Did December have a Gender?
(Notes on « secondary » aspects of the December riots in Greece ‘08)
Synopsis: The uprising of December ’08 represented an ambiguous and contradictory event. We loved these days; we loved breathing in a daily life that was to a great extent so much different from the previous days of our lives, political or not. We speak from within; because we were part of it. And to speak means to criticize and to self-reflect. So, we will first of all try to capture some of the most significant, for us, moments of the uprising. For others, these moments might be secondary, as the issue of gender oppression is many times treated in the revolutionary scene. For us it is not. And this is why we first ask this question: Did December have a gender? For us, yes, it did. The long account of events we deal with in the first part of this article proves it for good: the language of the Riots, the interrelation of Violence and Masculinity, the LGBTQ actions, the Kouneva Case etc., are only some of the most precious moments of this account. We cannot analyze everything and, already, this text took lots of space and time. Therefore, we will focus only on the second part of the article on the issues of violence, masculinity and power. We know that this is an old issue, a crucial one and, partly, a hidden one in the anarchist scene of Greece today. That is the reason why we picked it out. State violence is apparent and well-indicated by almost everyone in the anti-statist scene. What about, though, our perceptions about our violence? Is it possible if we bend on such an issue to make something worth hearing of come out? Is it possible to learn from (our and their) violence in order to form in the future a less masculine and more « pervert » resistance? [note that « provoking » is good, « pervert » is good, for the writers of this text]. These reflections on violence will consequently lead us to two more directions. Both of these directions will attempt to develop arguments in order to persuade that by dealing openly with masculinity and violence, can make the overall movement’s work richer and, then, fight oppression more effectively by shedding light on the more particular gendered aspects of this power; above all, though, it will help us fight our sexist self and sexism around us. The first of these directions poses questions like: what does society and we, inside and against this society, understand from violence and, more particularly, from violence coming from the women of the movement? Here, we will briefly go through the treatment the State addressed to a series of women of the movement that were prosecuted for violent acts. Then, we will go through some of their letters in prison. Are these letters the same as the letters of some male comrades or does any distinctive feature lie over there, useful to be read and pointed out? The second direction we will draw upon is also a less pointed out till now. Up to these days, we could grasp a gendered violence of the State, many times coming from its servants’ lines, by patriarchic men of the riot police forces for example. Could we imagine though the State itself, as machinery, acting as a grand Pater Familias? This is a hypothesis we try to make in our last part of the article by referring to the arrests of many students’ parents during the December Riots and the role developed in these arrests by « our » State-Father.
It would be useful to provide here, at the beginning of the text, a brief presentation of discourses and actions, during the months of December and January, that is, during and just after the big uprising of 2008 in Greece. The discourses and actions we refer to, were expressed and conducted by initiatives, collectives, groups and individuals that defined themselves in accordance with their gendered identities and through the gender social relations that they are forced or, even, choose to live in. « Purple Hoodies », « Riot Girls », « Girls in Revolt », « Gays in Revolt » were some of the names that the latter have made use of. As you may have already understood, patriarchy was far from being forgotten or repressed during December. A more harmonious evaluation of the events would like patriarchy to have already vanished while the women rioters were throwing their first stones against the cops. As always, though, nothing harmonious happened, at least as far as we know. The gender of the participants in December riots became problematic almost from the very beginning and, quite surprisingly even for the writers of this text, the discussion took an unprecedented character. After all this is one of the reasons why we remember December with good memories…
Twelve days after the assassination of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, in 18/12/08, a group calling itself “Purple Hoodies” attacked some riot police units guarding the greek Parliament with purple paints. The next day, in 19/12/08, in a public live music concert in the center of Athens, they re-appeared on stage and read loudly on the microphone a communiqué that was justifying its deeds from the previous day. The point was that the assassination of A. Griroropoulos and the subsequent current of rage and rebellion that broke through “brought again in surface the lists of the victims of state terrorism and police violence. In these lists we add the women that were killed without any cost from police guns, usually for the reason of honour. More than 20 women fell dead by their policemen husbands or lovers, after 1980.” The demand of the women’s organizations since 1990 to disarm policemen was mainly ignored. 10% of the killings between spouses in Greece is committed by policemen and the ‘purple hoodies’ were pointing out that this is also a political issue. Furthermore, “the participation of policemen in trafficking of foreigner women and the subsequent sharing of vast profits from prostitution is a crime that has been registered, not only by the women’s movement, but also according to official statements. However, we see impunity here. No matter how many times have the policemen sat in the bench and being tried for participation in prostitution circles or for rapes of foreigner women, they always get acquitted or their cases were dismissed, usually because of doubt… In cases where they are accused of murdering their wives, the penalties were much lighter than these in other murderers.”
