Feminist trilogy about the body, motherhood, migration and a change in climate.

The series of three videos of the initiative Fourth Wave, which was established in cooperation with Artyčok TV, deals with different social themes seen from the perspective of feminism. The formally different videos are linked by the theme of oppression or pressure which is caused by the stereotype approach to family and social roles, resulting expectations and limits of one´s own autonomy. Each theme evokes an atmosphere of the given problem and through a specific language aims at introducing possible solutions.

In the fantasy story Bella Body the two main characters of unspecified gender, Gizd and Zgarb, are trying to introduce their bodies to the hierarchical society. The body, at present regarded as one of the principal determining elements, whose form, colour or ability place it among social structures from which it is often hard to break free. It is seen as an economic potential and thus becomes a conflict of political interest.

The video about “transnational motherhood” is connected to the preceding theme by the motif of leaving the family. However, the separation from family is not an act of emancipation but the consequence of the socio-economic division of the world between the West and the East. Women have to choose between loneliness, hard work and degradation or life and upbringing of children in poverty in the Ukraine. The painful and often long separation causes deep chasms between mothers and their children with whom they keep in contact over many years only through Skype.

The climatic change in the video entitled Denier is not seen only as an environmental problem but also as a feministic problem. It shows the dichotomy between how women are affected by the changes of climate and how this problem is dealt with by men whose power is directly proportional to these impacts. What language is used to belittle climate changes? Where is the border between lies and absurdity?

01 Bella Body

The body as an apparatus

„As a body—and this is the only important thing about being a subject-body, a techno-living system—I’m the platform that makes possible the materialization of political imagination.“
Paul B. Preciado

According to Giorgio Agamben we may regard the social and political reality of not only late capitalism as an endless fight between bodies and apparatuses.(1) In their agonic fight the resultant of those opposing powers are subjects, which as fragile and unfinished entities struggle to historically (re)produce through their bodies and surrounding apparatuses, which catch, direct, regulate or even fully check their bodies. To govern bodies and the environment of institutional, technological, economical, energetic and mental apparatuses then means to govern oneself.
Distribution of power over bodies and apparatuses is not a matter-of-course and in the present situation even completely blurred. We relate to our own bodies through non-transparent infrastructures, which operate according to the logic of abstract flows of capital and which carry with them loads of yesterday´s silly stereotypes, which capital leaves to comfortably circulate in the capillaries of our societies. Furthermore, patriarchal, sexist and chauvinistic cultural narratives survive as one of the cornerstones of the socio-economic hierarchy of late bio-capitalism.
Why bio-capitalism? Agamben together with other male and female philosophers believes that the main gesture of every cock on the walk is to define the meaning of life that is worthy of a male or female member of a specific community to which he or she belongs (in Greek bios), in contrast to the simple, plain life of animals (in Greek zoē). The result is to cover the entire space-time profile of an individual life with a drapery whose curves and folds direct the movement of the individual on this surface, and decide how to eat properly, how to make love, how to establish relations, how to communicate, how to dress, what manners go with the given identity, what style is appropriate and so on.

Understanding an ideological formation, in whose iron cage we are trapped, as such a massive organization of life, will become more natural, provided we realize how this structure
entirely relies on wealthy reproductive networks of non-capitalist nature. Human sociality, collective and individual passions, eco-system processes, sexuality, taking care of others, games, entertainment and rest, all this forms a huge assemblage supporting an entire structure of economic production. This assemblage is co-opted, appropriated; and it calls for being freed from this grip.

We thus get to the problem of collective emancipation. There are two paths. The first one is profanation of apparatuses, as Agamben mentions. This is nothing else but making non-transparent apparatuses transparent, making their inner mechanisms and mutual relations transparent, which means breaking structures of power, which apparatuses realize through their operations and eventually petrify them. It is an act of tearing down a sacred veil, which was covering secular instruments of power. If nothing is sacred to us anymore, then we can finally free the body as a place of political intervention of sovereign subjects which arise from the synthetic activity of groups of people and non-people.

Why can´t we perceive the body only as another one from the potentially endless row of apparatuses? Of course, in a certain sense it is a primary place for the realization of the subject, but even this fact is more of a historical factor than eternal truth. Since we know the body as the most intimate apparatus, perhaps we should start there. The treadmill of capitalist apparatuses may easily get stuck if it runs across a group of bodies which no longer fit in its viscera and put up resistance through their materiality, through their obscene aesthetics, violent sabotage of the an-organic mechanism of extraction of capital from the veins of the planetary collectiveness of objects, among which also people happen to belong.
The battle against objectification does not necessarily mean becoming a subject in the classical sense of the word – it may easily mean becoming a traumatically active object.

