Women's Agency and Legacy of (Post)Socialism: Understanding Czech Women Artists' Attitudes Towards Feminism

Women's Agency and Legacy of (Post)Socialism: Understanding Czech Women Artists' Attitudes Towards Feminism

“Feminism starts to be one of the most frequently used, trendy and awesome words of the post-communist Czech language”, stated an editor of Respekt, one of Czech post-1989 popular, liberal magazines, in 19921. It was mentioned in a favorable review on the first Czech post-1989 book, described as feminist2. At the same time, the very same magazine published an infamous series of articles by a prominent Czech writer, emigrant Josef Škvorecký, who in different ways downplayed and found excuses for sexual abuse while criticizing political correctness of the Western university environment. This example gives a good picture of Czech post-revolution media, whose attitude toward gender issues was mostly quite ambivalent. At the same time, magazines as Respekt were among the few resources presenting “Western” feminism to the local environment. It was symptomatic for the postsocialist discourse that during the 1990s the topics of feminism and women’s emancipation were discussed by journalists who used to be employed in official magazines before 1989, while the rest of editorial staff of Respekt came from the dissent circles who showed rather negative attitude to the socialist emancipation of women between 1948 and 19893.

The year 1989 meant a major turn in the Czech society, not just the change of political order and transition from centrally planned economy to the free market. The newly established order also brought about new mechanisms of institutionalizing and promoting gender equality, which too got on the agenda of the emerging NGOs. In the sphere of culture, this turn became apparent on institutional level and in international cooperation. Instead of other socialist countries and states of the Global South, it was predominantly the West, which became the new partner in cultural production. This change can be demonstrated on the program of Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, which in the 1970s and 1980s presented documentary films by female filmmakers from the Global South about the social status of women in their part of the world. After 1989, the topics of gender inequality, environment, pacifism and colonialism in the form of critical documentaries would no longer appear at the festival4. Similarly, the year 1990 lead to the breakup of the international association of female filmmakers Kino Women International (KI-WI), which emerged in the late 1980s on the initiative of women from the socialist countries as a platform for promoting their interests on the international level5. Similarly, the federal Czechoslovak Women’s Union, member of the socialist Women’s International Democratic Federation, was dissolved after 1989. The Women’s Union’s magazine Vlasta, which brought news about social status of women and where critical debate about the future development of women’s emancipation was taking place in the late 1980s, abandoned political debates step by step, becoming a women’s lifestyle periodical. 

The debate about the forms of local feminisms, the legacy of state-controlled socialist women’s emancipation, the change of women’s position in the Czech society after the onset of neoliberalism and about the relevance and applicability of Western feminist theories in the local context, has resonated in the Czech academic milieu since the early 1990s. Already then dozens of both local and international studies and research projects started to emerge, trying to analyze the (post)socialist situation. These activities were to a great extent initiated by the feminists from the “West” and were concerned with the nature and relevance of the state-controlled socialist emancipation model. Also Czech female scholars, mostly sociologists and gender studies experts, were involved in the debate6. Their views reflected to certain extent their life experience, connected with their women’s role in the socialist society, in dissent, or in emigration. Their experiences shaped the debate on the contribution of the state socialist emancipation, which was interpreted negatively by some of local female scholars after 1989. For example, they interpreted women’s employment by socialist state as a form of their exploitation7. Contrary to this, women who experienced the everyday life in the Western liberal democracies interpreted results of the socialist women’s emancipation much more positively. For instance sociologist Gerlinda Šmausová or journalist Alena Wagnerová, both of whom emigrated in the Federal Republic of Germany after 1968, perceived the situation in Germany of the 1970s as less gender-equal compared to Czechoslovakia. What they went through in Germany was, according to them, the loss of their own social status. They argued that they were forced to define themselves through the social status of their husbands and had to cope with much more conservative ideas about the role of men and women in society8.

In the 1990s, the interpretation of former s socialist project of women’s emancipation was not only the question of historiographical research. The central issue was whether it was possible to build a theory on the local experience and intellectual tradition, or totally embrace the “Western” feminisms, which were gradually penetrating both the academic and public discourse. On the one hand feminism was being criticized to be the import from the “West”. This critique discussed also economic relations because many local NGOs and academic activities were sponsored by foreign feminist and other nonprofit institutions9. On the other hand, in the “East vs. West” debate, local female scholars were coping with the situation described by sociologist Hana Havelková as “local experience without a theory”, i. e. application of universal categories regardless of local context10. Despite attempts to positively approach the socialist legacy, “Western” feminist categories, notions and concepts started to prevail in local academic discourse during the 1990s, due to the seemingly missing local critical conceptual vocabulary. The usage of “Western” gender concepts, which have played the lead in academic discourse until today, is lately being interpreted by some female scholars no more as lack of local theoretical concepts, but rather in the light of power imbalance in the global academia. These scholars argued that scholarship from Central and Eastern Europe serve Western researchers as a source of empirical data, but not as conceptual inspiration11.