Far from being the last loud expression of radical feminist discourse in the riots, this action by the Purple Hoodies encouraged more people to stand up and speak out. The women’s department of SYRIZA a leftist parliamentary party, quickly published its own communiqué that put emphasis on the misogynist trends of the Greek Police. Let us not forget that during December ’08, three prostitutes were murdered in Athens and some of the incidents of murders of spouses by their policemen-husbands took place. In just a couple of months we observed a multitude of events taking place with such a high density that was never seen before. Some of the main issues that were seen as problematic by the rioters were the issues of language (and discourse) of the demos and, secondly, the issue of violence and how the latter mingled with masculinity, power, the means of revolt and the exclusion of some subjectivities from the riots.
As it was stated before, the Greek popular culture is heavily sexist. As a consequence of this, many slogans shouted in demos, especially in older times, were also sexist. After many years of disputes over the issue of sexism in the revolutionary scene, these slogans reduced but, once again, during the December riots and as long as many people participated in the demos that were to a great extent uncritical up to then to sexism and patriarchy, many sexist slogans became once again popular and diffused. Some of the worst and the most widespread ones were the following: “Cops, cunts/ You kill children!”, “Whore, lesbian, Police!” and “Policemen, Sons of Whores”. Ten days after the breakthrough of the revolt, the following communiqué was distributed in the streets of Athens. “Guys, some of us didn’t like it when rage was expressed through the identification of riot policemen with our cunts.” “We have identified our cunts with pleasure and not with riot policemen that beat and kill people. […] Many will argue that, currently, there are more important issues to deal with than these linguistic disagreements… They might be right. We don’t write all these in order to accuse someone, our fury is against something else: […] language is never innocent but reproduces the social injustice and exclusions. Furthermore, language is being (re)constructed by all of us and is definitely a field of action and, also, a contested terrain for this ‘other world’ that we dream of. Of course, the stereotypes that degrade us as women will not collapse if we stop identifying our cunts with the ‘absolute evil’ in this slogan; however, you know, when all of us shout together, one next to each other, no matter what gender we have, please let us feel that, only for these moments, this dreaming world comes closer to reality and please don’t remind us, in every single block we march, that this society undervalues me for this beautiful, magical little cunt I bear among my thighs.”
Nevertheless, this communiqué was not able to stop the slogans even amongst some leftist groups and organizations that were taking part in the demos. Just a few days after the aforementioned communiqué things turned violent inside a demo. A group of militant feminists decided to react to the same slogan by criticizing openly some major syndicalist students of the E.A.A.K. (United Independent Leftist Movement) organization. “All of us argued that this slogan is absolutely reactionary and misogynist and that what we should be telling to the cops is not that they are cunts, sissies or retarded, but a bunch of militair-style nationalists that impose Law and Order, by participating obediently in the repressive state machinery, in this criminal force that is called police.” The student reacted by attacking violently one of the feminists by saying “you have to learn to shut up, or else we can make you shut up”, implying that he would make her shut up by fucking her. Unfortunately for the syndicalist males, physical confrontation was not something new for the women comrades. “Practicing physical violence is already known to us” because “that is how for a long time now our parents, our teachers, our lovers, our bosses and the cops, tried to ‘educate’ us… The presence of such a bunch of sexists in the streets is depressing and their role in the movement makes us furious. It is indicative in the worst way of the contradiction of being against the cops, the government, the capital, the E.U., the neo-liberal capitalism and whatever, while, at the same time, embodying all the oppressive culture, authoritarianism and violence that patriarchy addresses to Men and males.” The ‘Riot Girls’ – this is how they signed their text – end up in their communiqué by calling for open assemblies and public discussions over sexism in the movement and the patronization of the student organizations against women.
One of the very first communiqués published after the first week of riots was the “(Self)Destruction is creation”, a title making a wordplay with an old anarchist slogan by Bakunin (‘destruction is creation!’). Bakunin was explaining through this slogan in simple Hegelian that any destruction carries the possibility of creating something new. Destruction has its own beautiful meaning, lying on the remnants of the old world which at the same time represent the starting point of a new, more liberating, institution. Respectively, Girls in Revolt sensed that if masculinity was one of the weapons of the rioters during the first days of the uprising, this very weapon (as a weapon coming out of gendered power relations) had in turn to be re-visited and questioned. They traced this contradiction in themselves when they were claiming that “It is not possible for this authority to bloodlessly cross the boundary between obedience and autonomous action, since if the rebels need to muster up their masculinity in order to fight the cop, they need to question it at the same time because it constitutes the authority they use to fight the cop. And this ambivalence lies at the heart of our subjectivity, it is a contradiction that tears us apart and forms the moral splendor that takes place in the margins of the rebellion, outside and inside us, on the quiet nights when we wonder what is going on now, what has gone wrong, and we can only hear silence”. Girls in Revolt concluded and warned that “Resistance strategies can turn into strategies of authority: Chaos will recreate a hierarchy in social relationships unless we fight with ourselves while fighting the world, some selves that we formed as part of this world: we have grown within the moral and political limits this world sets, within the moral-political ties in which the self comes into being… It will recreate itself into a hierarchy, should we not bring off male macho behaviour that goes berserk and gets carried away by emotion, should we adopt positions that densify in positions of authority.”