There is no need to say that the coordinates of trajectories of this subversive activity must be found in the space of queer, feminist and post-colonial movements and theories, because it is them that give us instruments for knowledgeable inventing of new, post-capitalist bodies and desires. Such bodies do not need to be human bodies (but non-human and post-human), they do not have to be singular (but collective and endless), and they do not need to be stabile (but nomadic and fluid). Provided it is true that the body is a medium of political imagination, then to ignite imagination means to pull down not only the walls around the body, but first of all to survive individual transgression of one´s own corporeality.

Lukáš Likavčan

02 Skype Mama

Lost and found of transnational motherhood

„It´s a hard job for women. But this is the way it is. We have to work hard to keep our family. Every mother wants the best for her children. This is the way it is and we have to hold out although it´s not easy. This is our destiny.“ (Natalia, 36 years old, 3 children)

Motherhood is a complex phenomenon which is difficult to define. We may be poetical like Ruddick (Ruddick 1989: 4) and claim that maternal practices begin and end with love, which is „more intensive, more confusing, more ambivalent and poisonously sweeter than anything that comes in life later on.“ Or we may be pragmatical as the American feminist anthropologist Nancy Schepher Hughes (1993: 5): „Maternal love is anything but natural love, instead of this it represents a matrix of images, meanings, sentiments and practices which are everywhere socially and culturally produced.“ How can we then define maternal practice and transnational „long-distance“ motherhood? Transnational mothers in foreign countries have to cope with labour migration, time and emotional separation from their own children. At the same time they are responsible for the sustenance of their nuclear and extended families. Sotelo says (Sotelo 2001:16): „Transnational mothers introduce a new quality scale into motherhood, new inequalities and new meanings of the family.“

Research of family structures of immigrants show that about 55% of female immigrants from the Ukraine live in the Czech Republic without their children. They thus form the largest group of transnational parents living and working in the Czech Republic. The reason for such a large number of transnational mothers is not only the geographical distance between the two countries, the presence of social networks of the Ukrainian community, but also the possibility of the so-called circular migration which enables women immigrants a better coordination of their reproductive and productive activities. The majority of these women work in households as cleaners, housekeepers, nannies or provide care services for old people and they take over the responsibility of our women and men who are freed more notably from this type of care and they are not subject to strict social inspection). We may notice in this context that inequalities between Czech women and men are slowly becoming smaller, however, inequalities between Czech women and „Other women“ are growing bigger.

Every society has its gender borders delimited with the help of norms which are monitored and defined by everyday practices, as in the case of motherhood. Transnational mothers cannot accomplish these norms (as set by the majority society) in their everyday lives. (Sotelo 2001). While male labour immigration is considered as „important for the financial maintenance of the family“, women immigrants are usually seen as those who „run away“ from their families (Parreñas 2005). Transnational mothers often identify themselves with the „bad deal of women“ having the duty to provide for their family. This is in line with the way female labour is seen in the countryside, a model which is combined with the socialist type of employment for women in the Ukraine (Tolstokorova 2010). Solaris (Solaris 2010) deduces the large number of Ukrainian women in transnational migration from the transition of the Soviet type of family (extended family with a strong influence of the grandmother who is responsible for the upbringing of children and the running of the household) to the Ukrainian patriarchal type of family. All this in an environment with high unemployment figures and a very poor economic situation in Ukrainian households. On the other hand, public discourse boosted by Ukrainian media create a stereotype picture of bad mothers who abandon their children and turn them into social orphans. The media discourse is then reproduced mainly in state institutions – schools, administration authorities and health facilities.

The decision of Ukrainian women whether to emigrate abroad is governed by one key argument – a better life for their children. During their absence transnational mothers can rely on the help and „substitute“ care of their parents. This seems to be the decisive factor when deciding whether to emigrate. It is mostly the grandmother who takes care of her grandchildren or in some cases two grandmothers take turns. Sometimes old parents have to take care of more children, provided they have for instance two daughters who become transnational mothers. Older women carry on with their role of socialist grandmothers helping to care for the children of transnational mothers, which encourages women to emigrate.

In return for the help of their parents immigrant women are expected to send regularly a part of their earnings not only for the upbringing of their children but also to support their carers (grandmothers and grandfathers). This is an advantageous financial solution for both transnational mothers and their extended families. Ukrainian women send a part of their earnings (remittance) not only to their children but also to those who take care of them. However, this arrangement also creates intergenerational conflicts especially related to the upbringing of children. Modern technologies, mainly the Internet, play an increasing role in the communication between transnational mothers and their children. Thanks to modern technologies they can effectively (or at least partly) revive their motherhood. On the other hand, the virtual depersonalization may deform the interaction between mothers and their children.

The presence of the family is extremely important for women immigrants (Aranda 2003). It has a great influence on women immigrants especially when taking the decision of how long they will stay abroad. The majority of transnational mothers (mainly mothers of underage children) would like their children to follow them as soon as they achieve social and economic stability and as soon as they find their feet in the Czech environment. But the present Czech legislation does not make the process of uniting families easy and sets a lot of limitations. The period during which international mothers live in the Czech Republic without their children ranges between four and twelve years. This is no doubt a really long time, during which the children get used to being brought up by their grandmothers and the process of family uniting may become a really painful and emotionally difficult step for everybody involved.

