BY THE HYSTERIA COLLECTIVE
In January 2014, we published the first issue of HYSTERIA periodical with the involvement of a team of students largely based at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, and a group of enthusiastic feminist contributors. Today, our collective is made up of about 50 members from around the world and each issue of our print publication offers more than 100 pages of radical feminisms.
HYSTERIA is both a periodical as well as a collective, which produces live feminist events and forms of activisms. We attempt to bridge the gap between academics, activists and artists, creating a space not only for individual voices to be heard, but also a space for collaboration, (dis)agreement, support and dialogue.
As HYSTERIA is ever-growing and remains open to new directions, ideas and approaches, neither the collective nor the publication fulfils a static position, nor does it embody an easily defined role. It makes the task of writing a piece about ourselves a great challenge – though a desirable one as it pushes us to momentarily formulate reflections in a world still driven by a white supremacist, capitalist, hetero-patriarchy, which produces an incomprehensible amount of violence.
The first step in disrupting this violent order is to shake off illusions of singularity. In other words, we must push hegemonic narratives out of their comfort zone by shedding light on marginalised pluralities. HYSTERIA’s ambition to present and interrogate feminism’s multiplicities inevitably leads to the questioning of the hegemonic strand of feminism – that is, the liberal, capitalist strand, which is covered by the media far more than any radical feminist current has ever been. Liberal, capitalist, “easy to digest” feminism, manifested in, for example, writings by Caitlin Moran and Sheryl Sandberg, is presented by the mainstream as the only “sound” and “moral” feminism. Countering this one-dimensional portrayal of feminism opens up spaces for more transgressive feminist discourses otherwise deemed non-palatable.
HYSTERIA’s interrogation of the mainstream feminist discourse leads to the question: who are feminisms for? Feminism is primarily presented as a Western female phenomenon, but what happens when this story about feminism is rewritten from a different perspective? What happens when the otherwise rigid boundaries defining ‘female’ are complicated, and the affirmation of a belief in the ‘superior West’ is revealed to be one of the main hindrances for women’s liberation?
Feminism’s role as social justice movement for marginalised people across boundaries of gender, nation and capital is amplified when posing these questions. But since the artificial boundaries that divide us are acknowledged by HYSTERIA – and radical feminists in general – as effectively producing hierarchies of inequality, we refuse to blind ourselves from those divisions. It is thus necessary for activists to recognise the fine line between transcendence of categories and liberal blindness – the latter of course being damaging and, thus, undesirable for the feminist movements.
Our carving out of feminism as an infinite fluidity of multiplicities inevitably pushes us to think intersectionally. HYSTERIA raises questions about how social inclusion and marginalisation are gendered, racialised and class-based and therefore mobilises debate about how power is distributed along a number of scales. ‘Intersectionality’ has become a buzzword within feminist activist circles but these circles tend to not examine and critique the usage of the intersectional tool. Instead, many promote ‘intersectionallity’ in a dogmatic, essentialising and sometimes problematic manner. Intersectionality – today used as a methodology by many white feminists – produces an Other, and that Other is almost always a Woman Of Color who the white woman measures her experience against. This ironic othering, which ends up essentialising the ‘othered’ subject as subversive and resistant, must be interrogated rather than ignored.
In the HYSTERIA manifesto, we state clearly that we refuse to settle on any rigid definitions. We look at feminist questions by taking into account voices and stories outside the familiar feminist contexts through essays, articles and comments, as well as lived, embodied experiences as a form of authority. It is exactly the latter – first person testimonies – that are so crucial to our project. Feminisms are more than an academic theory or framework: feminism can simply be an inkling – a faint feeling of injustice – that finds its validation in a broader body of people striving for social equality.
Since HYSTERIA is inherently critical of oppressive structures, we acknowledge and critique the idea and implications of ‘privilege’. Our diverse accounts and focal points illustrate that ‘privilege’ in a neoliberal, capitalist world is of relative size; privilege is constantly changing, reforming and dancing in front of us. The way one’s privilege can suddenly become miniscule or gigantic is made visible when flicking through our periodical. It becomes clear that the only way to “map the margins” is to continuously interrogate the contextual in detail.
We also do not ignore the privilege that HYSTERIA holds, and the potential risks associated with activism from this position. How do we prevent representations that oppress the subject in question? Should we instead focus exclusively on presenting those voices too often talked for?
Gayatri Spivak states: “You don’t work to give the subaltern a voice. You work against subalternity itself.” While editing and curating HYSTERIA periodical and events, we must continuously acknowledge and critique the colonial empire that we are operating in, but ‘checking ones privilege’ should not hinder struggles against patriarchy nor legitimise passivity – only then do we become dangerously complicit in reproducing the colonial capitalist patriarchy.
HYSTERIA is not a media outlet that covers what is normally accepted as the most current global issues. HYSTERIA does not discriminate against different “small” or “large” forms of injustice. Smashing the divisions between micro and macro, local and global, private and public, now and then, and here and there is one of feminisms’ key objectives. In the processes of dismantling these divisions, the currency of what is considered newsworthy is distorted. Our 2014 ‘Feminists For Ferguson’ event in London reflects our determination to understand state violence, racial profiling and carceral feminism through radical feminist lenses. What seems like current news is, through these lenses, quickly shown to be a complex, historical and structural issue. HYSTERIA strives to challenge how we narrate different events by investigating their linkages to other events – juxtaposing multiple arguments, testimonies and objections.
Originally published with STRIKE! magazine