One of the flyers thrown during the action in Lyriki… While the notorious Greek military Junta slogan of 1967-1974 was “Greece of Greek Christians”, here we read “Greece of Greek homophobes, sexist Orthodox and rapists”
It should be a distinctive chapter in this respect, that the Kouneva case was brought in the surface in Athens and Thessaloniki mainly, and then to the whole of Greece, by many rioters. The case of Konstantina Kouneva had its distinct gender aspects. Kouneva is a professional cleaner for mass transportation in Athens. She is a woman and an immigrant, coming from Bulgaria. The paradox was that Kouneva kept fighting for her full rights in the field of her work instead of shutting her mouth, faced with her bosses’ outrageous behavior. She was then punished by these bosses. In late December two men approached her while returning home and threw acid on her eyes and inside her mouth. The incident was at first kept secret but then thanks to many initiatives taken up by some of the rioters, it was widely spread. Even now, two years after the incident, the public prosecutor was unable to find the perpetrators even when the Kouneva case met with serious interest and demands for justice from many social elements. What was extremely interesting in this case was that many rioters supported Kouneva like being one of them. While the majority of the rioters would not support any demands and goals set by the most bureaucratic parts of the revolt, they saw in Kouneva’s struggle values that were defensible by all. Kouneva is a worker that fights for her rights. She is also a woman and an immigrant. These were three different social identities that intermingled on one person. Subsequently, many things were written, spoken and shouted for the many oppressions that the Greek society and the state produce daily. For some participants in the riots, fighting for justice for the Kouneva case was the first case that showed what the dynamics of the December “crowd” could achieve. As it concerns the gender aspects of the case, we should remember the posters by Flesh Machine in Athens and Fabrika Yfanet squat in Thessaloniki. We would need a separate article to refer adequately to every aspect of the Kouneva case but we think we should stop this reference here and urge the readers to proceed to some further literature on this matter.
We could also go on and on about other actions and discussions about gender in December but we think, even if we missed some incidents worth commemorating, we have captured up to now some of the most salient events during the December riots that staged conflicts over gender issues or, at least, aimed to activate self-reflection over these issues. From our point of view, the emergence of this multitude of texts and events was absolutely justified. We say this, of course, because it must be apparent by now that there were many reactions towards this kind of (feminist or pro-feminists or lgbtq) discourse. From our point of view, if this multitude of discourses substantially reminding the hierarchical differences inside a revolt does not come out in this exact moment or rioting, while questioning of and break with the major social institutions is thriving, then, when is it to come out? And, if, for some comrades, the revolt had to limit itself to the confrontation with the cops and the State, it is them who must explain the reason they expanded their struggle by participating into assemblies where a central issue of discussion was not only the strategic confrontations but also the very essence of people’s lives. Of course, no one has to apologize; they – all of us – were right to take part in such discussions. But people were also right to put on the table issues of masculinity, misogyny and violence, exactly during the same period.
It is important to point out here that a few months after December we saw in action a broad coalition between different parts of the movement that were hesitant up to then to cooperate. We think that this happened because of a wide optimism that prevailed after the December riots. However, these coalitions did not last long and soon a split took place among mainstream and radical individuals and collectives of the LGBTQ movement. The issues upon which the split took place were apparently the use of the mainstream Media as well as the use of violence in the protests, saliently the one in Lyriki.
Some of the ‘Purple Hoodies’ on stage while reading their communiqué in an open concert during the December riots.
We found very interesting, finally, that early enough even women from the other side of the riots appeared publicly as ‘women’ and in many occasions attempted to drastically protest against the widespread (and lovely) cop-bashing that was diffused and proliferous during these days: of course, it was the spouses of police officers. Many observed during these days that the sons and daughters of policemen faced derogatory comments or even attacks by other children in many schools, especially in Athens. The common sense was not favorable for people wearing blue uniforms, after all. The women spouses of policemen were appearing to react even violently, e.g. by tearing apart posters put outside schools. Of course, the stigmatization of the cop’s children was not fair to them, but it was unavoidable to a certain extent because it is not fair either to kill 15-years-old kids and, then, to support the killer… The policemen husband’s defense of ‘womanhood’ and ‘motherhood’ were, therefore, a reactionary call for defense of the police State’s values and a direct reflection of the family values that the opponents of the riots undertook.
