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Feminism and How to Acquire It

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In this age in which what is called or, to be more accurate, self-appointed as feminism has definitely lost its critical edge towards the ruling social paradigm, but also towards sexism, philistine mentality produced by that paradigm, the book Feminism and How to Acquire It by Đurđa Knežević (Fraktura, Zagreb, 2012) appears as consolation that not all is lost, says Nada Ler Sofronić in the review she wrote for oneworldsee.org.

Namely, hers is not the sad, theatrical feminism of vagina monologues, nor is it a sterile lamentation over the violence against women or “insufficient representation of women in politics”; it is not an endless list of statistical data that never asks why are those statistics the way they are and getting worse. Even less it is some quasi post-modernist prolix deliberation on “identity politics” or relativisation that allows the feminist mainstream to skillfully evade the questions about the contemporary social and political system that we live in.

Different Voice

Đurđa’s feminism has nothing in common with the feminism that has given up, some time ago, its position of first among progressive movements that initiate the structural socio-cultural changes and has found its comfortable niche within neoliberal capitalism.

That is not the „don't make waves, write plays“ feminisam that we are fed up with. This book is implicitly – and on occasion explicitly – focused on the very issue that contemporary feminist mainstream circles like a fishbowl: the key issues about the causes of the dead-end faced by women's human rights in the type of capitalism that surrounds us today and the workings of the ties between capitalism and patriarchate that rules here unchallenged as economic, social, political and cultural matrix.

Moral Lession for „Tamed“ Feminism

With her uncompromising reaction, almost on daily basis, to concrete examples of conservativism, sexism, misogyny, primitivism and violence in the very heart of public and political centres of power, the author gives a lesson in morality to the so-called feminists with a blind spot for the things that take place under their very noses, and even in their own workplace. It seems that their only profiled political strategy is the policy of apeasement and evasion of key issues.

Unlike the feminist mainstream, Đurđa Knežević doesn’t despair or lament over the horrors of violence against women, for instance, but points out how deeply it is rooted in the very nature of the system. She reacts promptly, without euphemisms and political calculations, taking the risk of ostracism head-on, whether it is a case of shameful, misogynist judicial practice, primitive and sexist editorial policies in the media, hypocritical glorification of maternal sacrifices for quasi-patriotic goals, the hypocrisy of actions, pedophilia and misogyny of the church, primitive and sexist incidents of politicians and public officials. She applies the same lucid reactions to the showbusiness oriented and profiteering actions of feminist business mainstream which not on chooses to abstain from reaction, but rather hypocritically adapts itself to the ruling centres of power.

Unlike the feminist mainstream, the author dares speak up and write that alleged women icons in the democracies of contemporary global capitalism – some of them made it even on Forbes’ and other such lists (and I don’t have in mind here the recent Croatian case) – are, in fact, agents of the system that exploits mainly the women workforce. All the while, women in political and economic positions that made it on those lists demonstrate little more gender sensitivity than their average conservative male counterparts – politicians, billionaires and right-wing bankers.

Đurđa Knežević refuses the feminism that reduces its critical stance to sex and conservative essentialism, i.e. the position that women are God-given peacemakers, for example, and proves decisively that the biological fact of one’s sex doesn’t have any tangible effect on their social and political actions.

The most important quality of Đurđe Knezević's book is that this compilation of her readable, provokative and humorous writings created over a period of almost a decade (between 2002 and 2010) can be read as foundation for formulation of a critical, autonomous feminist position and articulation of a political platform for feminism that challenges the ruling paradigm and truly starts structural social changes here and now. That, after all, is its – repressed, alas – main task.

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