Recently, in the context of postcolonial theory, and critique of neoliberalism, and neoliberal feminism, the debate about the legacy of the state socialist emancipation is back in the spotlight12. In the art history, the project Gender Check. Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe aimed to create specific local narrative from gender perspectives13. Despite its ambitious rhetoric, the project did not succeed to free itself from the “Western” categories. It did not take in account local feminist thinking and practices before 198914, or after it15. Thus, one of the goals of current debates is among other things the establishment of a specific narrative of the state socialist project of women’s emancipation in the region as well as local traditions of feminist critique and feminist art. According to this perspective the socialist experience would no longer be interpreted as negative or insufficient vis á vis the development and “success” of the “Western” feminist theory and practice since the 1960s16.

Year 1989 as the return of the “natural”?


The transition to neoliberal capitalism after 1989 is often interpreted as a return to what was understood as “natural” in its time – to Europe, private ownership, hierarchy between sexes and traditional gender relations17. Women lost many social and economic rights, which were guaranteed by the socialist state, and new identities based on individualism, instead of the collectivist idea of women as workers and mothers, began to be promoted. The restructuring of the labor market lead to new job opportunities, yet at the same time it intensified feminization of certain sectors and caused job uncertainty and unemployment, which together with gradual closing down of preschool care facilities still increased gender inequalities in society18.

Despite the fact that the return of Czech women to households did not take place after 1989 (also for economic reasons) it was the frequent rhetoric on the political scene. One of the reasons was the macroeconomic strategy, developed in cooperation with the World Bank, whereby the disappearing of women with little children from labor market was to reduce unemployment19. Another reason was the widespread perspective promoting the return of women to households due to their irreplaceable role in childcare20. Thus the picture of future development of women’s social status embraced often even petty bourgeoisie ideas of the past. According to former dissident and MP Eva Kantůrková, the ideal for women was e.g. to establish their own small businesses in their own houses in order to teach their children the practicalities of life in a “natural” way21. The rhetoric with which the above mentioned ideas were rendered was often defining women by means of their “feminine” attitudes to the world, “feminine” qualities, or their specific relation to children, nature and environment. This narrative however was not just the product of the 1990s; it appeared in Czechoslovak discourse thirty years earlier.

In the 1960s, many systemic issues concerning political governance, economy and gender policies were being re-evaluated in Czechoslovakia. The women’s emancipation, promoted by Czechoslovakia after 1948, was also revised. This criticism was structured mainly around the issues of the so-called triple burden, the unskilled women’s labor, and the implementation of financial rewards for childcare. Apart from the experts, public intellectuals as well as lay readers also participated in the discussion in the mass media about the future of the women’s position in society.

One of the debates that addressed the differences between “Western” and Czechoslovak feminism was unleashed with the publication of Simone de Beauvoir’s book, The Second Sex (1949), which was translated into Czech in 1966. Beauvoir was criticized for her conceptualization of feminism that originated in the experience of one race and one class22 and, among other issues, also for her idea of social construction of gender, which later became one of the key concepts of the “Western” feminism23. In opposition to Beauvoir’s sociological conditioning of “femininity”, authors such as the sociologist Irena Dubská and the journalist Helena Klímová preferred the biological conditioning and advocated for the women’s emancipation on the basis of difference.

However, the emphasis on the role of women as mothers, which Helena Klímová wrote about, was also criticized as a return to the traditional gender roles. According to this critique it opposed the socialist emancipation of women based on the idea that women’s social roles are historically constructed and therefore reversible. A similar critical discussion emerged in Czechoslovakia once again at the end of the 1980s, when the outcome of the socialist emancipation project began to be widely discussed. In addition to new issues such as the enactment of parental leave for men, the debate also returned to long-discussed topics of vertical segregation and the gender wage gap. Another topic that prevailed in the discussion was the critique of employment of women in traditionally “male” professions and sectors (e.g. tractor drivers, welders), which, according to the discourse of the time, contributed to the “masculinization” of women24.

The narrative of the loss of “femininity”, which emerged in the 1960s, persisted in the Czech society even after 1989, as psychologist Kateřina Zábrodská demonstrated in her interpretation of women’s life stories narrated in the 1990s25. The question is whether these statements, regardless of whether they were from the 1960s or the years after the Velvet Revolution, should be interpreted as a conservative turn to traditional gender roles, and a lack of critical thinking and feminism in Czech society. However, these positions could also be understood as a specific local feminism that is responding to local political, economic and social conditions26. In 1992, in the attempt to articulate the Central European experience, even Helena Klímová herself connected her theoretical framework of promoting the “difference” of women with the thinking of the Indian feminist Devaki Jain, while also referencing to the texts of the “Western” feminism of difference (e.g. In a Different Voice by Carol Gilligan from 1982)27.