Violence, Masculinity and Power
We observed, before, in the communiqué distributed by ‘Girls in Revolt’, an insightful analysis over the issue of male violence by men rioters as a Trojan horse of the movement; ‘Girls in Revolt’ were rightfully indicating in this case that Power and its means are not an exclusive privilege of the authorities and the State. Instead of understanding power and violence as something that belongs to the ‘other side’ of social antagonisms and perceiving ourselves as inherently ‘good in nature’ and incapable to develop unfair social relations, this analysis attempted to point out that violence is still an open issue, open for discussion and questioning, up for grabs and contestation. They did not hold a pacifist/non-violent opinion and they, indeed, recognized the usefulness of political violent resistance when it comes to an intensification of the social antagonisms where the State makes use of its monopolized right to violence. However, they indicated the gendered aspects of this violence since Patriarchy is an institution of centuries that has educated men in violence, has identified male agency with the exercise of physical strength and has, moreover, propagated a certain type of hegemonic masculinity which imposes itself upon others with violent means, psychological, verbal, or physical. Violence, in a few words, is not symmetrical regarding gender, and in most of the cases, women are the hurt ones.
These thoughts are entirely antithetical with the permanent, stubborn perception in the Greek revolutionary scene that since some women comrades dare to throw rocks as equal members in the demos or even plant a bomb, then whatever problems of inequality or injustice are suddenly overcome and considered as non-existent in the first place. This is a classical response by the ‘insurrectionary’ trend in Greece. According to this opinion which for years hegemonized the radical spaces, the woman that overcomes patriarchy is the woman that dresses like a man and speaks like a man, throws rocks like a man etc … but remains a woman, maybe in… other issues of the private sphere. This allegation seemed to be sufficient for years while the more and more arrests of women comrades during the last years (e.g. in ASOEE and in Piraeus) were considered more as affirmations of the insurrectionary canon than mere exceptions.
A similar opinion was held even by the ‘theoretical’ communist magazine ‘Blaumachen’ after December ’08. The problem with this opinion is that it imagines and reflects gender equality and/or the abolition of gender hierarchy among the several different ‘social gender roles’ according to a male model of subjectivity, agency and resistance. As a consequence, this opinion overestimates what men do in the revolutionary scene – e.g. confront with the cops. And, since this is the most useful, widespread and ‘normal’ thing to do, this is the state that all the other, ‘incomplete’, subjects need to reach. In a few words, a woman is considered to have overcome “her problem” (as if sexism is a personal complex) as soon as she “finds the strength” to throw a couple of rocks to the cops. Instead of engaging in wider and deeper analyses over the issue of violence and masculinity – this concerns the anarchist and leftist scene as well as the whole Greek society of course – they, thus, prefer to undervalue the issue of patriarchy by hiding the canon of oppression and indicating the exceptions of subjectivities, other than the hegemonic masculine, one that manages to reach the latter’s status of violence. Many of these people that hold to this opinion, believe that the questioning of gender hierarchy (which usually does not include any genders other than man and woman) has already been effectively discussed and dealt with in the West. Moreover, it is discussed and dealt with so effectively that capitalism itself has taken advantage of this discussion and made it one of its own consumerist slogans in order to divide the people of class struggle.
The aforementioned ‘revolutionary’ magazine almost tends to congratulate the ‘women of December’ for not insisting on partial, little demands during the days of the riots since they have said before: the only true feminism is the one that does not indicate the antagonistic relations between men and women (and probably sits calm on the couch, waiting for the beloved revolutionary man to have some sex). By thinking from such a ‘straight’ angle means that someone says gender and means “woman” or, possibly, says relation-gender and means “having a girlfriend”. After all, we should know that “Feminism, as a segregated political movement, is the other side of male chauvinism” and “Feminism can turn revolutionary only if it overcomes itself, when it will resist its specific feminist nature”. Of course, the capitalist relations cannot be destroyed today because they are still resisting hardly deeply embedded throughout the social fabric… On the contrary, patriarchy is an easy target. Secondly, the destruction of patriarchy would be only a part of the destruction of capitalism (what?). But, if that is the thing, then let’s destroy capitalism first! Ok, the discussion seems a bit childish but, you know, what they want to say, as you might have already imagined, is that the Relation-capital, is the overall, final, most radical and most important… thing that will ever happen to us. It is not new and it is not weird to hear of such Marxist-origin excuses for denying fighting patriarchy; after all, some white male privileges in every revolutionary scene must always dress themselves in an ideological disguise (e.g. communist, anarchist, leftist etc.). What is indicating though is that such accounts of gender antagonisms in December attempt, consciously or not, to provide an image of December riots as full of sweetness and light as it concerns these issues, while the ‘real’ issues are found in other areas of the social… let’s say class struggle. In this way, these analyses become apologetic to the existing patriarchic structures, practices and discourses.
