whole, is structurally and institutionally unequal. Some cultures, languages, and national communities are located on the margins – both geographically and politically.

The notion of ‘periphery’ reflects complex positionalities or locations, which are intimately tied to questions of power. Because many European societies and states are highly centralized, other less dominant cultures are invisibilised and marginalised. They seem to be positioned far from the centre of political decision-making, economic activity, cultural action and academic inquiry.

By recognizing that within Europe there are fluid and subjective realities and peripheries in relation to the core or centre, we can map locations of power and resistance, including feminist engagement.

There is a clear deficit when it comes to books and resources on the role of feminism among traditional minority communities in Europe (such as the Hungarian minority in Romania or Slovenian minority in Austria); or among minority or stateless nations, (such as Catalonia, Wales and Basque Country); or among stateless individuals, aslyum seekers and refugees in Europe. There are resources that focus on one case specifically, but rarely do they offer a comprehensive vision of feminist resistance.

This book is an attempt to redraw the map, preserve histories and herstories, inspire solidarity and coalitions, spotlight moments of transgression and provide a basis for feminist cross-cultural work. As you will see, the authors of this book use a feminist lens to discuss inequality, unrecognized identities, peripheral locality and uneven power structures as factors of oppression that Europe’s minorities and minoritised nations continue to struggle against.

 

“Feminism and Intersectionality”

Contemporary definitions of feminism agree that to be a feminist is to be “a person who believes in the social, economic and political equality of the sexes”. But what does this mean in practice? As this book demonstrates, feminist practice means a complete overhaul on every level to build an intersectional, inclusive feminist society.

As sexism and gender-based oppression affects over half of the world’s population, it is not unexpected that the battle for equality will include individuals who have also suffered from racism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, xenophobia and other forms of oppression. Intersectionality, a term fashioned in 1989 by civil rights campaigner and legal scholar Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, shows that social identities and experiences intersect, overlap, affect one another, and create a whole that is different from the component identities.

Our book does not intend to shy away from complexity and diversity, but to showcase it.Although women have a lot in common in terms of experiencing patriarchy, by centring the voices of women from minorities or oppressed nations, we start to see the importance of intersectionality in the way that it embraces diversity of experiences, needs and interests.

The book covers a wide variety of issue areas: political heroism, capitalism and consumer culture, gender pay gap, reproductive and emotional labour, the “glass ceiling”, precarious work and labour rights, environmental issues, cities and urban environments, depopulation, women in leadership and parliaments, sexist media, sexist language, men’s rights groups and anti-feminism, reprodctive rights, femicide, gender-based violence, and peace, among other issues.

Each of these components helps us see the full scope and essance of feminism. By looking at all of these “ingredients” of feminism together, we can see how comprehensive our struggle against patriarchy and heteronormativity must really be. Tackling one issue alone will not change the oppressive structures in which we live, because we do not live single-issue lives.

It is about fighting sexism, but it is also about tackling imperialism, neoliberalism, xenophobia, poverty, homophobia, transphobia, state-violence and so on. It must also be constructive, democratic, transparent; embracing diversity, welcoming those in need; and creatively rethinking political communities.

We can thank feminists for clarifying that “women” are diverse, and that we are not all the same. Throughout history, feminists, especially feminists of colour, indigenous feminists and minority feminists, have pushed back against the idea that womanhood is universal. Although women have a lot in common in terms of experiencing patriarchy, women live diverse lives based on socioeconomics, race, culture, ethnicity, language, sexuality and privilege.

 

“A new conversation”

We hope that our book can start this relatively new conversation.

We live in politically difficult times. Hard right parties are promising protectionism, closed borders, EU/euro exits and immigration cuts to those driven by fear and anger. Seeing as trade, technology and globalisation have not benefited everyone equally, deep reforms and new visions for Europe are sorely needed.

When we are talking about feminist possibilities, feminism as a tool for building fairer, more inclusive and equal societies, we are talking about the process of re-evaluating, re-defining and re-building Europe.

Feminism is about lifting each other up, supporting each other, even thought our lives, our pain and our hopes are different.

EFAy would like to thank CMC and the authors of the book their work, contribution and imagination.

The book is available now to download for free from the CMC website or a hard copy is available at request.

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