But what does it all mean…?
f.a.q. stands, on the one hand, for the oft-repeated acronym of ‘frequently asked questions’. With this we want to suggest that although themes such as gender diversity and gender-based discrimination – that is, of both societally assigned or self-assigned gender roles – are by no means new, they are still very much hot topics.
On the other, the abbreviation reflects the direction of the Laden:
- f for feminist
- a for anti-sexist
- q for queer
All three terms have their histories. Neither feminism, anti-sexism nor queer are clearly defined, and have stemmed several political self-conceptions and movements which delineate or defy existing definitions. In the following text we would like to outline briefly with which of these our acronym associates positively.
The reference to feminism should clarify that we consider ourselves committed to the fight against gender-specific discrimination and inequality, in the majority of whose cases women are still the most affected party. We also allude to our criticism of modern gender relations (of which the binary gender system is symptomatic): namely, that we consider these relations to be historically situated, and produced through material conditions such as structures of ownership; the division of spheres such as private and public, reproduction and production; and the nuclear family. At the same time we agree with post-colonial criticism of the (predominantly white, middle class) feminist movement. That is to say, it is important for us to reflect and to make transparent who speaks on whose behalf, and also that other power relations, relations which do not necessarily directly apply to gender relations are named, or made known.
At the base of our self-concept, we find solidarity far cooler than individualisation; we fight against the discrimination or oppression of people who are, (e.g.) perceived to be women. We thereby do not yeild to the conclusion that “there is no We because societal relations affect every individual differently”, i.e. that every individual can only speak in terms of their own experience. We cannot and do not wish to formulate universal, all-applicable critiques, but despite this we still need concepts through and by which the possibility of a critique of societal relations can be approached. Important too is the space and freedom to grapple with and further develop these concepts.
Anti-sexism has for us a strongly practical slant. We understand anti-sexist work to be work concerned with forms of sexual violence and assault – that is, educational, empowerment and support work. We find it important to recognise the different grades or shades of violence and its associations. We would like to thematise, criticise, and combat both the societal enforcement of gender assignment/orientation, and the limitations placed upon us which do not allow the possibility of alternative or multiple forms of sexuality, or sexualities. We do not, thereby, agree per se with individual (or ‘subjective’) requirements, because these are often borne, and indivisible from societal power relations.
We consider the consensual principle to be of paramount importance in sexual relationships. The ‘Pro sex’ movement is bound into a complex relationship between emancipation from, and the obligation to follow what is thought to be a perceivedly ‘healthy’ or ‘normal’ practice/ expression of sexuality. Asexuality is mostly negatively connotated, pathologised, or perceived as abnormal, and often not even considered as a legitimate form or expression of sexuality. This we don’t want. What’s more, it is important for us not to ignore the fact that there exist other forms of sexist behaviour which do not necessarily have anything to do with sex – i.e., lack of respect regarding a person’s self-definition.
Q for queer stands for our understanding of gender categories as societal constructions rather than biological givens. We understand a queer politics to be both a politics of anti-identification and the critique of identity norms. Queer to us is therefore both theoretical and practical. We want to pry from our minds and our praxes the concept of binary gender, ideals of beauty and health, and standardized ideas of how we should live our lives, conduct our relationships, or express our sexualities.
It is imperative for us to recognize a person’s self-definition/ -identification or indeed dis-identification, and simultaneously to be aware and critical of what this self-definition might stand against, and/or the ways in which it is also potentially discriminatory or oppressive. At the same time we cannot avoid the question: which identity concepts do we and can we actually use? To us there is a distinction between people who do not want to classify themselves, and who people who cannot classify themselves (or both). There will always exist terms of identification, whether self-assigned, self-produced or attributed by others (examples of which are trans-identities, nationality, or colour). When based on concrete, practical realities, these terms can at first seem rather apolitical and unreflected. And a politics on the grounds of a common identity can be exclusionary. We find it therefore of vital importance in political work to reflect which position relates to which identity, and why. In some societal and political conflicts it can be temporarily necessary to refer to a collective identity. To criticise identity politics from outside – i.e. as a non-implicated party – is a delicate task, and must be well thought through.
With our emphasis on feminism, anti-sexism and queer politics we do not want to lose the societal context from sight. It is important for us to link different political themes and spheres of action, and we hope that the FAQ Laden will become a place of intersection and exchange between myriad different political networks, groups and ‘scenes’.