Post-soviet feminist solidarity

femlogoWe often say solidarity towards each other unites us – the people with different experiences and political views. We seek solidarity in our large feminist communities and our local groups. Feminist movement, as well as many other movements against social, political and economic violence is based upon solidarity of the members. However, what do we understand when we say solidarity and how do we understand it within the feminism context? We can hardly find answer to these questions in glossaries or Wikipedia. But we can ask these questions to ourselves and our friends. It might help us understand and get to know each other in a better way.

Although the types of discrimination vary, they are equally worth to being abolished

Lviv, Ukiraine

To me solidarity is when you and someone else have the same experience of limitation to your freedom but together you understand it and find the reason and start to work with the same principle.

It is not necessary to experience something on your own in order to understand how it feels like when you are in a certain situation. And you try to change the situation to not only help a certain person but in order to change the principles which rule the world, thus helping yourself consequently. I wouldn’t personally oppose solidarity with only apathy, indifference or not being open. Solidarity is not at all alike Missionary compassion. Solidarity is also a super active feeling, so it is a concept plus action and not only compassion.

To me feminism has a direct link to solidarity, as feminism is not just an attempt to involve women in the current hierarchic system with being equal to men, but a desire to completely change that system. Intersectional approach helped me to understand solidarity within the context of feminism. That is accepting the correlations between different exceptions. To me intersection is when we talk about a common experience of women but we understand that these women are in different economic and social conditions depending on their stratum, sexual orientation, race, ethnic identity and other conditions. We don’t put everyone in the same scale, we give them opportunity to describe their own experience but at the same time we understand that we have something in common. Although the types of discrimination vary, they are equally worth to being abolished.

It is possible that solidarity is an irrational phenomenon but it doesn’t make me give up on the idea

Coco, Radical Queer Affinity Collective
Budapest, Hungary & Berlin, Germany

I keep thinking of this political slogan that we’ve seen at many migrant/refugee solidarity demonstrations in Germany “solidarität muss praktisch werden.” I’m not at all sure what was the intended meaning of those who first wrote the slogan. but I know how we interpreted it. My comrade insisted that it means how solidarity should be more than verbal expressions and waving supportive banners. Solidarity should be tangible, active, methodological, participatory, and not merely theoretical.

Though I don’t disagree with that interpretation, my initial understanding of how solidarity can or must become practical relates to how I believe solidarity to be a horizontal instrument. It’s not something that works from the top down. It’s not something that makes sense if I just sit atop a high-rise building throwing my appreciation and support down to those in the trenches.

So it’s this relationship that must be practical, as well as the content. This relationship between movements, among comrades, one that actually feels in solidarity, is one that we have to practice and strive for each day. It cannot be a one-off action, a demonstration on the square, that gives us some warm, fuzzy feelings but then slips from our minds. Nor can it be a one-off practical distribution of warm winter clothes to a group of women experiencing homelessness. solidarity is a daily practice, just as horizontality is. We seek for horizontality inside our collectives and we must also do so inside our movements.

Otherwise, we’re engaging in some self-righteous battle for whose ‘ism’ is the most radical or for whose struggle is the most urgent. Solidarity is horizontal because it entails a mutual recognition of struggle. Though our struggles may be different and we have many different strategies for approaching them, solidarity is something bigger than strategy.

And solidarity is probably something quite irrational. Though that’s not something that turns me off about it. I’d much prefer to embrace more of the irrational in my politics. so I support a highly irrational, yet practical solidarity.

Some examples, even if they sound simple, of solidarity that I’ve experienced among feminists:

Sharing knowledge: (as opposed to this feeling of not knowing what to do, having always to seek expert opinions, etc. which results from hierarchies of knowledge and is commonly experienced in corporate settings)

Solidarity comes from all around – from my close friend, from her jilted ex-girlfriend, from the trans activist in her full body biker gear, from the student activist always dressed in his skirt, and all the other people who shared so much time and effort so I could learn how to repair my own bicycle. They never took the tools out of my hands to do it themselves. They never sighed with frustration that I was taking up too much time out of their day. And they never acted as if my questions were stupid. But even if they’d had, there are more of us now skilled in DIY bike repair and we continue the process of sharing that knowledge horizontally.

Sharing space: (as opposed to strict notions of private property and trespassing)

safer spaces for activists to gather can be few in many contexts. So when someone gains access to space, then offers to share it with whoever may need to meet there, this can be really helpful.

Thanks to feminism, at last we can give ourselves freedom in situations where we had to keep silent due to the burden of power of directors, fathers and husbands

Saint Petersburg, Russia

To me feminism assumes struggle against patriarchy in groups and as an individual. Thanks to this struggle feminist space becomes a place a little freer from discrimination than in patriarchy society. Thanks to feminism, at last we can give ourselves freedom in situations where we had to keep silent due to the burden of power of directors, fathers and husbands.

