Lessons from Poland: "While we've been busy discussing gender theory, antigender activists have taken over the country"

Last month in Warsaw, several thousand anti-choice people participated in a march that supposedly celebrates the sanctity of human life (Marsz Świętości Życia). Since a similar march (Hod za život) is about to take place in Zagreb, Split and Rijeka on May 19, we decided to talk to Agnieszka Graff and Elżbieta Korolczuk, Polish activists and academics whose analysis of antigender movements provide some intriguing and useful insights.

Their article Towards An Illiberal Future: Anti-Genderism and Anti-Globalization was published last year in Global Dialogue, and their chapter "Worse than communism and Nazism put together": War on gender in Poland is included in Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe: Mobilising Against Equality (2017).

Malin Björk: Feminists should not abandon the space of party politics

Malin Björk of the Swedish Left Party (Vänsterpartiet) has been a Member of the European Parliament and its Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) since 2014. In her work she highlights feminist issues, anti-racism, LGBT rights, and worker's rights. Prior to her MEP mandate, she worked for the European Women's Lobby and edited the lesbian feminist magazine ScumGrrrls.

We spoke to Malin at the Feminist Forum 2018 in Brussels organized by the political group GUE/NGL.

Who Pays for Your Sex Life?

Is state-financed sex work possible? This question has been recently debated in Australia when on the Australian Defence Force's website an article (since removed because of protest) was published arguing that sex during deployment releases stress and makes it easier for soldiers to cope with difficult circumstances of war and violence. And since the Australian Defence Force is financed by taxpayers’ money, what the author of this controversial paper calls “consensual sex” is expected to be financed by Australian taxpayers.

The protest led by wives of the deployed ADF members stopped this process of redefining sex as an entitlement for the privileged citizens selected by the state, but some European Union citizens were not that successful in their efforts to resist these new tendencies. It is not as if they were not protesting; simply the European Union funding, together with an ineffective national legal system, provides the opportunity for shady entrepreneurs to commodify women’s bodies using taxpayers’ money.

Social card game "Fierce Women"

Fierce Women - All the right cards

Fierce Women is a fun, educational and dynamic social card game that familiarizes the players with fierce women who have made significant contributions to society in the fields of culture, politics, science, human rights, and art.

The educational social game Fierce women represents a fun way of transferring the issue of gender equality from the level of political platitudes to everyday life and of making women's achievements visible to other women and girls, which can serve as an inspiration in their professional life and choice of occupation and training.

The game has been created by the non-government organization Expanse of Gender and Media Culture 'Common Zone', most widely known for its independent medium VoxFeminae.net and the Vox Feminae Film Festival, which have been promoting ideas and accomplishments of individuals and movements in the fields of gender equality, social justice and independent culture for the last 12 years. For the last 16 months, we have been working on illustrations, rules and design, and recently we finally produced and tested a prototype of the game. Everyone who had seen and played the game was delighted with it!

In order to share our crowning achievement with as many people as possible and to educate, inspire and entertain people from all over the world, we are launching the crowdfunding campaign Fierce Women – "All the Right Cards" with the goal of printing and distributing 1000 copies of the Fierce Women game.

Art on every card, inspiration at every move

The game is named after the eponymous section on the VoxFeminae.net website which promotes the work and contributions of women to society through informative biographical texts and which has been recognized by our readers as one of the most popular sections. “For most of history, Anonymous was a woman”, wrote Virginia Woolf, and the truthfulness of her words is confirmed every time you ask someone to list five women physicists, film directors or philosophers.

The goal of the Fierce Women game is to break down gender stereotypes and prejudices about women's abilities, interests and achievements, and to make their work more visible, thereby empowering new generations of fierce women.

The game was created in collaboration with eight Croatian women artists (Sanja Stojković, Rina Barbarić, Tea Šokac, Željka Tkalčec, Ana Kovačić, Ivana Štrukelj, Branka Hollingsworth and Nataša Rašović) and writer and programmer Želimir Periš.

The game consists of 56 cards containing illustrations and short biographies of Fierce Women who made great contributions to society in the fields of science, culture, politics, art and human rights, and of 8 additional action cards that add complexity to the game. Among family or friends, it can be played by 2-5 players. The rules are simple, so the game is suitable even for younger generations, from age 5 onwards. Due to its educational component and suitability for all generations, the game can also be used in the classroom or workshops.

Fierce women is a socially engaged card game dedicated to women, offering a meaningful way to spend free time by providing knowledge, inspiration and empowerment through socializing and fun. The game is the first product of our future social enterprise in which we plan to collaborate with artists, theorists and scientists from all over the world, develop new products that raise awareness about gender equality, and promote women's entrepreneurship and cultural production.

Join the campaign by donating through the Indiegogo platform and claiming a perk of your choice, and by spreading the word about the campaign! :)

Play the equality card, support Fierce Women!

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Eszter Kovats: The human rights paradigm is insufficient for addressing women's position in society

A new publication from the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Budapest The Future of the European Union - Feminist Perspectives from East-Central Europe is an intriguing compilation of Central and Eastern European voices on the most pressing issues related to gender, EU, reproductive rights, economy, and global inequalities.

The publication's editor, Eszter Kováts, is a political scientist pursuing a PhD at ELTE University Budapest. She is the program manager of the East-Central European gender program of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, and co-editor or editor of the previous two volumes: Gender as Symbolic Glue (summary here) and Solidarity in Struggle – Feminist Perspectives on Neoliberalism in East-Central Europe.

"Gender ideology" is an empty signifier that unites different interest groups

We talked with the editors of the recently published book Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe: Mobilising Against Equality, Roman Kuhar (University of Ljubljana) and David Paternotte (Université Libre de Bruxelles).

After decades of progress in terms of gender and sexual rights, certain parts of Europe are facing a wave of resistance to the so-called "gender ideology" or "gender theory". This opposition is manifested in challenges to marriage equality, the right to abortion, reproductive technologies, sex education, liberalism, transgender rights, antidiscrimination policies and even the notion of gender itself.

Dragana Jurišić: Not belonging to any nation means having great freedom

The photographer Dragana Jurišić, who is originally from Slavonski Brod in Croatia, but has been living and working in Ireland for a number of years, presented her project YU: The Lost Country as part of this year's International Photography Festival "Organ Vida" in Zagreb. Inspired by Rebecca West's famous travelogue, Dragana travelled throughout the territories of the former state, trying to make contact with her lost homeland – which, as it turned out, is much harder than expected.

Thematizing the consequences of exile and dislocation on memory and identity, with a special sensibility for women's experiences, Dragana uses photography not only as a tool for recording memories (or the impossibility of returning that which is lost), but also to deconstruct national and identity myths.

Catholics for contraception and abortion access

We know that 86% of people in Croatia identify as Catholics, and we also know that a significant part of the population is in favour of using contraceptives and, to a lesser degree, the right to abortion. Thus, we can conclude that a certain proportion of Catholics not only acknowledge the importance of reproductive rights, but themselves use some of the methods of family planning.

However, the official Church doctrine has a clearly defined attitude to the function of human sexuality and it decidedly prohibits the use of modern contraceptive methods such as the pill and condom (not to mention abortion).

Jillian C. York: Facebook is not a public space!

One of the guests at this year's Subversive Festival was Jillian C. York, an American activist, journalist and Director for International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

At the festival, she participated in public discussions Freedom of Speech, Civil Disobedience and Satire in the Digital Era and Who Whistles Means No Harm. She serves on the Board of Directors of Global Voices and publishes articles in the New York Times, Al Jazeera, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Foreign Policy, etc. Her interests include freedom of expression, privacy and digital security.