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March 20, 2024
Social Justice

Feminism of the outskirts, anti-speciesism and politics: a conversation with Martina Micciché

The voice of Martina Micciché, interviewed by Michela Grasso and Chiara Pedrocchi

Interview with Martina Micciché, political scientist, writer and photojournalist, she recently published her first book "Feminism of the outskirts", (Edizioni Sonda) an essay dedicated to the analysis of what is on the margins of society.

Q: When did you discover yourself as a feminist and when as an anti-speciesist?

A: I remember the last day in which I formulated a non-feminist thought, after reading the book “The useless sex” by Oriana Fallaci where the author explained how her challenge was to be able to walk in a world made up of men, and that she didn't see this world as a problem. Reading it, I said to myself: "it's a challenge: some women can do it, others can't". Becoming a feminist was a process, a reasoning linked to the discovery of what power actually is and how our system works. For me it came from the outside, it is difficult for feminist discourse to reach neighborhoods like mine where there has never been a bookshop. Without libraries, assemblies, dialogue groups, how can we arrive at feminist reasoning? I was lucky enough to meet a person in my neighborhood who discussed these topics, as well as lucky enough to have attended a university where some sociology courses, designed to give an overall vision of inequality, were enlightening.

I became anti-speciesist by watching a video of a woman discussing her anti-speciesist journey, which began with the discovery of the existence of cows that, to guarantee the production of milk, are constantly impregnated. This led me to studying the procedures and images behind the production of animal products. What made me say “from today my life changes” was knowing that the person in that video was a feminist activist and survivor of sexual violence. And she was reasoning about closeness, commonality and sisterhood with what non-human companions suffer.

Q: The book you just published is called “Peripheral Feminism”, can you define the periphery and specifically peripheral feminism?

A: The periphery is everything that is considered marginal. In my book I play a lot on this concept, because it is not intended to be a claim solely connected to the urban dimension, but to everything that is peripheral from various points of view. Our cities are a cross-section of how we have organized the world system: there are wonderful and rich centers, and peripheries that allow this wealth, without even knowing how much all this wealth is extracted from them. Suburban feminism wants to reclaim intersectional feminism, from the urban to the global dimension. It is therefore a "marginal approach": vindicated, angry, wounded, because the margins are massacred every day.

Q: What does anti-speciesism have to do with all this?

A: The anti-speciesist discourse is part of intersectionality: it is connected to the question of class, to racist and colonial dynamics, to urban peripheralization. If you think about any city and the animals that live there, you will notice, for example, the absence of wild animals and the prevalence of domestic ones. Animals that have a destiny precisely dictated by humans, “free” or prisoners in our terms. Domestic animals do not have a destiny of programmed death, but often have one of programmed birth; they live in our homes to perform a function. Instead, domestic livestock animals, closed on farms, are born based on production needs and are immediately harassed and discriminated against on the basis of their genitals. If they are females they can be destined for reproductive use, to continue the machine of forced insemination, of separation from their children. If they are males they are sent directly to the slaughterhouse. These farms, with their miasmas and externalities, in what spaces are they located? In large areas outside of cities, seen only by those who have to travel through them for work. Terrifying environments, where people often work in precarious situations and without other possibilities. I decided to tell it in my book, so as not to exclude such a fundamental part of the fight against inequalities.

Q: How did this book come about?

A: Reading many feminist books I realized the lack of some themes. Not because there is a lack of will to tell them, but because whoever wrote them did not have an interpretation that represented all those environments that do not always find editorial space. Talking about certain things is not easy, publishing houses often have sales needs. This made me angry, I was one of those people who wanted to escape from being on the outskirts, I wanted to be considered different. Then, as a person with different identities, oppressed in different ways, I followed this path in different directions and I understood that I wanted to be forgiven for my identity as a person from the suburbs, coming from Comasina, more than for my sexual or gender identity. Noticing these absences in feminist literature, I wondered why that space was forgotten. My anger rose to the point of saying "I'll try to write a book, then if I find someone who wants to publish it, good for me.”

Q: Who would you like to read your book?

A: Initially, I was afraid that only people who had lived in peripheries like mine could read it. Seeing the periphery analyzed in a certain way, seeing your life put under a glass, dissected and explained is like receiving a punch, it's difficult. But I also wrote it with the hope that it could be read by anyone with an interest in this topic, including those who have never heard of feminism. In the book there are various explanations of concepts so that it is accessible to everyone, not just those who have already studied these topics in depth. I wrote it thinking of all those people who are becoming interested in a different, possible world, and I hope to be able to make a valuable contribution.

