Feminism / s for beginners

Round Table

If someone in Slovenia says to you,”You are a feminist” the chances are quite great that they did not mean it as a compliment. To be called a feminist is to be stigmatised. Even people you consider (or who proclaim themselves to be) progressive, are very reluctant to call themselves feminists.
In her lecture “Reasons for Anti-feminist Views in Central and Eastern Europe and Ways of Changing Them” Vlasta Jalušič opens by saying that she carried out a little investigation by asking some of her female intellectual acquaintances —who work to achieve goals which would be considered feminist in many places in the East— whether they considered themselves to be feminists. “In most cases the answer was rather ambiguous: it depends on what you understand by this term, on how you define it.” Jalušič distinguishes two kinds of anti-feminist positions: “The principled position is a negative attitude towards the issue of the equality of women. The pragmatic position is about the relation towards images of what feminism is supposed to be.” But what is feminism supposed to be? “It often turned out that the image of feminism was too homogenous and that the attitude towards it and towards feminist activities was defined through stereotype and prejudice”.
Feminism is considered to be monolithic; it’s a lost cause; a cause from the past, it can’t deal with the technological challenges of the moment; it can’t win the media-war; science has proven that feminism — just like Marxism— is based on false assumptions; we don’t need feminism, because we have equal opportunities; etc. etc. In short: it’s a movement or an ideology we’d like to forget, or else it is best relegated to the footnotes of history-books.
But the backlash against feminism has also been hitting hard in the West. Conservatives a la Paglia and Katie Roiphe go as far as to accuse the women’s movement of all the evils of late twentieth-century American society: from the crisis of the family, the high number of teenage pregnancies and male depression, to drugs.
Not only is the backlash not the exclusive ‘privilege’ of the East, it is also not a new phenomenon. As Rosi Braidotti comments: every feminist generation has known its Paglia. The negative media image persists for a long time. Virginia Woolf reported in her time that feminism had become obloquy.  Since the thirties the arguments of opponents have obstinately remained the same. However, Braidotti remarks that, in a sense, it is the function of the feminist to be the bad girl, the bad girl who frightens those who have every reason to be frightened.
Although the different points of view and resulting polemics between the different approaches to feminism (the ‘gender theorists’ of the Anglo-American tradition, and ‘sexual difference theorists’ of the French school, feminists and post-feminists, cyber-feminists, first, second, third wave-feminists and so on) are very much alive (above all in academic circles), this panel will focus on a number of concrete questions dealing with the significance of feminism today. How can feminism formulate an appealing and challenging agenda for the future? Is post- or cyber-feminism an adequate response? Are post-feminism and cyber-feminism radical breaks from earlier feminism, or its direct continuation? How do/can feminists tackle the backlash? How can ‘principled anti-feminism’ and ‘pragmatic anti-feminism’ be dealt with? What are the principal and immediate concerns and tasks of the feminist theorist today?

In the morning session a number of leading feminist theorists will give introductory talks. The afternoon session will be devoted to a panel-discussion.

Participants: Rosi Braidotti (Utrecht), Biljana Kašić (Zagreb), Branka Arsić (Beograd) Marina Gržinić, Vlasta Jalušič, Tatjana Greif, Svetlana Slapšak, Eva D. Bahovec (Ljubljana) and others.

Date and time of event: 
Oct 19th 10:00 - 13:00
Date and time of event: 
Oct 19th 15:00 - 17:00
Place of event: 
Cankarjev dom - E3