Our thesis is that December might not, indeed, have changed so much the gender relations but, at least, many discussions were staged in a relatively dense temporal space. Sexist slogans and behaviors might have dominated the streets once more, however, the December riots, as only an authentic revolt could achieve, helped in questioning and self-reflecting over gender stereotypes in order to open the issue once more among new people that were approaching the streets or even older people, already in the scene. It is equally important that these ‘pervert’ actions appeared relatively quickly and in an equally relatively dense front, because of the significant work that many initiatives had done before December. So, one could say that there was a critical preparation for all these. But of course decisive was the rhythm of the riots itself. It was the thing that produced the sparkle, let’s says the willingness, to move against the up to then established perceptions. The revolt, exactly because it was an authentic one, made many subjectivities feel the earth move under their feet and, thus, to question and to reflect upon various issues. Gender was one of them and was quickly taken up by a critical minority of the rioters. Of course, there were different opinions and trends: many would suggest that these critiques on gender would halt the revolt’s tremendous orbit. For us, though, however tremendous this orbit was, it was mainly owed to a fundamental change in the rioter’s personalities. Many of us were seeing the state machine to gasp for breath and, almost instinctively, we thought we were ‘winning’. We could stand longer in the streets, we could think in a more optimist, and maybe a more naive sometimes, way, we could become more creative, even feel closer to one another etc. So, the orbit was actually us in a different/heterotopic social space and time. The orbit was – to an extent – all these discourses and actions on gender. Instead of dividing … the ‘movement’, they were actually holding it together, reinforcing December than halting it, enriching this ‘thing’ than breaking it apart.
Fortunately enough, however, it was not only the insurrectionist and the old-skool communist accounts of the revolt that showed up. ‘Flesh Machine’, another zine of the revolutionary scene that referred to the gendered aspects of the revolt devoted much more space than a footnote. In this magazine the issue was not that the patriarchic ideology was abolished during the December riots; the writers, instead, offered an anti-patriarchic analysis of the events as central for the adequate understanding of the uprising. For Flesh Machine, the opposition to the revolt, let’s say the anti-revolt, attacked saliently the female aspects of the uprising: first of all, it expressed its repulse over the violence exercised by women and girls in the streets of December. Most importantly the anti-revolt was in reality consciously objecting the non-normative, ‘un-reasonable’, instinctive, not-accessible moments of the riots in contrast to the true interests-demands or, let’s say, ‘male’ moments of the rioters. Therefore, according to this analysis, the stones in the hands of the women of the rebellion, instead of achieving to abolish the relation-gender (and, thus, embody the subject-woman in the supposedly normative gender-blind proletarian status quo), just symbolized the revolutionary non-normativity of the revolt.
Flesh Machine is very much rightful at this point: the public criticism is indeed fierce against the revolutionary women, the so-called ‘terrorists’ and we don’t need to go back to the French commune or to Meinhoff to realize it; Sotiropoulou, Athanasaki, Kortesz, Peynaut are only some of the women who, even if different, all of them attracted pretty much of the State and media mud, defamation, humiliation and real terrorism. Their participation in daily social relations – of friendly, political or sexual nature – could not but be the result of the ugly duties of their gender; they were treated as such: they became the hateful objects of attacks because their names were mentioned in cases that were thought as suitable only for men. The suspicion was diffused since they climbed out of their gender holes. They seem to have violated their gender performance. K. Karakatsani and P. Roupa were some more recent examples of a similar treatment. The first one, because of her young age, was treated even by supposedly alternative journalists as an ‘insensible and immature young girl’… while the second was characterized by the media as known “for her extreme feminist views” and was mocked repeatedly. Karakatsani wrote in one of her letters, while the cops were looking for her: “I know that I might be accused for telling the truth, however this is what the peepers, and representatives of any kind of law always do. They construct insubstantial indictments, they conduct exhaustive interrogations, they criminalize friendly relationships, and they judge consciousnesses and attempt to fill their purgatories with revolutionary souls.”
Few months earlier, Katerina Gkoulioni, another symbol of the struggle against prison oppression was writing “Today, all this pain, harassment and rape that I have been through in my body and my soul, make me dream that I kill all those that are being paid to torture weak people. […] I will never overcome what I have been through and go through currently into prison.” These were some of her words in her last letter from prison, before she got murdered during one of her transfers by policemen to another prison. She left her last breath on a boat to Crete, while being cuffed. The dramatic words and case of Gkoulioni gave a sparkle to a new solidarity movement towards the 11,000 prisoners of Greece and the awful conditions of imprisonment that the majority of them deal with on daily basis. More particular attention was paid to cases of women prisoners in the area of Thiva and in Korydalos prison. What many people in solidarity observed is that the wards of prisons often aimed at the humiliation of women prisoners with even harsher measures, based on their gender. Quite often, on the other hand, in contrast with imprisoned men, the letters of many women prisoners were giving emphasis on the very psychological role of the repression that was put into action inside the locker rooms and the prisons. Women prisoners from the anarchist scene, alike, were not afraid to admit the existence of a special psychological pressure against them.
