by Shawnta Smith, Lesbian Librarian
Feminism in a global context.
This is the definition I would give to the new publication, mainly anthology, soon to be primary source material text, Wings and Dreams: 4 Elements of a New Feminism, published by Maria-Anna Foohs, also founder of Sophia Sirius Publishing of Germany.
Maria-Anna has given Paradigm Shift the opportunity to review her book, and pick her brain about the intricacies of newness: the “new feminism” as well as the new methods of using social networking as a publishing tool. Of course, as your lesbian librarian, I couldn’t resist the small subtleties of lesbianism in her new contexts. At the end of our 46:16 minute cell phone interview (that Maria-Anna said was too short), I learned something new about how we NYC feminists, lesbians, and non-feminists still hoard in our political bubble. And unlike our urges to pop or expand, Foohs is neither interested nor driven by our radical needs to redefine. Instead, she is driven by the spaces where compassion and reason intertwine. Please allow me to introduce you to this exclusive conversation about “New Feminism”, with Maria-Anna Foohs.
SHAWNTA: Now, for my first question, how would you define feminism?
MARIA: Feminism is the fight to have equal rights. I think this is a very general perspective of feminism. But it is the basic definition, that you fight for equal rights, whatever and wherever you are in the world.
SHAWNTA: Wings & Dreams…Why did you choose to name this anthology by this title?
MARIA: Well, I think the metaphor of the wings can be used as a means of transport to get to our personal dreams. But for more practical reasons, my colleague, Bettina Schmitz is a philosopher and is a part of the International Association of Women Philosophers. Check out their website: www.iaph-philo.org. They run a conference every two years. Dreams with Wings was the topic of the July 2008 exhibition at Ewha Women’s University, Seoul/Korea. I thought it was a compelling attitude, and a beautiful title.
SHAWNTA: The essays in this anthology are all from the International Association of Women Philosophers’ conferences. What is your relationship to the International Association of Women Philosophers?
MARIA: I have no personal association with the organization except for my friendships with the authors. 8 years ago I joined the Würzburg Academic Women’s Club (WAi) which was lead by Bettina Schmitz who was teaching a “Chrysothemis” course at the University of Würzburg about feminist philosophy. I wanted to support them and their work, and wanted to get a bigger audience for their ideas.
SHAWNTA: Tell us about your choice and process to publish with a Community Commons license and then with Sophia Sirius Publishing.
MARIA: Sophia Sirus is my company, it is my pseudonym. The Commons idea is what came about when I started working with my publicist, Patrick Dacre. Sophia Sirius is my way of empowering women. We do not take any rights away from the author; we do not want to restrict women.
SHAWNTA: And what makes your publishing model different from traditional publishing?
MARIA: Each book that is going to be published, the author can choose an organization that they would like to support, and 33% of Sophia Sirius profits will go to that organization. Wings & Dreams will go to the International Association of Women Philosophers, for example. Authors can choose to do what they like with their proceeds. I will help other women to publish their books, as well as promote their projects.
SHAWNTA: WOW! Are you currently seeking any writers, or women interested in publishing?
MARIA: We started connecting with some people, and are open to additional requests and book ideas. A woman who is running two schools in India is a prospect. She teaches English and provides computer technology training. Those women in the school would like to publish their own stories and 33% of proceeds will go back to the school. Another is a group of Afghan women who are writing online and we are hoping that they will come forward and seek to publish. In Germany, there is an organization called Wildwasser (www.wildwasserwuerzburg.de) that has an online assistance program for women who are experiencing violence. They go out to schools and teach girls how to handle violence. The issue of rape also comes up. Their words focus on sexual education, and have already spread widely with a large following. We’d like to promote these types of groups through their writing.
SHAWNTA: Let’s get back to Wings & Dreams. Who is your intended audience?
MARIA: It is published in both German and English so that we can reach a wider audience. We thought about women all over Europe. One of the authors is Spanish, also the North American market can handle an English text. We would like to publish in more languages. Russian, Polish Japanese, Chinese, etc. We would like to address Afghan women and Indian women as well and we can do it online. Online at www.sophiasirius.net, there is a download for a preview, so that anyone can see it if they have access to a computer. Indian-American women can reach out to their relatives in India. I would also like to go to Arabic women. It seems that they do not have the rights that feminism fights for. We are used to our small worlds in the US and in Europe, but women need help and encouragement worldwide, there is a lot to do there. Wings & Dreams is a step in that direction.
SHAWNTA: Although you include a transnational perspective, how do you see lesbians in the context of your definition of feminism? How are lesbians to embrace Wings & Dreams?
MARIA: Lesbians have not been our target market, yet, I can see that they are included as well. New Feminism agrees that everyone has the right to choose their lifestyles, because they can choose their own rights, and their own ways of living. And still, we must all find a way to communicate with men. Communicating with men should be less of a fight. The problem can only be solved by working together. Men can profit from this new feminism. They can each put forward their ideas of how working with the genders can be reached. By reaching an agreement, there is no need of fighting. We can accept the other person’s choice. In order to get there, we have to talk and listen to each other.
SHAWNTA: Yes, but back to lesbians…
MARIA: As for the Lesbian aspect -I honestly haven’t thought about this before. In Germany, there are already equal rights for lesbians. We have a federal right for same-sex marriages. In Germany, that problem has been solved. Everyone in Germany can go to a City Hall and get married to the person of his choice. We are still a Christian country. However, people who talk about the religion, they are not missionaries. Choice is open for lesbians unlike in the United States.
I appreciated the perspective of someone who could live in a world where lesbianism was a non-issue. Even though I knew that a German lesbian would probably have more to say, I still wanted to submerge myself in her world of possibility.
MARIA: So, what was your favorite part of the book?
I answered her in an honest way. In a way that made me feel open to say more than just politics.
SHAWNTA: Well, I loved that you had a Korean woman writer. And her words began in a yard, with an animal, focusing on the domesticity of gender…how the one who farms the cow and the one who sees a black cat, or a bird operates from a different perspective than the academic or politician.
This author spoke about how the feminism that some have learned seems foreign to those of us who speak in earth-words, and embrace emotions as spirit. I am Jamaican and Guatemalan, and I still, to this day, do not call myself a feminist. These words are foreign to me, and hold little value to my tangible world.
MARIA: Yes. HYUN-KYOUNG SHIN’s piece, “The Singing of a Shaman” I believe is a great way to notice how different people connect, by spending time in another world. I am still a member and host for a peace organization called SERVAS – which is a NGO registered with the United Nations, and they allow guests to share the lives of the hosts in a hospitality program. Participants live with another culture, from another country, in order to get to know these cultures. Through this experience, I stayed with families throughout the world. I realized we all want to have a life where we can choose what we want – security, family, choice. Sometimes I would arrive like with a family in Japan, and after having talked to the woman for an hour or two….we were friends, as if we had known each other for a long time.
My idea came from this experience, that we have to communicate, and realize we all have the same aim. My book wants to start that process. Are we communicating, getting people together…part of it is fighting for our rights. But more of it is reconciling. We should tolerate and accept people and their ideas.
Thus we ended our conversation. And I sat in silence for a while, pondering, do we maintain a definition of feminism that involves reconciliation and compassion?
For more information on “Wings and Dreams: 4 Elements of a New Feminism”
We are pleased to make available, at no charge, this online Readers’ Edition of Wings & Dreams: 4 Elements of a New Feminism, courtesy of Google Books Digital Reader Technology.