A New Feminist Breath*

As of November 2nd, 2008, feminists have a new place in Istanbul: We, the Socialist Feminist Collective, have inaugurated our new space, which will also serve as our base for future publications. The process which brought us to today began in the middle of 2007. Starting with the festival organised in honour of the 20th anniversary of the Campaign for Solidarity against domestic violence, a series of activities which bear the specific color and stamp of feminists were launched. This festival was followed by a support campaign for sex workers who were candidates to parliament in the general election of July 22, by the Purple Needle campaign, re-activated after nearly two decades, by the “line of political resistance” set up by feminists prior to the adoption of the Social Insurance and General Health Insurance law and other actions. The politics behind these campaigns and actions took its aspiration from a feminist standpoint that considers male dominance as all-pervasive and aims to set up women against this problem as a collective political subject. A radical, subversive feminism started to make its voice to be heard again.

Feminists, at this time, were not sufficiently organised to carry over and contain the energy and dynamism emerging from these campaigns. We, as women who took part in these campaigns and who share a socialist-feminist view as to women’s liberation, saw the necessity for a new approach. It was evident from the problems which constituted the subject of our campaigns that patriarchal oppression and exploitation went hand in hand with capitalism. Hence the inference that any struggle against the oppression of women should follow an anti-capitalist line. The structure before us was patriarchal capitalism and it was very important for us to have a political stance that reflected this analysis.

With these thoughts in our minds, we came together in June 2008 and discussed the creation of a socialist feminist formation. In a gathering organized in August we defined our political framework, wrote a starting declaration, rented an office and began the preparatory work for a future publication – a journal.

And here we are in our new space… We are a motley lot: a large spectrum of age, profession, activities… There are both students and pensioners among us just as there are lawyers, teachers, nurses, housewives, moviemakers, unionists and broadcasters. Some of us are giving yoga lessons, while others are writing their theses; some are making ornaments, some of us are writing… Our political past and experience is very varied too: Among us, there are women who took part in different feminist groups and women coming from the political left, from unions, and labour and student organizations. But, most importantly, there are women who have never taken part in any organized activity. And finally, we live in different cities of Turkey. The majority of us are from Istanbul, but there are also women from Adana, Ankara, Eskisehir, Izmir, Samsun.

This diversity is exciting: we believe it will be an advantage when doing politics, expanding our horizons. On the other hand, we can predict that the same diversity will be a constraint from time to time, testing our unity. We see that the differences of age, knowledge and experience and the fact that the majority of us are living in Istanbul bring with them the risk of creating hierarchies. The big challenge before us is to prevent this and to build a participatory network.

Another challenge before us is our capacity to carry on all the activities of the collective and the journal on a solidarity basis. Our aim is to take no funds from anywhere and propose no projects to anyone. We are aiming to maintain our existence through our own contributions, according to our own possibilities. We think that it will be a great achievement if we can make this work.

Yet another challenge is related to our political line, namely, our socialist feminist political stance. Socialist feminism can be interpreted differently and various meanings can be attributed to it. It is not a political and theoretical attitude which can be placed somewhere between feminism and socialism. It is a component of the women’s struggle for liberation and, as such, reflects a distinction internal to it. We are on and speak from a feminist soil but this is not always clear for others as it is to us. It is therefore our duty to pay special attention to the autonomy and independence of feminism from other movements and to underline this in all our actions and in our politics.

Our Socialist Feminist Collective is only one of many existing feminist groups. We believe that there is room for mutual empowerment among us. In our political practice, we are aware that we have to nourish this mutuality, this feminist plurality. The difference between our name, the Socialist Feminist Collective, and the name we gave our journal, Feminist Politics, could be seen as an expression of this attention.

We therefore see our place as a new place for all feminists. From now on, we have a new place where we can discuss our common politics, organise our campaigns and talk to each other…

Socialist Feminist Collective

*Published on the newspaper, “Radikal Iki” on November, 2008

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