According to Tolstokorova (2010) it is clear that nowadays, thanks to women immigrants, the Ukraine is witnessing a significant transformation of gender roles which may lead to serious family confrontations and conflicts. Women who were not satisfied with their marriages before they emigrated and who gained experience abroad including making their own money (and being free to decide how to spend it), often decided to radically change their previous way of life. Especially for women who were divorced or were in the process of breaking up with their partner emigration became an opportunity to start a new life (mainly after being reunited with their children in the Czech Republic) and an opportunity to provide decent social conditions for their children. This is why I agree with George (2005) who said that in specific cases and sometimes only temporarily, migration may lead also to gender balance – by casting doubt on the traditional social ideas of the role of a woman, which are losing their validity under the new conditions. However, the question is what price do transnational mothers – not only from the Ukraine – have to pay for this.

Petra Ezzeddine


Aranda, E. M. 2003. „Care work and gendered constraints: The Case of Puerto Rican Transmigrants.“ Gender and Society, Vol. 17, No. 4: 609-626.
George, S. M. 2005. When Women Come First: Gender and Class in Transnational Migration. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press.
Parreñas, R. 2001. Servants of Globalization: Women, Migration, and Domestic Work. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Schepher, Hughes N. 1993. Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil: University of California Press.
Solari, C. 2010. „Drain vs. Constitutive Circularity: Comparing the Gendered Effects of Post Soviet Migration Patterns in Ukraine.“ Anthropology of East Europe Review, Vol. 28, No. 1:215-238.
Sotelo, P. 2001. Doméstica. Immigrant Woman Cleaning and Caring in the Shadow of Affluence. Berkeley: University California Press.
Ruddick, S. 1989. Maternal Thinking: Towards Politics of Peace, London: Beacon Press.
Tolstokorova, A. 2010. „Where Have All The Mothers Gone? The Gendered Effect of Labour Migration and Transition of the Institution of Parenthood in Ukraine.“ Journal of Eastern Anthropological Review, Vol. 28, No. 1:184-214.

03 Denier


The problem of climate change is often regarded only as an environmental problem. However, it has a fundamental impact on our lives. Not all people contribute to this problem and not all are affected the same way. Sea level rise, floods, the extinction of different species of animals, droughts, tsunami and typhoons are probably caused by climate changes. Countries in the south suffer more while countries in the north have produced 80% of greenhouse gases.

What do such seemingly unrelated themes such as climate changes and the role of women in society have in common? During disasters caused by climate changes it is women who suffer the most. There are several reasons for this. Men are the first to leave, often to seek work. Despite critical conditions women stay in areas hit by disasters longer because they are the ones who are mostly responsible for taking care of children and old parents. Women are also the ones who bring water for the family. Because of the decrease of water resources women have to spend much more time searching for water while they could spend this time at school and get a better education. According to statistics women often die in disasters caused by climate changes also due to their lower status in society.

Who is the main enemy? If men were at the bottom of the hierarchy ladder, it would be them who suffer most. It is simply the ones who have the lowest social status who suffer from climate changes – it is either women or marginalised men, marginalised in a variety of ways, due to race, ethnicity or their socio-economic position. Last but not least it is also children who are hit by disasters.

On the other hand there are people who deny climate change or belittle the problem. Although I am aware of the fact that generalisation often leads to injustice, the people who openly deny the existence of climate changes are usually white middle-aged men with a passport from one of the western countries. They often team up in think tanks with doubtful funding. We tried to portray this type of man and the way he communicates through the fictional figure of Mr Hilák. The language of progress, prosperity and dominance of the western world is used to present nature as an endless source of resources that man has the right to exploit. Through this figure we wanted to show the way those people argument and how the surrounding world is subordinated to the market. Those people also act as if they were dissidents speaking openly about the unpleasant truths about the state of the present world. The essencialistic image of women seen as caring mothers, wives and daughters automatically places them on a lower level in society and is in contradiction with the reluctance to deal with the consequences of that inequality. At that point false universalism of mankind comes on the scene which does not divide the world between men and women. But women do not fit into that defined picture of universal man because of their specific position within the framework of social hierarchy. A short way off stand men from the global south.

What puts women in affected areas at a disadvantage is their exclusion from public space. They do not take part in decision making and their opinion does not count. But in fact they could help in solving the impacts of climate change. That is why it is important to involve women in local projects dealing with agriculture, food supply, water and energy. The same as with any other problem anywhere in the world diversity of opinions is always useful. This is one of the reasons why the fight against climate changes should be a feminist fight. By trying to silence the voice of women the world loses great potential for a change.

Eva Svobodová