Q: What do you think are some solutions for putting the suburbs at the center of the narrative?

A: We can do a lot, starting from listening, an extraordinary feminist practice, and I don't mean listening only as an auditory action, but as placing ourselves towards the other to recognize him and receive his experience. This is a practice that is totally missing in mass culture and in our institutions. Listening helps to deconstruct piece by piece every form of centralism and verticalism, to build a new society. Everything that concerns our societies is a matter of recognition. The moment the global mass chooses to stop recognizing the value of some elements, those elements have no choice but to change. It is difficult work and some subjects, such as multinationals, could not do it, they cannot live in a centerless world. We will reach a point of no return with the climate crisis, so either we change or we change. But the fertile ground for changing the current situation is there, the alternatives are there and we are ready.

Q: In your book you draw a map of the ecosystem of feminist organizations engaged in intersectional mutual aid, how can we contribute to and strengthen this network?

A: There is an idea, the byproduct of capitalist ideology, that we cannot do anything, that our actions have no real value and above all that our differences divide us. It's not true, we can be groups, collectives, able to cooperate and create bridges, constantly contaminating ourselves in a process of growth and dialogue. It is often difficult to dialogue, but in the geography of transfeminist ecosystems dialogue exists, even if it is conflictual. The most important action that these groups do is precisely that of networking, of creating very solid alternative paths. And we may be lucky enough to stumble upon them, or to actively seek them out and participate in them. We must come together to ensure that these realities are no longer small islands that live separately and resist, but that this resistance becomes our collective existence.

Q: In your book the city and the organization of space take on a political value, would you like to explain to us how the city is political?

A: I can't see anything that isn't political, for me every gesture, every action, is political. Believing that it is not is the result of that system narrative that wants to weaken us, to make us believe that we are single individuals detached from the community. Cities, like everything, do not escape political logic. This is because, for example, the architecture that composes them is structured and designed on the basis of a single type of human being: man, white, able-bodied, wealthy, straight. Despite representing a lower percentile of the human population, cities are ideally built for him. This happens because politics has concrete values, and architecture is in turn a concrete reflection of them, just as the allocation or subtraction of resources in an urban space is. To bring politics to the center we simply need to remember that we ourselves and all our actions are political.

Q: How much, in your opinion, does the lack of infrastructure influence the choices and thoughts of individuals?

A: Very much. If a person cannot pass through a space, they cannot have that particular experience. If they can't take public transportation, they can't get to certain places. This is tragic, because these are actions that inevitably influence a person's life paths, increasingly reduced to microscopic spaces. Think about the accessibility of urban spaces and what it means to cross Milan for neuro-divergent people, spaces filled with advertising, loud, chaotic noises. As a result, that person will find themselves in difficulty and will seek survival mechanisms, avoiding certain spaces. Or, the experience of a person socialized and perceived as a woman who must cross an unlit space. This means being more afraid than you would be with a lit space, so it means avoiding it, not going out after a certain time.

Q: Do you think that intersectionality is actually applied by the various movements or is there still a hierarchy of struggles?

A: I believe there is still a strong hierarchy resulting from our upbringing. I see it with anti-speciesism, often put in last place, despite being equally important as a struggle. But transfeminist dialogue has the power to transform points of division into meeting spaces. Obviously it is difficult but there are already intersectional spaces, for example Ippoasi, a place that is not only an anti-speciesist refuge, but also a transfeminist space. And then it is a space of care, sacred and inviolable. I would like to live like this, in every place I travel through.

Q: What model could replace capitalism and centralism?

A: I consider myself anarcho-feminist, socialist, anti-speciesist and by crossing spaces that follow this line of thought, I think that the best model is that of anti-speciesist transfeminism. This is an alternative, horizontal, mutualist political model, designed for the integration of all those who are part of it, where no one has more power than others.

Suggested readings on feminism and antispecism : 

Feminism for the 99%”, Cinzia Arruzza

Expulsions”, Saskia Sassen 

Cospirazione animale” , Marco Reggio 

Afroism”, Ko Sisters

The sexual politics of meat”, Carol Adams

Fear of the animal planet”, Jason Hribal 

Animal resistance”, Sarat Colling

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