Christina Tonidou, three days after her arrest, gave to publicity a text from the Police Headquarters of Thessaloniki where she was still being held: “Some cops did not miss to play the macho men. So pretentious, that I want to throw up!” Tonidou was arrested inside the premises of Aristotle’s University of Thessaloniki in 09/09/07 – almost one year before the December riots – during a conflict with cops in plain clothes. What concerned her most during the first days of her arrest was her “treatment by the police since they took advantage of my psychological situation, the fact that I was terrified from the time of my arrest till my transfer here. They wanted to extract information for anything. To be honest, I would prefer them to follow their well-known, traditional tactics of treating detainees than engaging in this psychological game that they continue to perform. At least, in the first case they would show their real face.” “As it concerns myself”, she adds, “to claim that you are an anarchist, man or woman, presupposes a deep quest inside yourself, your maturity and a realization from every aspect (ethical, spiritual etc.)” She ends her letter by saying that “The only sure thing is that I hold anarchist ideas and I wish I will hold fast to them till I die, because it is something very strong. I thank everyone interested in my case.”The gendered difference even in these letters is not silenced: the impact of the psychological pressure of the interrogations/arrests against women comrades is usually not hidden. The oppression, of course, is equally directed against women and men. However, as we saw before, the State reserves a special treatment for women. The psychological pressure is usually manifest. And the traces of the women’s’ narratives from prison could not but show themselves. The issue of women political prisoners in Greece has been slightly elaborated and to a certain extent the dynamics of December helped highlighting some of these aspects of repression.
The state of the Father
“Family is a mini-state, the State is in practice the adding of families – heterosexual, hierarchical, alike – that is how it keeps the balance (against Others of course). That is why, me, as a little sissy from countryside I recognize my enemies in all these people, and that is why I hate them wholeheartedly.”
After providing a descriptive section in this text where some gender/feminist actions and discourses were presented and proceeding next to an analytical part over the exercise/suffering of male/female violence, we would like to conclude with something different: our own hypothesis meets with another aspect of the December ‘08 riots and the reaction that it has received on behalf of the State and its organic links in society. Realizing early enough that December was something bigger than what we had witnessed till then, in all levels (riots, mass protests, squats, arrests etc.) we tried to help early enough to organize the movements of solidarity to our prisoners. This is how the concentrating sheet with the overall number of arrests from every city was created and posted almost every day in Athens Indymedia. Let us throw some numbers on the table in order to illustrate the situation. On the 16th of January, 2009, in the squat of Theatre School in Thessaloniki, where most of us operated during the riots, a public meeting was organized against the use of the anti-terrorist law for prosecuting young pupils in the city of Larissa. In this meeting we presented and tried to analyze the final paper of the overall arrests. We will repeat here some of the early conclusions of this analysis. First of all, there were 273 arrests in 15 cities of the country and of them 67 people remained in custody (16 of them till the 16th of January), waiting for their trial in prison, or they got deported (53 immigrants, 12 Greeks, 2 Cypriots). Second, let us note that the suppression seemed harsher in the Greek countryside and smaller cities like Kozani, Ptolemaida, Herakleio, and Larissa. For example, in Kozani, a minor city in Greece, the police and the public prosecutors decided to make 34 (!) arrests and to particularly hold 3 of the arrested in custody for months. Similarly, in the even smaller Ptolemaida the police decided to arrest 11 people (among whom, 5 pupils) and then arrest another 17 people (among whom, some parents) who concentrated outside the police station to protest against the first arrests! A third point should be that the suppression moved saliently against immigrants and pupils. The immigrants were prosecuted immediately, tried quickly and illegally (without translators in their trials), in full violation of any sense of human rights. This is certainly the saddest story of the arrests because the movement was unable or even unwilling to follow the traces of these arrests. The detained immigrants were deported while some 60 pupils (among whom, 10 immigrant children) waited for their trials. In Larissa, the public prosecutors went mad: they ordered 25 arrests and they prosecuted 19 of the arrested with the ‘anti-terrorist’ law (!), while the rest 6 for thefts. One of the… thieves was a 12-years-old that was prosecuted for stealing a Coca-Cola bottle from a shop. Out of the 25 arrested, the 17 were under-aged pupils. Finally, we will focus here on the last category of the arrests: the ones against the parents of children prosecuted or arrested during the riots. If we perceive the arrests of pupils as “justified” because the vast majority of the participants in the demos were kids and the arrests of immigrants equally “justified” – always according to the State’s logic since the latter were dispensable because we all know that immigrants are the most undervalued and oppressed category of the population in Greece – then, what happened with these unusual prosecutions against the parents? At least 20 parents were counted among the arrested all over Greece and more than half of them (12) were found in Herakleio and Rethymno, two places in the island of Crete. Other parents were arrested in Kozani, Larissa, Athens etc.