A similar situation can be found in the discourse of the Czechoslovak art scene. One of the canonic texts on women’s art and the emancipation of women under socialism is an article titled The Soul of the Androgyne by the most important theorist of contemporary art at the time, Jindřich Chalupecký, which was published in Flash Art in 197728. Chalupecký was in contact with a Czech emigrant and the editor of the magazine Helena Kontová and her husband Giancarlo Politi (the founder of Flash Art). The article was based on their mutual discussions and approached “Western” feminism and feminist art polemically and on the basis of Czechoslovak experience29. Chalupecký promoted femininity, which he associated with an emotional and intuitive approach to the world, not only as a principle of artistic creation but as a path that the modern civilization, founded on scientific rationality and technocracy, should adopt. He called for the ideal of the androgyne, which could have originated not exclusively of his Czechoslovak contemporaries and the Marxist theory of the “scientific-technological revolution” (that entailed the structural transformation of the human existence), but could have also been taken from a similar approach that was appearing in the “Western” art scene. According to Helena Kontová, the “androgyne discussion” was very popular in the “Western” discourse in the 1970s, because it supported the deconstruction of patriarchal structures and their principles and served also as an argument for the inclusion of art works by women artists into important art collections30.

The term “female art” [ženské umění]31, which Chalupecký employed in the article, dominated the discourse of the Czech art scene until the 1990s. Even the majority of the polls on feminism, which at the time began appearing on the pages of the cultural journals, inquired about “femininity” and “female roles”32. These surveys have been predominantly interpreted by scholars as the advocacy for the traditional gender roles, often rooted in the discourse of psychology It was also seen as a consequence of local theoretical backwardness (the absence of social constructivist theories of gender and postmodern thinking, particularly in the sphere of culture). Howewer, in the 1990s, the term “female art” still could have entailed its political dimension, as it had been formulated by Jindřich Chalupecký. On the other hand some women artists understood the term again in its traditional sense, referring solely to decorative art, which was a category into which they did not want to be classified33.

Generational experiences, contradictions and discontinuities


The Secondary Archive project presents several generations of women artists — from those who began to be artistically active in the post-war period, through the generation that entered the art scene after 1989 to the currently emerging artists. If we were to look for different generational positions in their approaches, the question of identification with feminism would certainly be one of the possibilities. To put it simply, the post-war generations of female artists refused to identify themselves with feminism, and even after 1989, ambivalent attitudes towards feminism prevailed throughout the Czech art scene. However, today’s identification with feminism in contemporary art practices is a fully legitimate and even favored author’s attitude. In many interpretations, the post-war development of Czech art is presented as a journey that begins with the absence of feminist consciousness of artists, followed by its gradual acquisition after 1989, leading to the flourishing of feminist thought in recent years34. For the understanding of the local experience, it is also necessary to pose the question of what exactly the identification with feminism meant in these different periods.

The cases of women identifying with certain feminist principles but refusing to define themselves as feminists are a well-described phenomenon. Such decision is made by women on the basis of their self-identification with the image of feminism and feminists they have created for themselves. However, it is also based on their own perception of themselves in relation to this particular image and their differentiation from such images35. When it comes to the generations of artists who have spent most of their lives under socialism, the term feminism referred predominantly to “Western” feminism. Since they were not in much contact with the “Western” feminist theoretical concepts or “Western” artists of the time, the image of “Western” feminism was thus shaped primarily by the discourse of the socialist state It perceived any “Western” feminist activities as a “senseless struggle between the two sexes” through which it was not possible to achieve actual structural change in society36. Feminists such as Valerie Solanas and later Andrea Dworkin were represented as “crazy, aggressive women attacking men” and served as a symbol of “Western” feminism37. Simultaneously, American feminists were also perceived as women that were weak. Their experience as described by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique (1963) was seen as constructed on the basis of individualistic middle-class problems, addressing mental, sexual and career issues in the material well-being of the American suburbs38. The aversion towards “Western” feminism was structured along the lines of political, social, economic, but also cultural differences, as was demonstrated by Chiara Bonfiglioli in her analysis of the misunderstandings between Western feminist artists and women artists from socialist states at the international conference Comrade Woman in 1978 in Belgrade39.

The fact that Czech women artists did not identify with “Western” feminism during state socialist era does not mean that they did not occupy any critical positions towards the gender inequality in the socialist society of their time. Their feminist thinking was based on local debates regarding the immediate position of women in society and on their critique of specific gender policies of the socialist state. Among the most critical ones was the generation of artists that were active in the 1960s. Gender issues were among the most discussed topics in society — they did not only refer to the political reforms, including the re-establishment of the Czech Women’s Union in 1967, which demanded more power from the government to decide on the direction and the form of women’s emancipation movement, but addressed also the economic and legal issued (the women’s role in the Czechoslovak economy) and the problem of the so-called population crisis. Thus the artists (e.g. Eva Švankmajerová and Naděžda Plíšková) focused in their art works primarily on the critique of the “triple burden” and the objectification of the female body in visual representations, related to the sexual liberation of the late 1960s40.

In comparison with the strong generation of female artists that were active during the 1960s, who were born in the interwar period and who are usual “subjects” of Czech art history, it would seem as if the generation of the 1980s artists, who were born in the 1950s, almost did not exist. The question is whether this “gap” in history happened as a consequence of the art history research that was undertaken after 1989 and exclusively focused on the art of the 1960s, or whether this position is based on a real conservative turn of the Czechoslovak art scene of the 1980s. The social discourse of the time tackled the issue of women’s emancipation with much more ambivalence. While the 1960s saw a social critique of the state socialist gender policies, twenty years later the criticism was directed explicitly at the emancipation of women as such. This critique also emerged in film and literary work of the 1980s, in which dystopian visions of the future were accompanied by the depictions of the cruel rule of women over the world. The objections to women’s emancipation appeared also as a part of the critique of the scientific-technological revolution, seen as a bureaucratic, anti-ecological project of the 1960s that did not see its realization through41.

