Come Closer!

Inequality, violence against women and women’s rights are not women’s issues but topics that should be addressed by everyone.

On the global scale, women earn 24% less than men and there are 700 million less women in paid labour. Six hundred million women perform the most dangerous jobs in the most uncertain, precarious working conditions, while there are far more women than men who work on a part-time basis. In addition to our primary employment, we perform at least twice as much unpaid care work as men – sometimes up to ten times as much. On a global level, this care work is valued at 10.8 trillion dollars, more than three times the amount of the global technology sector.

Women’s working hours are longer; studies show that, compared to men, their total overtime amounts to four additional years of work. Women in Slovenia earn an average eight percent less than men. During the epidemic, Slovenia was no different from other countries in that, as a result of gender inequality, it was largely women who were furloughed or agreed to work from home due to lower income. Out of 28.5 million healthcare workers in the world, 24 million are women (including nurses and midwives). Furthermore, care for the sick, the chronically ill, the handicapped, and the elderly increasingly takes place at home. And, once again, this type of work is usually taken on by women and girls.

Every socioeconomic crisis merely uncovers and reinforces the existing social inequalities. Instead of a deep reflection on relations of production and on priority and sustainable changes to the economy that are vital for the preservation of (natural and cultural) ecosystems, we are thinking about how to go back to business as usual under the (neoliberal capitalist) rule as soon as possible.

These issues are also relevant to culture and arts.

Twenty-three years ago, the third City of Women festival hosted the international conference Women in the Arts: A European and a Slovene Perspective, where experts, artists, politicians, and producers from Slovenia and abroad presented data, analyses, and their views on the position of women in the arts, either in their countries or their specialised fields of study. One year later (in 1998), Uršula Cetinski, the first and long-time director of the City of Women, introduced the festival with practical and still current guidelines from the study Women in Cultural Policies, which was, also on the initiative of the City of Women, carried out by the European Institute for Comparative Cultural Research (ERICArts) that same year.

To this day, very little research has been done in Slovenia on the position of women in culture and art. After years of intensive efforts, the City of Women is again striving to conduct the first such study on the national level. We are pleased that the City of Ljubljana – Department of Culture, the Ministry of Culture, and the Faculty of Arts of the University of Ljubljana have supported this idea. Unfortunately, the planned international conference that would launch the long-anticipated Slovenian study with a presentation of recent studies abroad had to be postponed due to the epidemic and international travel restrictions.

The epidemic, the looming economic crisis and the fundamental misunderstanding of culture and arts as sectors that have to take a critical stand towards the levers of power, political ideologies, and self-evident facts by asking questions and opening different imageries have put us before a complex question that goes beyond gender – how do we move forward? Through coming together, antagonisms and showing their vulnerability, local and transnational movements and individuals are setting in motion long-term processes.

The City of Women therefore responded to this year’s situation and the many concerns we face by creating temporary spaces for coming together. We invited curators, artists, art and activist groups, and producers, whose only commonality may be how they work and act: they call attention to presence as attendance with someone or something, not just as availability for someone else. To quote Bojana Kunst: “And, while we were performing the skills of the right care, we also radically abandoned another dimension of care, the practice of caring with. Caring with in the attendance to others, with asymmetry of touch, senses, and smells, caring with inside the unequal, messy and troubled situations, caring with bodies, animals, plants, things, with our hands and bodies dirty (...).”

We invited pupils and students, teachers and mentors, pensioners and passers-by to come and join us, those who live here but come from elsewhere, those who have left their mark here in the past, and those who remind us that community building, the realisation of experiential processes and the intertwinement of life and art are key to resisting the logic of patriarchy that still defines the conditions of our existence and state of being in this world. So: Come closer!

The programme of the festival, which will take place between 22 September and 12 October online, on the streets of Ljubljana, at TAM-TAM poster locations and at Kinoteka, Kinodvor, the Old Power Station, Pionirski dom, the Škuc Gallery, the Kapelica Gallery, the Rampa Lab, Cankarjev dom, and elsewhere – if the epidemic doesn’t stop us.

Teja Reba,
programme director of the City of Women festival and association


New Feminism and Fighting Stupidity

Feminism and philosophy both grapple with all that is self-evident and received, which requires the greatest possible theoretical courage. The old slogan The Personal is Political is current once again, and once again this means that everything must be called into question. Philosophers used to fight with Sophists who were their main adversaries in antiquity. Then they fought against errors in thinking, illusions, and ideologies, until they finally reached the extreme – fighting stupidity in the era of late capitalism. The main symptom of universal human stupidity of course can be no other than Woman. Beauvoir defined her as the second sex and, prior to her, Marx said that the relationship with woman expresses all the misery of humankind and the infinite degradation in which man exists for “himself”.

Patriarchy cannot be exterminated. However, it can – and must be – resisted and mocked. That is what the City of Women has been fighting for the last 25 years. We are fighting the “received ideas” about feminism that the official science sticks to castrates and eunuchs (in our Dictionary of Standard Slovenian Language), we are fighting the snide comments about our foolish driving in high heels (in our everyday lives). We are fighting the persistent bullying of both women drivers and university professors. We are fighting the absence of women in art, science, and philosophy – and their excessive presence “on the streets”. La lotta continua!

Let us take the wheel of history into our own hands – everyone, to the streets! Women, to the streets! 

Eva D. Bahovec, PhD,

Honorary President of the City of Women association