Power, Politics, Democracy, Autonomy

Article excerpt

Latin America

(Translated from "VI. Feministischer Kongre[Beta] in Lateinamerika/Karibik. Den rebellischen Charakter bewahren ...." by Siegrid Wistrcil, in Frauensolidaritat, Austrian feminist international quarterly, Number 46, 4/1993.)

Maintaining the Rebellious Character

Since 1981, the feminists of Latin America have been meeting. This year, 1200 women came together from October 30. to November 5. in Costa del Sol, El Salvador, to discuss the progress and problems of the feminist movement. It was a conference full of contradictions, and strongly shaped by objective difficulties.

Due to the threats and virulent campaign that was launched by the government and the opposition of the Right of El Salvador against the conference and against the women, paralyzing anticipation and nervous uncertainty lay over the event. On the day of arrival, about 50 women were detained for 7 hours at the San Salvador airport, and only due to the pressure and protest by the gradually arriving additional one hundred women could they obtain an entry permit. In Mexico, the Cuban delegation was refused their visa and could therefore not participate in the conference.

Feminisms

Unlike earlier meetings, this convention was judged to be more concerned with theory: a lot of the ongoing discussion focused on theories about and concepts of feminism in Latin America. Various trends, various "feminisms" were articulated, whose central points of examination are power, politics, democracy and autonomy. Margarita Pisano, Chilean feminist and philosopher, member of the organization "La Morada," and initiator of a new trend that attracted a lot of attention at the conference, formulated the simultaneous desire for power and autonomy: "We understand that there is a weariness with marginality. We want to participate in the building of culture and society. We want to represent our views. But under no circumstances do we want this weariness to lead us to hitch onto political projects that strengthen the patriarchal structures." Striving for entrance into patriarchal structures of power, wishing to transform them from inside, being satisfied with a portion, a quota of power, means, according to this trend, to lose the rebellious character, the caracter transgresor, of feminism. Participation in political processes, on the election platform, and at UN-conferences, is critically questioned by this group, or rejected altogether.

It was pointed out that there is a danger to feminism in Latin America of being institutionalized, that the immediate tasks, pragmatism, and bureaucracy keep us preoccupied and away from working on our own projects.

The NGOs strongly depend on the large financial institutions of the "North," who, in turn, comply with the interests of the governments, "In South America, we have a strongly institutionalized feminism which has to take into account the vested interests of its financiers, and work on issues that are of interest to them, rather than those that come out of our own movement. Therefore, we have not taken such giant steps forward as women here in Central America have," stated Julieta Paredes from "Mujeres Creando" in Bolivia.

Many of the workshops focused on the new global economic order, its effects on women, and the necessity for new strategies and new relationships between women on an international level. The terminology North-South does not seem appropriate to us anymore, since it expresses a power difference that we want to oppose. We, as women, have to join forces and fight against the power structures together.

In a tribunal, similar to that in Vienna about human rights abuse of women, 15 women testified; among them women from Haiti, who gave testimony about the repression they suffer since the 1991 coup. …