Thus the collective Tvrdohlaví [The Stubborn] (1987), inspired by the Italian trans-avant-garde and the German collective Neue Wilde, is now perceived as a prime representative of the 1980s in the history of Czech art. The collective consisted of ten men adopting the role of rebels, who were known for their macho self-presentations and statements according to which a woman as an author had nothing to do in the art world42. These machismo sentiments were also a constituent part of the discourses of the 1990s when the criticism of women’s emancipation movements and the increasing exploitation of the female body in public space came to be reflected in the contemporary artistic practices of male artists as well. Therefore, male only exhibition projects were being created as an intended parody of women’s collective exhibitions or exhibitions organized on the occasion of International Women’s Day43. At that time, the art scene began its reception of “Western” feminism. However, unlike in the academic circles, the art scene did not engage in the debate regarding the legacy of state-socialist emancipation of women. Feminism was perceived and understood as something completely foreign and external, with which the Czech environment had had no previous experience44.

Although the identification with „Western“ feminism was not considered as entirely negative onthe Czech art scene of the 1990s, rather ambivalent attitudes towards it prevailed. The image of feminism was created mainly through the media representations but it was also influenced by the more recent experiences from abroad, most importantly from the West. The Czech feminists distinguished themselves from “Western” feminists by distancing themselves from the “loss of femininity” and the negation of the “mother role”. Artists Martina Reidelbauchová and Milena Dopitová, for example, recalled their experiences from New York and Boston from the first half of the 1990s, where, according to them, women on the art scene had to adjust themselves to fill traditionally male positions — the female artists attended the exhibition openings in black trouser suits and it would have been a faux pas to take one’s child to such a gathering. Feminist artists were also described as single women who sacrificed the experience of motherhood for the sake of their careers45.

The general lack of identification of Czech artists with feminism was often explained as gender blindness, concerning not only their reluctance to rhetorically subscribe to feminism but also their inability to perceive gender inequalities in society. This interpretation was based on the perspective of liberal feminism, which has been dominating both foreign and Czech academia since 1989. However, the position of Czech women artists can be understood also in the context of the legacy of state-socialist women’s emancipation as an act of distancing from the image they had of individualistic “Western” feminism. It can be read as a conscious rejection of the idea that the career of women artists demanded their subordination to the normatives of the “Western” art world and abandoning their personal values — positive relationships with the family, motherhood and the position of “femininity”, intertwined with the notion of care and sensitive relationships with others46.

On the other hand, the current generation of women artists is mostly expressing their affinity with feminism. However, the question of (non)identification with feminism cannot be interpreted only through the optics of generational differences but should be tackled as a cohesive result of contemporary public discourses (interviews with Milena Dopitová, born in 1963, are an example in which, over the past thirty years, she has gradually expressed the shift of her position regarding feminism, moving from its radical rejection towards its acceptance). This transformation is a result of a paradigm shift that has occurred in the Czech public sphere, in which feminism has become a mainstream part of the public discourse. Unlike in the early 1990s, the pages of the key printed media are no longer occupied with as many anti-feminist sentiments, which at the same time may not be a truthful reflection of the generally prevailing opinion in Czech society. After 1989, the Czech media understood the regained freedom of speech in the sense that everyone had the right to self-expression, regardless of their message. This resulted in the frequent presence of sexist and xenophobic statements in the public discourse of the 1990s. Nowadays it is no longer acceptable to present these statements in the mainstream media to such an extent47. Similarly, in the case of the contemporary art scene, even the artist Jiří David from the generation of Tvrdohlaví [The Stubborn] no longer claims (as he did in the 1990s) that women artists should “return to the kitchen” — on the contrary, he recognizes himself to be a supporter of feminism, even though this issue does not truly concern him directly since feminism, according to David, is “a struggle of women with other women”48.

The mainstream acceptance of feminism in Czech society is proved, for example, by the creation of the commercial feminist magazine Heroine in 2019, financially supported by the media branch of the financial consulting company Partners. Unlike the Slovak-Czech feminist magazine Aspekt, which was founded in the 1990s, anchored in the academic-activist environment and devoted to various concepts of feminist theory and practice, Heroine is more of a hipster lifestyle project targeting the urban middle class. The main topics that are being discussed in contemporary Czech society thus are usually the problems of socially and culturally privileged women. The recent Czech public debate does not adopt new critical interpretative approaches and makes the impression of being clichés (including statements such as that “rejecting social norms of beauty can dismantle patriarchy”)49.

When it comes to the contemporary Czech art scene, several projects have emerged in recent years, which are voicing a critique of the institutional structures of the art world, such as the Mothers Artlovers activist collective or the Feminist (Art) Institution initiative. Their goal is not only to promote gender equality in areas that are traditionally being addressed (such as equality in representation, wages, etc.) but also to transform the functioning of systemic structures along the lines of the ethics of care50. Among the institutions that are following the code of feminist institutions is also The Jindřich Chalupecký Society. The Society annually presents the Jindřich Chalupecký Award to visual artists under the age of 35. Recently, the Society has been trying to alter the structure and the essence of its activity. As a result of these changes, a new format of the award has emerged — for the second year in a row, five applications were chosen as the recipients of the award instead of only one entry (this year, together with Björnsonova “non-collective”, there will be ten laureates of the award).