We make the hypothesis that the Greek state panicked during the riots, it lost temporarily any control of some social institutions – at least a small minority of these institutions – though, important institutions, like the family, one of the most crucial factors of socialization in Greece. The family in Greece, along schools, the church and the army, are some of the central institutions of life. The state itself has pinned its faith on the Greek family ever since its existence. Family is something like a small nucleus of the state, preparing the individual little citizen to take up roles in society and reproduce itself according to the model offered to it by its parents. This is, after all, one of the reasons that patriarchy maintains so strongly in this country. The patriarchic nuclear family resists in time although there have been many changes during the last 50 years. It represents a small but strong refuge of the individual against the rest of society and stands as a defensive mechanism that operates almost every time a social or financial problem appears. In this way, the private realm is strictly secured and the individual abstains from being exposed to social contact outside its close environment. There is no need to romanticize that situation. We would need volumes after volumes to explain the significance of the family in Greece. Let us stop the description here and move back to the analysis of the events.
It is equally difficult to describe what exactly happened in the minds and hearts of 15 years old kids during the December riots but let us throw some facts on the table. An eleven-year-old kid who wanted to join the demos, jumped from the balcony of the apartment he lived in and broke his leg, because his parents would not let him go. Another boy, 13-years-old as far as we can remember left its home during the riots and its parents decided to tell a specific journalist to look for it. The journalist finally did find it after three days in the Polytechnics, along with anarchists, hooligans, immigrants, kids and junkies. In another case, in Chalkida, a school teacher grabbed one of its pupils from the neck so as to choke him in order to prevent him from going to the demos. Another school teacher from the same school advised the pupils to ‘question any authority’. In Piraeus, pupils attacked a police station for several hours and turned upside down every police vehicle found parked outside. The result was spectacular. Pupils also managed to squat for 30 seconds the national television. In Thessaloniki one morning we were sad when we did not wake up early enough to distribute communiqués in schools. We were drinking the morning coffee and staring the street outside the squat of Theatre School. It was there when we saw 50 students – boys and girls – coming out of the neighboring to the squat school, dressed in black and wearing hoodies, bearing sticks and stones, interrupting the traffic, shouting slogans and then being chased by a cop in a motorcycle for some meters. The list of the incidents is not exhaustive. It is indicative.
We make the hypothesis that December ’08, because of the vast participation of under-age pupils, scared the authorities and gave the impression to them that the institution of the family is dismantling. “The kids are not all right! Parents are not strict enough!” was one of the popular explanations from those interpreting the riots from outside (and often from the other side). All these prosecutions, against the parents, took place as a temporary replacement of the parents by the State itself in a period of social crisis. The State, in a situation of exception, seems to have exercised its old paternal duties and strictness. If the parents are not capable of doing their job, then, we will do it… they seem to have thought. Who? Well, not the State, in abstract. It was the public prosecutors’ and judges’ turn to take action against the parents for neglecting their children. Especially, in the countryside as we have explained (Kozani, Larissa, Ptolemaida and the island of Crete) where the social values are more traditional. In Ptolemaida for example, the public prosecutor I. Koutras stated that “we have to see this issue in the overall in country-level and not locally, someone must finally defend against these actions. We can’t let having shops burned and exonerate the responsible. This behavior cannot be isolated locally and temporally: if we let such actions take place then we can wait for the worst. At least, some state institutions must start to defend”.
Not to isolate a ‘criminal’ behavior to the local and temporal circumstances under which it took place would mean – even according to the State’s logic – that the legal institutions that the honorable public prosecutor implied have in practice been abolished. The public prosecutor in this case did not act as a representative of the law, but as a political subjectivity, identifying of course his interests with the ones of the State. After all, no shop-burning ever occurred in Ptolemaida and even the demonstrators that he suggested to be convicted were not arrested for using fire against properties. “Shop-burning” was his picture for the riots through television broadcasts from Athens. But even if there was any shop-burning in Ptolemaida, it would be obvious that the prosecutor at the time of his speech in the court would try to speak on behalf of the State. It is the State, after all, this “we” that he kept constantly repeating. The prosecutor, moreover, seems to have conceived himself as someone – an institution on his own – that even had to correct or replace the work of the rest of the state institutions. How can we interpret otherwise his indignant implication that “at least, some institutions must start to defend”, or else the battle will be lost? This indignation betrayed his deeper perception of the events. According to a narrative, often presented during the days of December ‘08, the government did not do much to stop the riots and protect people and properties and the riot police units had orders not show supererogation. Judges and public prosecutors, as the ones who recruit some of the most conservative strata of the Greek society, were probably fans of this narrative. Not only the family but the government itself was also absent from its role so they had to perform their paternal duties. At the same time, public intellectuals took up the role of making these acts of prosecution appear as legitimate and necessary by denouncing in the media the generation of parents that have fostered ‘autonomy’ and have raised immoderate children by satisfying the latters’ absurd desires.
