Personal is Political: Heinrich Boll Foundation Presents New Publication on Gender

Gender Equality is still topical, even more so in our region, where a patriarchal mentality proliferates. On February 21, the Heinrich Boll Foundation hosted a presentation of the publication ‘Fighting for Public Space: Personal is Political’.

“Public space is biased” the author of the preface, Etuna Noghaideli, Gender Programs Coordinator of the South Caucasus Regional Bureau of the Heinrich Boll Foundation, claims in the first line. She believes that the public space in Georgia remains an extremely masculine phenomenon, only reachable for young healthy men. This approach is affirmed by the fact that almost all the streets, parks and organizations bear the names of men. In the preface of the book, this fact is explained by the patriarchal values of most societies, in which the achievements of women are easily forgotten.

The Heinrich Boll Foundation believes that women occupying the public space is a matter of politics.

‘Personal is Political’ comprises articles of Georgian, Russian, Turkish, Armenian, German and Czech researchers and activists that give the reader a multicolored picture of gender in terms of themes, as well as geography and positions.

Unfortunately, the rights of many minorities remain unprotected in Georgia. It is enough to remember the May 17 parade in Tbilisi when those human protectors of LGBT rights were chased through the streets and beaten, including by the clergy, who normally play the role of peacemakers and reconcilers. In Georgian politics, there is little tolerance towards a different opinion, leading to stigma and narrow-mindedness.

It is believed that nationalism is the best position to take, and we should remember that Tbilisi city boasts an Orthodox church, Synagogue, Armenian Church and Mosque built very close to one another.

“Apart from the presentation of two books, this is an in-depth look at different views about feministic mobilization and strategizing, accentuating liberal and radical feminists,” said Noghaideli.

“Within the last two years, the Boll Foundation has published two very interesting publications,” said Tamar Tskhadadze, Associated Professor of Ilia State University. “The first was about anti-gender movements and the second, this, about fighting for public space. These are books depicting gender issues not only in Georgia but throughout the region, including the South Caucasus, Turkey and Eastern European countries- those of Post- Soviet countries.”

‘Personal is Political’ was the slogan of a feminist movement in the late 1960s. Women said that their personal experience is not merely personal but is interlinked with socio-cultural structures existing within society, and therefore, it is political. This statement denoted that they could not handle these challenges alone.

In Noghaideli’s book are cases in different countries and the retelling of how, though various means, they transform their personal experiences into political ones. This book also sums up the Foundation’s gender conference of March 2016.

In the opening speech, Etuna Noghadeli recalled several years ago, when the term “feminism” had a distinctly negative connotation. However, in her words, giving a positive sense to this word is still a hot topic in Georgia today. “Radical feminists think that the oppression of women comes from patriarchal society, whilst liberals focus more on legislative changes and therefore, are often criticized by the former,” the author said.

The preface of the book ends optimistically: “The history of feminism is not only that of fight, but also that of victory”.

Maka Lomadze

23 February 2017 21:58