The new format of the award, accompanied by the rhetoric of “non-competition”, has sparked a debate on the art scene, inquiring about the possibilities of the critical potential of this format, which is still anchored in the traditional institutional and economic structures. Apart of that, the declared refusal to establish the hierarchies among the finalists, is to be achieved simply by increasing the number of laureates by only a few selected artists. Similarly, another question that has arisen pertains to the critical potential of feminism in contemporary art. Unlike the generation of artists of the 1990s, contemporary authors find themselves in a situation when their identification with feminism or the production of feminist art is advantageous in terms of their career advancements. On the contemporary art scene, feminism has become one of the mainstream trends. In comparison with the older generation of artists whose work in the 1990s art gravitated towards feminism and gender issues mostly intuitively as a response to local contexts, today the main source of inspiration and information for contemporary Czech artists is imported from the West (especially from Berlin that is even in the geographical vicinity). As a consequence, current “Western” trends are followed more systematically than in the 1990s (for example, the Xenofeminist Manifesto, which has been often discussed on the Czech scene recently).

However, the growing familiarity with the “West” is also associated with an increasing awareness of postcolonial critique, which raises questions about the position and experience of the local art scene. The majority of Czech art scene encounters the information about state-socialist emancipation as well as of recent feminist theory and practice through independent individual research (which has also been my case). The absence of an institutional background of feminism in higher art education is perhaps one of the phenomena that have not changed much since the 1990s (one of the answers that connected the statements of the Czech women artists interviewed for this project was that they had felt alone in their feminism at art schools)51. This lack of feminist institutional framework encourages further change in the long run. The memory and the duration of symbolic capital are essential for a sense of continuity — to avoid the constant rediscovery and repetition so that we would not have to begin from scratch every single time52.

Marianna Placáková is an art historian and curator. She studies the gendered context of artistic production in postwar Czechoslovakia. Currently, she is a member of the two-year research project Gender Politics and the Art of European Socialist States (Getty Foundation, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań).

