12 April 2013

Baring It All: 4/12 Recap

Welcome to the recap of the week.  There's so much to read and know that I've taken the liberty of condensing it for you.  If you want to see these things as they happen, follow me on Twitter!  You just have to click that button over to the right.  It's not far...  You can also see who I follow; I discovered that Twitter is the best place to find anything on CEE and there are fantastic, smart people to interact with.

Let's get to it.



This week the internet continued to blow up about two things: Margaret Thatcher (more on that later) and FEMEN.  If you live under a rock, you would be unaware that FEMEN did a protest against Putin at a Hanover trade fair over the Kremlin targeting NGOs. The protest against Putin got a lot of headlines since it was the closest they've been to their target and is considered the "most successful protest yet" by Shevchenko. This came on the heels of the controversial avenging of Amina by baring their breasts (the modus operandi), writing "Fuck your morals" on their bare chests, and wearing towel turbans.  I wish I was making that last part up.  This continued to snowball into this week, so I thought I'd go more into depth with my reflections than I did last week.

Now, there are a lot of different views on FEMEN and most normal people would have a love-it-or-hate-it feeling about them.  Based the Twitter feedback I saw, the reactions are mixed.  I tend to follow people who are more deeply involved in the region, so they have some ambivalence since many are acquainted with the social conditions in Ukraine and the feminist struggle in eastern Europe.  Muslim women did not take kindly to the protests and insisted they do not need saving, while saying the FEMEN is appropriating colonialist tendencies (aka white person saves the brown people) and frankly, being racist.  There is a lot of truth to that, which is ironic considering FEMEN's roots in protesting prostitution/using prostitution as a metaphor for Ukraine's poor treatment of women.  They were and still are protesting the geopolitical influence of prostitution, particularly in poorer nations; prostitution is seen as a type of colonial exploitation by the greater global market forces.  This feeds into why they bare their breasts: the fetishization of breasts is part of prostitution and the patriarchal system that reserves women's bodies for desire, typically targeted towards men (great articles about how titillating ads also cause women to see their bodies as desirable towards others and not themselves).  FEMEN says they want to reclaim them and use them as weapons against men.  This is an interesting point, but also incredibly debatable.  Bare breasts can easily feed back into patriarchal norms and continue to sexualize women.  Do they tweak the image enough to warrant that attention?  Do they merely add another image to the archives of naked women being subdued?  I mean, if the latter is true, they aren't helping that much.  This is the argument about whether covering up or taking it off is fighting the patriarchal system; in truth, both are choices steeped in that system and I am not sure how one operates outside those norms, as different as they seem to be, other than to completely implode that system.

The nuance of the reactions I saw was also due to FEMEN's roots in eastern Europe, where feminism has difficulty taking root.  I've mentioned this before and Drakulić's book does a far better job of explaining the difficulty of feminism in the post-Soviet world.  More traditionally religious countries have faced an uphill battle since that perpetuates gender norms, despite the claimed equalization of genders during communism.  The truth is, women were equal in a number of ways that were light years ahead of the western world, especially in economic terms, but they were also tasked with bearing more homo sovieticus.  They still ran the home, worked full time, and were responsible for providing more workers, but they saw themselves as equal to men and considered the oppression under the Soviet regime to be equally difficult.  While this perception is admirable since it empowers women, it simultaneously causes them to take a backseat and allow inequalities and discrepancies to continue because they feel like they already have achieved equal status.  This, I feel, is the reason for a lot of backlash in FEMEN's country of origin (in addition to their conservative religious tendencies, which exacerbate gender normativity).  All in all, at the very least, they raise interesting questions as they grow internationally and protest more.

Margaret Thatcher

Her death this past week was deeply mourned everywhere.  Countless, countless articles, tweets, videos, etc. have memorialized her contributions to Europe and the United Kingdom.  I have to be completely honest here: I know she's important and I still don't care that much.  Horrible!  Ignorant!  I know all these things.  She was in power during the Gorbachev years, the Wall breaking, and Germany reunifying.  To me, she is important insofar as her antipathy towards the EC and her (and Mitterand's) interference with German unity.  They were both wary of a reunited Germany (not unfairly), but necessary for anything to fully move forward.  She was one of the first political leaders to respond positively to Gorbachev himself and even supported an independent Croatia and Slovenia; she was critical of governments not supporting them during the Serbian led attacks.  She's important, don't get me wrong, but I have a hard time conjuring up energy in response to her name.  She was about contracting to small government and less interference, so I think her story is mostly a British one.  Haters going to hate, but I'm not that fascinated/interested in her story.

Happened - Seen - Discovered - Read

Julia Király resigned from her post as Vice President at the Hungary Central Bank.  This happened not too long after György Matolcsy was appointed as Governor.  She was the last member on the board not appointed by Fidesz and her resignation was very critical.  This is not a good turn for Hungary and Király says it undermines the credibility of the bank, which is critical to investors. However, there looks to be a growing opposition to Orbán and Fidesz.

Kosovo and Serbia are still trying to hash out an agreement.  Nothing is working out yet, and Serbia insists they are worried about the status of Serbian Kosovars.  They, on the other hand, want very little to do with Kosovo.  Not sure what the right answer is?  The Economist made a good point that if Serbian Kosovars rallied together, they could have rather significant political influence.  Serbia has also legislated ways of representing minorities and I think this could be readily applied to this situation.

These Bulgarians running for office repeats what Chicagoans/Illinoisans have known forever: it's far easier to do corruption in politics and way more stable.  Also, that organized crime and politics are passionate bedfellows.

Yanukovych pardoned Yury Lutsenko, but it's too little too late to convince anyone.  If it was an attempt to placated the EU while still playing a cat and mouse game, it didn't do what it was supposed to.  It's pretty unsustainable to keep toying with both the EU and Russia.

Belarus.  Oh, Belarus.  It's just so sad.

I spotlighted Montenegro in the midst of its presidential troubles. Come on, Crna Gora, you can make democracy work.

Vukovar - Should Croatia officially use Serbian Cyrillic in areas that has at least 1/3 Serbians?  Tricky balance between history and tolerance.

Oops?  A mistake that may have been better done on purpose.

Do you remember Christine and her lovely photos of Sarajevo?  She got featured on Dodho and you can see all the photos there.

Germany's Die Wendekinder (Children of the Post-Wall Era) - What makes them different?

 Bansky remembers Pasha 183 with an animated gif.

Only this week did I discover that Richard Burton portrayed Tito in a movie!  And Alexander the Great!  Now I just need to convince my husband to watch The Fifth Offensive with me...

Happy Friday!