Freedom – first of all freedom of speech. It means a great responsibility for our behavior as well as sensitivity towards others, freedom to create and try something new. Feminism is a testing ground; besides the wonderful queer communities and meetings, thunderstorm and lightning happen there resulting for the storms to gather in. Resisting in such conditions is a real challenge for feminist solidarity.

I am ready to protect women and what feminine is, but I won’t let feminine aggression slap me on the cheek

Bella Rapoport
Saint Petersburg, Russia

To create a space where in spite of different oppressions from the government, manipulations and collapses it is still possible to create and to love, that is what it means to create a feminism solidarity space.

To me solidarity is supporting each other in crucial issues and if possible, it is a shoulder to rely on in difficult life situations. Within the frames of feminism it means to counteract misogyny and to protect women who are facing it. On the other hand, when I was new in feminism I thought I was supposed to love all women and be their sister.

Now I don’t have that feeling. I am a single one person only, and I am not enough for everyone. I am ready to protect women and what feminine is, but I won’t let feminine aggression slap me on the cheek. Feminism and solidarity are for not letting out your inner disagreements out of the subculture boundaries and thus not to feed your enemies. In any case, to me solidarity is to stand by “our people” to the limits which we know well.

In a place where a total array among the members of the society concerning their rights and responsibilities exists, politics cannot exist

Irina Solomatina, Gender Route
Minsk, Belarus

There was time when I participated in organizing international female festival held in Minsk. During this time I had a lot of contradictory feelings, it was the fifth time, and more than 100 movies were included in the program from more than 25 countries but still something was missing.

Later when I got education on gender studies in European State University (I was an auditor there) I realized that female consolidation or solidarity was missing among the women who were shooting films for that festival.

In West, women who are engaged in organizing such festivals do it with more consciousness, therefore they somehow attained solidarity and they try to offer a set of requirement about how the world is constructed.

When they feel injustices (and unfortunately not everyone does) they start to try to form and present their requirements and they are blamed of being dangerous for the world while they only wish to change the system. People who have come across injustice often ask themselves who are the ones responsible for the choice and control of categories through which we name, evaluate and categorize the world.

At that time the problem of politics comes forth – how come that there is always politics where people do not agree with elementary principles of dwelling or with the principles of their co-existence? In a place where a total array among the members of the society concerning their rights and responsibilities exists, politics cannot exist. Political struggle is not only the enforcement and reproduction of the common vision. That’s why it is necessary to write down your feminist story based on our differences and to look for possibilities which would open a new view and which would suppose the necessity of a dialog.

I am happy to observe, that there are initiatives which are devoted to their sisterhood

Elvira Meliksetyan
Yerevan, Armenia

In my opinion solidarity is one of the main parts of the ideology of Feminism.

One cannot talk  about feminism, not taking into consideration the issue of solidarity. It is simply impossible, as the ideology of feminism is developed around the ideas of solidarity, empathy and support.

Unfortunately in nowadays women movement around the world, more and more often I come across with so called ”feminism movement”. But when looking deeply into the processes they go through, I see almost no sense of solidarity among the activists. Sometimes it is not about the feminism, but the image of feminism and women movement.

Meanwhile I am happy to share that more and more often I come across with young developed initiatives that are truly devoted to their movement, to their belief in the ideology of feminism, to their sisterhood.

This is really empowering view!

Mistakes appear and blossom in the movement saying that solidarity does not support anything

Hana Kochetkova, Children 404
Moscow, Russia

I stand for inclusive and intersectional feminism directions. Working with LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Asexual) teenagers I deal with such parts of identity being a reason for discrimination such as sex, gender, sexuality and age all in one package. To me the main problem in the idea of feminist solidarity concept is that a lot of people take it as a cooperation based on common ideology and not as a methodology. And the fact that feminist idea has long ago passed by movements’ inner policy and has gained a status of independent scientific-research school is baseless.

In post-soviet countries it is impossible or difficult to have gender education but thanks to years of work of translator-activists, huge amount of feminist texts have been translated which are available in electronic version for members of the communities and for individuals as well. So because of differences among responsibilities of people calling them feminists, logical mistakes appear and blossom in the movement saying that solidarity does not support anything, and at the same time social discrimination myths appear which mutate like syndrome and are distributed among feminists.

For instance, large and systemized social research of “Ethnos” institution led by feminist investigator could bring all the cruel discussions in regards of endemic feminisms conditioned by culture to a more constructive ground.


Victoria Lomasko
Moscow, Russia

I don’t really like “-isms”. Even if it is to use one of the “-isms”, then let it be humanism, which includes humanitarian approach towards everyone, and feminism is the same as humanism but it puts emphasizing on women and their problems.

It is very easy to look into the topic of feminism and solidarity when feminists express solidarity and support each other.

Zara Harutyunyan
Heghine Babayan