1Josef Chuchma, Osamělá ve světě prasat. Opravdu feministický nářez Caroly B. [Lonely in the world of pigs. A really feminist cut by Carola B], Respekt, 7. 12. 1992, p. 14.
2Carola Biedermannová, Mstivá kantiléna aneb rigor magoris aneb feministický nářez [The vengeful cantilena or rigor magoris or the feminist cut], Prague, Ivo Železný, 1992.
3These were Josef Chuchma and Anastasia Kudrnová, who before 1989 worked in the magazine Mladý svět [Young World] published by Union of Socialist Youth.
4Vítězslav Sommer, Festival na rozcestí: Politika MFF Karlovy Vary mezi přestavbou a post-socialistickou transformací (rukopis) [Festival at a Crossroads: The Politics of the Karlovy Vary IFF between Reconstruction and Post-Socialist Transformation (manuscript)].
5The Czech branch of KI-WI fell under the Czechoslovak Film Institute and was represented by director Věra Chytilová. In addition to improving the position of filmmakers in local structures, the organization negotiated with the Czech Women's Union to create a women's film club Videokavárna, which was to include a hairdresser, beauty services and a boutique in addition to film screenings and refreshments. see. Dana Menčíková, KI-WI znamená pomoc [KI-WI Stands for Help], Vlasta, Vol. 42. 1988, No. 40, p. 7.
6Libora Oates-Indruchová, Tak pěkně od začátku: o vztahu sociologie a kategorie gender [So pretty from the beginning: about the relationship between sociology and the category of gender], in Libora Oates-Indruchová(ed.), “Tvrdošíjnost myšlenky. Od feministické kriminologie k teorii genderu” [Stubbornness of thought. From feminist criminology to gender theory], Prague, SLON, 2011, p. 77.
7A negative approach to the state-socialist project can be found, for example, in the argumentation of sociologist Jiřina Šiklová, who was active in dissent before 1989 and whose activist and academic position is based on criticism of the socialist regime. Jiřina Šiklová, Are Women in Central and Eastern Europe Conservative?, in: Nanette Funk, Magda Mueller (eds.), “Gender Politics and Post-Communism, Reflections from Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union”, New York, Routledge, 1993, pp. 74–83.
8Alena Köhler-Wagnerová, Die Frau im Sozialismus. Beispiel ČSSR [The woman under socialism. Example of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic], Hamburg, Hoffmann und Campe, 1974; Alena Wagnerová, Laudatio. Linda Šmausová – žena – člověk – vědkyně – přítelkyně: curriculum velice osobní [Linda Šmausová –woman – man –– scholar – friend: a very personal curriculum], in: Libora Oates-Indruchová (ed.), “Tvrdošíjnost myšlenky. Od feministické kriminologie k teorii genderu” [Stubbornness of thought. From feminist criminology to gender theory], Praha, SLON, 2011, pp. 14–20.
9Jiřina Šiklová, McDonald's, Terminators, Coca Cola Ads – and Feminism? Imports from the West, in: Tanya Renne (ed.), “Ana's Land. Sisterhood In Eastern Europe”, New York, Routledge, 1996, pp. 76–81; Jiřina Šiklová, Pár poznámek ke změnám v postavení žen v České republice po převratu v roce 1989 [A few remarks on the changes in the women's position in Czech republic after 1989] (2006), in: Alena Wagnerová, “Žena za socialismu” [The Woman under Socialism], Prague, SLON, 2017, p. 237.
10Hana Havelková, Abstract Citizenship? Women and Power in the Czech Republic, Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State & Society, Vol. 3, 1996, No. 2–3, pp. 243–260.
11Blanka Nyklová, Krajinou současného českého feminism [The Landscape of Contemporary Czech Feminism], Gender, rovné příležitosti, výzkum [Gender, Equal Opportunities, Research], Vol. 14, 2013, No. 1, p. 60.
12Srov. Hana Havelková, Libora Oates-Indruchová (eds.), The Politics of Gender Culture under State Socialism. An Expropriated Voice, New York, Routledge 2014; Magdalena Grabowska, Beyond the „Development“ Paradigm: State Socialist Women's Activism, Transnationalism, and the „Long Sixties“, in: Barbara Molony, Jennifer Nelson (eds.), “Women's Activism and „Second Wave“ Feminism. Transnational Histories”, London – New York, Bloomsbury, 2017, pp. 147–172; Zsófia Lóránd, The Feminist Challenge to the Socialist State in Yugoslavia, London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018; Kristen Ghodsee, Second World, Second Sex. Socialist Women's Activism and Global Solidarity during the Cold War, Durham – London, Duke University Press, 2019.
13Bojana Pejić (ed.), Gender Check, Femininity and Masculinity in the Art of Eastern Europe, Köln am Rhein, Walther König, 2010.
14Martina Pachmanová, In? Out? In Between? Some Notes on the Invisibility of a Nascent Eastern European Feminist and Gender Discourse in Contemporary Art Theory, in: Bojana Pejić (ed.), “Gender Check. A Reader. Art and Theory in Eastern Europe“, Köln am Rhein, Walther König, 2010, pp. 37–49.
15Mirek Vodrážka, Before the Great Exodus. The Roots of Czech Antifeminism, in: Bojana Pejić (ed.),Gender Check. A Reader. Art and Theory in Eastern Europe“, Köln am Rhein, Walther König, 2010, pp. 171–178.
16See: Agata Jakubowska, Circulation of Feminist Ideas in Communist Poland, in: Beata Hock, Anu Allas (eds.), “Globalizing East European Art Histories: Past and Present”, London, Routledge, 2018, pp. 135–148;  Beata Hock, Gendered Artistic Positions. Politics, Cinema, and the Visual Arts in State-Socialist and Post-Socialist Hungary, Stuttgart, Franz Steiner Verlag, 2013.
17See: Jacqui True, Gender, Globalization, and Postsocialism. The Czech Republic After Communism, New York, Columbia University Press, 2003; Barbara Einhorn, Cinderella Goes to Market. Citizenship, Gender and Women's Movements in East Central Europe, London, Verso, 1993.