It should not surprise us that most of these jurists and intellectuals were respectable males of the Greek society and the aggressive wave of the anti-revolt saliently consisted of them. If suppressing the movement in the big cities of Athens and Thessaloniki was often a result of police and government strategies, rural Greece reserved a different, more traditional, response. Patriarchy as a performative social relation and at the same time as a role taken upon by the leaders of the suppression was this time embodied in the deeds of the judges and the public prosecutors. This piece of knowledge might seem useful next time the movement finds itself ante portas of a similar series of events. Making our commitment deeper toward an anti-patriarchic struggle in the places where we live and preparing for a better defense next time in similar occasions, will only make us stronger.
Before closing this text we would like to thank all the people that helped producing this article, mainly members of ‘Riot Girls’ and ‘Girls in Revolt’. However, the responsibility of what is written here remains entirely with its writers.
Terminal 119 – for social and individual Autonomy
[Terminal 119 is a non-hierarchical, anti-statist collective that focuses on the issues of Greek sexism, racism, nationalism and anti-Semitism (firstname.lastname@example.org)]
 Hoodies in Purple, Athens, 23/12/08, reproduced in http://katalipsiasoee.blogspot.com/2008/12/blog-post_1744.html
 “Greek men, Foreign Women”, by Zinovieff, S. in Identities and Gender in Modern Greece, ed. by E. Papataxiarhis and Th. Paradellis, (Athens: Alexandreia, 1998) [in Greek].
 “(Our) cunts are pretty, we love them and we don’t give them away to any cop”, by Various women and men, Athens, 15/12/08, http://athens.indymedia.org/front.php3?lang=el&article_id=946666
 ‘Your Riots are full of Bollocks’, by Riot Girls, Athens, 09/01/09,
 ‘(Self)Destruction is Creation’, by Girls in Revolt, December 2008, translated in http://www.occupiedlondon.org/blog/2008/12/19/self-destruction-is-creation/
 See here the poster by Yfanet Squat “We are not afraid, we are enraged!”, 5 January 2009, http://www.yfanet.net/content/view/%CE%91%CF%86%CE%AF%CF%83%CE%B1_%CE%B1%CE%BB%CE%BB%CE%B7%CE%BB%CE%B5%CE%B3%CE%B3%CF%8D%CE%B7%CF%82_%CF%83%CF%84%CE%B7%CE%BD_%CE%9A%CF%89%CE%BD%CF%83%CF%84%CE%B1%CE%BD%CF%84%CE%AF%CE%BD%CE%B1_%CE%9A%CE%BF%CF%8D%CE%BD%CE%B5%CE%B2%CE%B1 and see also the book “Precarious Labor, Female Labor: After Konstantina Kouneva” (Nefeli, 2009).
 Faggot Anti-national, a radical activist, was writing in his blog after the protest in Lyriki that “We have every reason in the world to respond to the [homophobic] violence, as well as to build spaces where we can exist, where we can speak for ourselves”, Sunday, March 15, 2009, http://faggotantinational.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2009-06-12T19%3A15%3A00-07%3A00&max-results=70 In the same page, you can read [in Greek] the communiqué “Protecting ‘our Democracy’”, Sunday, March 8, 2009. Finally, see the blog The End of the World, 15.3.09, http://teloskosmou.blogspot.com/2009_03_01_archive.html
 ‘On the gender social relation and the limits of feminism’, p. 16, published here http://www.blaumachen.gr/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Blaumachen-About-gender-and-the-limits-of-feminism.pdf
 “I am an anarchist, not a beggar”, by Konstantina Karakatsani, 12/11/09, reproduced in http://indy.gr/analysis/abanar3c7ik-eimai-zitiana-den-eimaibb/?searchterm=None
 Gkoulioni Katerina, a letter reproduced in http://criticalpsygreece.org/2009/03/23/%CF%84%CE%BF-%CE%B3%CF%81%CE%AC%CE%BC%CE%BC%CE%B1-%CF%84%CE%B7%CF%82-%CE%BA%CE%B1%CF%84%CE%B5%CF%81%CE%AF%CE%BD%CE%B1%CF%82-%CE%B3%CE%BA%CE%BF%CF%85%CE%BB%CE%B9%CF%8E%CE%BD%CE%B7-%CE%B4%CE%BF%CE%BB/
 Christina Tonidou, Police Headquarters, 12/09/07, http://athens.indymedia.org/front.php3?lang=el&article_id=763173
 K.K., letter from Prison of Elaionas, Thebes, 28/04/10
 See Sofia Argyriou-Kyritsi’s book “Women Prisons of Korydallos” (Athens, 1986) which can be downloaded here http://www.mediafire.com/?3yqifkj2qhr. Also, some pages from Lambropoulou’s book on “Letters from Prison: Views of Subjectivities of the Political Prisoners in Greece 1947-1960” (Nefeli, 1999). In the activist scene, see our public discussion in Thessaloniki in April 2009 with Sofia Kyritsi and T. Demeli (http://www.terminal119.gr/show.php?id=460), as well as many posters from Athens and Thessaloniki, like the one below.
 Regarding the « parental deficit », see Flesh Machine, Ego Te Provoco, in Violence (2010).