The Feminist Curtain

PRAGUE: Sometimes I feel like a schizophrenic. When in the West, I criticize Western feminist ideas about Central Europe. At home, I refrain from such criticisms and go after the potent anti-feminist stereotypes of my homeland, the Czech Republic. My unpopularity, it seems, cuts two ways.

Thirty years ago, I participated in similar East/West debates. Back then, the issue was socialism, with Western university students imagining that salvation would somehow be found through street demonstrations and left-wing politics. Having experienced what a real socialism was all about, I could only disappoint them, shattering their illusions.

Today, many Western feminists think in similar ways to those leftists of the 1960s. They apply broad generalizations to very different (and usually inappropriate) situations. Their overall effort may be useful, because it injects into Central European debates a diversity of ideas that is essential for people who once lived in the sterile atmosphere of a totalitarian regime, and where habits of conformity linger. But the lives of women in Western and Eastern Europe are far too different for Western feminist notions to be imported whole.

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