18Hana Hašková, Zuzana Uhde (eds.), Women and Social Citizenship in Czech Society. Continuity and Change, Prague, Institute of Sociology, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, 2009; Steven Saxonberg, Tomáš Sirovátka, Failing Family Policy in Post-Communist Central Europe, Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, Vol. 8, 2006, No. 2, pp. 185–202.
19Hana Hašková, Zuzana Uhde (eds.), Women and Social Citizenship in Czech Society, p. 23.
20Dana Němcová, PM and former dissident, argued e. g. that women's return to households will be caused by labor market already oversaturated by the female labor force. See Květoslava Neradová, Martin C. Putna, Robert Krumphanzl, Rozhovor s Danou Němcovou [Interview with Dana Němcová], Souvislosti. Revue pro křesťanství a kulturu [Background. Revue for Christianity and Culture], Vol. 3, 1992, No. 4, s. 139–144.
21Gabriela Převrátilová, Eva Uhrová, Kde jsme – kam jdeme. Beseda redakce Vlasty o ženských snech, představách, přáních, zájmech, trablech, organizacích a hnutích [Where we are – where we are going. Vlasta's editorial board discussion on women's dreams, ideas, wishes, interests, troubles, organizations and movements], Vlasta, Vol. 44, 1990, No. 10, p. 10, 11, 12.
22Marianna Placáková (ed.), On the Czech Translation of Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, Contradictions. A Journal for Critical Thought, Vol. 4, 2020, No. 2, pp. 155–186.
23e.g. Judith Butler, Sex and Gender in Simone de Beauvoir's Second Sex, Yale French Studies, Vol. 39, 1986, No. 72, pp. 35–49.
24Klady a zápory emancipace [Pros and cons of emancipation], Vlasta, Vol. 41, 1987, No. 12, p. 6; Věra Drápelová, Emancipace – pro a proti [Emancipation – for and against], Květy, Vol. 140, 1989, No. 25, pp. 10, 11; Dopředu nebo dozadu? [Forward or backward?], Vlasta, Vol. 43, 1989, No. 25, pp. 8.
25Kateřina Zábrodská, Between Femininity and Feminism: Negotiationg the Identity of a „Czech Socialist Woman“ in Women's Accounts of State Socialism, in: Hana Havelková, Libora Oates-Indruchová (eds.), “The Politics of Gender Culture under State Socialism. An Expropriated Voice”, New York, Routledge, 2014, pp. 109–132.
26Towards the conceptualization of women's agency in different cultural and social conditions, cf. Amy Borovoy, Kristen Ghodsee, Decentering Agency in Feminist Theory: Social Democracy, Post-socialism, and the Re-engagement of the Social Good, Women’s Studies International Forum, Vol. 35, 2012, No. 3, pp. 153–165.
27Helena Klímová, Feminismus a naše středoevropská zkušenost [Feminism and our Central European Experience], Souvislosti. Revue pro křesťanství a kulturu [Revue for Christianity and Culture], Vol. 3, 1992, No. 4, pp. 27–38.
28Jindřich Chalupecký, L'anima dell'androgino / The Soul of the Androgyne, Flash Art, Vol. 11, 1977, No. 78–79, pp. 55–57.
29Marianna Placáková, Já, Chalupecký a Flash Art [Chalupecký, Flash Art and I]. An interview with Helena Kontová, Art+Antiques, Vol. 20, 2021, No. 3, pp. 38–48.
30e.g. Gislind Nabakowski, editor-in-chief of Heute Kunst, saw feminist art as androgynous. Cf. Gerhild Grolitsch, Siamo femministe / We are feminists. Interview with Gislind Nabakowski, Flash Art, Vol. 10, 1976, No. 68–69, pp. 17–20.
31In Czech, there is only the term “female art" [ženské umění] (in contrast to English, with its semantically different versions of "woman's art", "female art", "feminine art"), which has very essentialist connotations. It can denote traditional decorative arts or, on the other hand, as in Chalupecký's positive definition, art created by women, based on their embodied experience.
32Anketa Svět žen [Poll World of Women], Prostor. Nezávislá Revue [Independent Revue], Vol. 5, June 1992, pp. 129–134; Anketa Iniciál. Feminismus… ano?, Iniciály [Survey Feminism… yes ?], Sešity nezavedené literatury [Notebooks of non-established literature], Vol. 2, 1992, No. 25, pp. 14–17.
33Věra Jirousová, Žádné ženské umění neexistuje [There is no such thing as women’s art], Výtvarné umění [Fine Art], Vol. 17, 1993, No. 1, pp. 42–52.
34Zuzana Štefková, The East Side Story of (Gendered) Art: Framing Gender in Czech and Slovak Contemporary Art, in: Iveta Jusová, Jiřina Šiklová (eds.), “Czech Feminisms. Perspectives on Gender in East Central Europe”, Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2016, pp. 247–269; Martina Pachmanová, From Within, From Without: Configurations of Feminism, Gender and Art in Post-Wall Europe, in: Hilary Robinson – Maria Elena Buszek (eds.), “A Companion to Feminist Art”, Hoboken, Wiley-Blackwell, 2019, pp. 111–126.
35Maartje H. J. Meijs, Kate A. Ratliff, Joris Lammers, The Discrepancy Between How Women See Themselves and Feminists Predicts Identification with Feminism, Sex Roles, Vol. 43, 2017, No. 5–6, DOI 10.1007/s11199-016-0733-8; Jolien A. van Breen, Russell Spears, Toon Kuppens, Soledad de Lemus, A Multiple Identity Approach to Gender: Identification with Women, Identification with Feminists, and Their Interaction, Frontiers in Psychology, Vol. 8, 2017, DOI=10.3389/fpsyg.2017.01019.
36Dana Braunová, Emancipace: Růže s mnoha trny [Emancipation: Roses with Many Thorns], Vlasta, Vol. 42, 1988, No. 15, pp. 10, 11.
37Jiřina Šiklová, Helena Jarošová, Žena v dnešní rodině [Woman in Contemporary Family], Prague, Mladá fronta, 1976, pp. 46–50.
