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"Take the Red Pill—Face the World Problems!": An e-mail interview with blogger and activist Alexander Alvina Chamberland

Grassroots media in Europe
LGBT and queer issues
Queer feminism
Riot Grrrl
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Jenny Gunnarsson Payne: Can you begin by telling me something about yourself?

Alexander Alvina Chamberland: I am 22 years old, I live in Malmö [Sweden]. I’m first and foremost an activist, writer, debater and am studying gender studies at Lund University (second year of the bachelors programme). I am born and bred in San Fransisco USA, and I moved to Sweden when I was 14 years old. I have definitely a traditional white middle-class background, which is a privilege I’m aware of and which I am consciously trying to critically interrogate and break down through my activism (perhaps I should make more of an effort here, to be a bit self-critical).

I’m defining myself as gender queer, i.e. neither man nor woman, and choose to call myself Alexander Alvina. With regards to my attributes, I prefer to vary between traditionally masculine and traditionally feminine ones—even if I, at the moment, have a preference for feminine attributes. For the sake of simplicity I often position myself as gay, but I would never define myself as 100% homosexual, as I believe sex/gender to be a construction, and thereby don’t believe that any human being can be 100% homosexual or a 100% heterosexual without limiting oneself.

JGP: Can you tell me how your political/feminist engagement begun, and how it has changed over time?

AAC: I started to get involved in the animals’ rights movement when I was 13 in San Francisco. I became an active feminist about a year later. To begin with, the latter was expressed in terms of a quite shallow gender politics, such as me questioning why boys are given trucks to play with and girls are given dolls. During my adolescent years I was active in Grön Ungdom [i.e. ‘Green Youth’, the youth organisation of the Swedish green party, Miljöpartiet], and I was even one of the official representatives for the national organization for three years. My move away from Grön Ungdom happened parallel to my proper feminist awakening, which came about when I was 20-21 years old. It was during this period that I began to view the world through ‘feminist glasses’. (Now I identify as both an anarcho-syndicalist and queer feminist and do not believe much in party politics, even if I did vote for FI, the Swedish feminist party in the last General Election).

This change occurred for a number of reasons, but I have the Riot Grrrl movement, amongst other things, to thank. Over the last two years my feminism has developed from being more oriented towards radical feminism, to become increasingly queer feminist. I now believe that if we wish to abolish the gender regime, we have to abolish the whole categorisation of sex—hence, the first priority must be to abolish heteronormativity!

JGP: How do you define feminism?

AAC: As an insight that in contemporary society women as a group are subordinated men as a group. The ultimate goal is a total emancipation, a society in which what we have between our legs does not determine our belonging to either the group of men or the group of women, and where what we happen to have between our legs REALLY doesn’t matter for who we fuck with, fall in love with, hire, regard as genius musicians and artists etc. What we have shall simply not limit our space of action at all. It’s about justice as well as freedom. Additionally, I believe that it is important to have an intersectional perspective on feminism, to see how various modes of oppression are cooperating and forming alliances. The aim is, of course, to abolish all oppressive power regimes, not just the oppression of women.

JGP: Why queer feminism?

AAC: Because we abolish sex as a category, we ‘pull the rug’ from under patriarchy, and because it is in heteronormativity the gender system is most visible. If we abolish heteronormativity and teach our children early that they might just as well fall in love with someone with a dick as with a pussy, the whole so called ‘tension’ between the sexes will disappear. The aim is that the shape of our genitals should not be more important than ones hair colour or height. Today it’s more like the whole society (and sexuality in particular) is based on the categorisation of sex.

JGP: Which political issues do you prioritise at the moment, and why?

AAC: Queer feminism, animals’ rights, anarchism and lookism (i.e. that we are valued according to our surface, in relation to how close our appearance is to the norm for what is considered ‘good looking’). I am also trying to work from an intersectional perspective, as well as a global one. Issues around post-colonialism also lie close to my heart.

JGP: Tell me more about your blog!

AAC: I have been blogging for almost two years, and I’m using my blog as an outlet for my anger over the state of the world today, as well as to ‘pep talk’ and inspire activism. It is a channel for my enjoyment as an activist, and the hopes that I have for an emancipatory movement that one day will transform the foundations of our society. By telling how much fun it is to be an activist I hope I can influence more people to join the struggle! For me, blogging is one of many forms of activism, definitely not the only one, or even the most important. I’m using many platforms for my writing, but I use the blog as a place where I without censoring myself can write about whatever I feel like on that particular day. I don’t reach as many people through my blog as I do through my columns, or, above all, through my appearances in the mainstream media, but I see these forms of media activism as complementing one another rather than as opposites. Importantly, though, I would never, ever compromise my political message to achieve the attention of the mainstream media, because media attention can NEVERNEVERNEVER have a value in and of itself—media critique is a ‘red thread’ throughout my activism, and of all the forms of activism I’m involved in, appearances in the mainstream media is what I spend the least time on.

I continue to blog because there are quite a few people reading my blog who says that it inspires them to partake in political activities themselves. And that’s the very purpose of my blog, and my life as a whole—I have the words ‘live to inspire’ tattooed on my body—otherwise I could just as well close it down.

JGP: Which other forms of media are you writing for or appearing in? How do you position yourself in relation to the mainstream media?

AAC: I am writing columns for the leftist magazine ETC once a month. I also occasionally write articles for other media, if I’m asked to do so, or if there is any particularly pressing issue I want to raise. I prefer by far grassroots media over mainstream. I only use mainstream media as a platform in extremely rare cases, and I have difficulties seeing myself as a columnist for a mainstream paper: I do not want to be captain over my own bathtub in a house full of dirt, so to speak. As mainstream media in Sweden are all owned by large media corporations which have profit as their primary goal—something like 35% of all the media in Sweden is owned by the media company Bonniers, 90% of all the editorials are right wing. This is hardly democratic. I see myself as leftist and want a democracy in which people do not let themselves be represented, but that represent themselves (anarchism). I would rather like to see tons of grassroots media and blogs as ways to distribute information and start a revolution from underground. For a leftist activist this needs to be prioritised far more than becoming a ‘media star’ in the mainstream media, I think. On the one hand, we have the opportunity to reach more people through the mainstream media, so they can’t be completely ignored, but on the other hand it is through the grassroots media we can construct a solid ground for us on which to stand. And in this respect, internet brings us a lot of possibilities which we have to make use of!

Note: This interview is a translated edited and shortened version of a longer e-mail interview made for research purposes by Jenny Gunnarsson Payne, Department of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies, Stockholm University. The interview was conducted in Swedish on the 17th of September 2009. This version is published with the consent of Alexander Alvina Chamberland.

Alexander Alvina Chamberland
Jenny Gunnarsson Payne
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