38Ivan Sviták, Člověk nebo sexus? [Human Being or Sex?], Literární noviny [Literary Newspaper], Vol. 16, 1967, No. 9, pp. 1, 6; Zdena Salivarová-Škvorecká, Nečekané pozvání [Unexpected Invitation] (1988), in: Zdena Salivarová, Vladimír Drha, “Anně K. je zima a další texty” [Anna K. is Cold and Other Texts], Nové Město nad Cidlinou, Společnost Josefa Škvoreckého, 1992, pp. 38–40. The image of American women was also conveyed to the Czech audience through Sue Kaufman's book The Diary of an American Wife (1967), which was published in two editions in Czechoslovakia in the 1970s and 1980s.
39Chiara Bofiglioli, Remembering the conference „Comrade Woman. The Women’s Question: A New Approach?“ thirty years after (MA dissertation), Utrecht University, Faculty of Arts – Women’s Studies, 2008, pp. 60–61, pp. 87–94.
40Marianna Placáková, Socialistický akt. Marxismus a teorie fotografie šedesátých let [Socialist Nude. Marxism and the Theory of Photography of the 1960s], Sešit pro teorii, umění a příbuzné zóny [The Notebook for Art, Theory, and Related Zones], Vol. 14, 2020, No. 29, pp. 88–147.
41Vladimír Páral, Země žen [The Earth of Women], Prague, Československý spisovatel [The Czechoslovak Writer] 1987; Srdečný pozdrav ze zeměkoule [Greetings from the globe] (dir. Oldřich Lipský), 1982.
42The statements of Jiří David and Jaroslav Róna are well known. Cf. Martina Pachmanová, Masáž Martiny Pachmanové [Massage by Martina Pachmanová], Reflex, February 20, 2003, p. 52; Martina Pachmanová, Zázraky všednodennosti [Miracles of Everyday Life]. Interview with Milena Dopitová, in: Pavlína Morganová, “Někdy v sukni. Umění 90. Let” [Sometimes in a Skirt. Art of the 1990s], Brno, Moravian Gallery, 2014, pp. 92–98.
43Marianna Placáková, Sexismus a subverze [Sexism and Subversion], Vol. 19, Art+Antiques, 2020, No. 6, pp. 42–47.
44For example, the married couple of theorists, the Ševčíks, who introduced the theory of postmodernism to Czechoslovakia before 1989, included feminism among topics such as AIDS or ethnic minorities that artists could encounter through "Western" trends in the 1990s, but had no experience with them. Cf. Jana Ševčíková, Jiří Ševčík, V mezeře mezi kontexty [In the gap between contexts], in: “Urbane Legenden Prag”, Baden Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle 1996.
45Jirousová, Žádné ženské umění neexistuje [There is no such thing as women’s art], p. 46; Pachmanová, Zázraky všednodennosti [Miracles of Everyday Life]: Interview with Milena Dopitová, p. 95.
46In the Czech environment, there is still an open debate about this issue. On the one hand, the interpretation of the women's statements as gender blindness is understood as the result of the univerzalist "Western" feminist perspective. The positions of women are then explained in the local context — as a coping strategy, or the result of the internalization of emancipated roles of women without their rhetorical articulation, or the remnants of the equity of gender relations under state socialism. The critique of this interpretation lies in the question of whether it is possible to separate emancipation in its theoretical and practical framework from its declarative label or reflection. Cf. Hana Havelková, Mezi pragmatismem a ideologií – obrana socialisticky emancipovaného ženství [Between pragmatism and ideology – defense of socialist emancipated womanhood], in: Libora Oates-Indruchová (ed.), “Tvrdošíjnost myšlenky: Od feministické kriminologie k teorii genderu” [The Durabilty of Thought: From feminist criminology to gender theory], Prague, SLON, 2011, pp. 87–99; Gerlinda Šmausová, Emancipace, socialismus a feminismus [Emancipation, Socialism and Feminism] (2001), in ibid., pp. 195–206.
47An example is the position of the Czech emigrant to Canada, Vladimír Stwora, who published his xenophobic and sexist views, criticising the "Western" political correctness, in the mainstream media in the 1990s. Today, he can rely only on his own platform and his conspiracy website. Cf. Vladimír Stwora, O velkém sexuálním harašení [On the Great Sexual Harassment], Mladý svět [Young World], Vol. 35, 1993, No. 3, 40–41.
48Artist Jiří David: I used to live in an art neighbourhood that was as big as Prague, Radio Wave, 23. 1. 2020, https://wave.rozhlas.cz/umelec-jiri-david-bydlel-jsem-v-umelecke-ctvrti-velke-jako-praha-8139246#volume.
49Lucie Jarkovská, Podcast Sádlo: Jak zvítězit nad patriarchátem? Přijmout vlastní nekrásné tělo, [Podcast Lard: How to defeat patriarchy? Accept your own non-beautiful body], a2larm, 18. 2. 2021, https://a2larm.cz/2021/02/podcast-sadlo-jak-zvitezit-nad-patriarchatem-prijmout-vlastni-nekrasne-telo/.
50See: http://feministinstitution.org/code-of-practice/.
51At the institutional level, art historian Martina Pachmanová has been devoted to the research of feminism and visual productions in the Czech Republic (approximately since 2000), as well as art historian Zuzana Štefková and artist Lenka Klodová. Recently, a feminist studio of Kateřina Olivová and Darina Alster has been established at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. Despite the growing representation of individual lectures and debates on the topic of feminism and art, it is still not possible to speak of a deeper discussion, such as those that are taking place, for example, in the academic environment of Czech sociology or gender studies.
52Cf. L'ubica Kobová, K pozorovaniu príkladnej praxe [On the Observation of Exemplary Practice], in: Věra Sokolová, L'ubica Kobová (eds.), “Odvaha nesouhlasit. Feministické myšlení Hany Havelkové a jeho reflexe” [The Courage to Disagree. The Feminist Thought of Hana Havelková and Critical Reflections], Prague, FHS UK, 2019, pp. 388–393.

Back to feed