Long time cultural space remained purely "masculine", but, fortunately, the situation is changing. Today, there are more and more projects about women and for women - from feminist publishing to special spaces. We spoke with Liza Semyanovskaya, the creator of the Flanorka excursions, about how to bring women back to the urban space.
I work in IT, and Flanerka is a side project, personal and beloved. I periodically have hobbies, and I thought it would be great to invest the time and energy that I spend on them in a project that can turn out to be something. On excursions I laugh and say: "I have been fond of feminism for seven years already." I don't know if it is possible to get involved in feminism, but I have long been close to the topic of gender studies, LGBT + rights, and so on. When I thought about my business, I, of course, really wanted it to be associated with feminism.
I wondered what I love to do and what others say I am doing well. Judging by the reviews, I speak well and speak well - I did a lot of this at work, and also went to writing courses at No Kidding Press and even led groups as a curator. The crowd of people does not scare me, I like to speak in public. I considered different formats, but, for example, a lecture hall is not mine: boring, plus it is implied that I probably should be a specialist in gender history with a special education. Thinking about a more entertaining option, I decided that I could lead excursions, besides, an event without a platform allows me to be more flexible.
In May, I went to Paris and checked into Airbnb to see what "experiences" are (excursions and activities run by locals. - Approx. ed.). So I found two whole feminist excursions: the first was about feminist street art, and the second was about the women of the city. I signed up for both - as a result, the first was more activist, and the second was designed for a wide audience. So a blissful picture began to form in my head: I can make an excursion about the women of Moscow.
To be honest, I have not been on a sightseeing tour of Moscow, but I suspect that they talk there mainly about men - at least, this is what follows from the descriptions. I tried to find excursions about women in the capital - I found one where it was written that men outshine women and therefore it is important to talk about them, and a few more about “femme fatale”, “mustachioed countess”, “lovers of great men” and the like. On sightseeing tours, at best, there is a place for the Empress. I thought it would be great to bring the city back to women.
I hoped to quickly make a tour and translate it into English (this was before the FIFA World Cup) so that all foreign feminists would come to me. Naturally, she did not have time and took up the project seriously only in October. I have a coach - I came to him with a request that it tears me to pieces: I went to get my license, got a dog in the summer, I have a terrible load at work, and I am also taking a course in programming, I need to launch my project and write a story … We began to rake up projects and agreed that we need to come up with a draft of the excursion and conduct it as soon as possible - in order to at least understand whether I like it or not.
It's my birthday in mid-December, and we thought: what could be better than giving a tour as the first part of the party? Even if I do everything very badly, it is unlikely that friends on my birthday will say about it. On December 23, I gave the first excursion - since then there have been three or four, on March 9 there will be another one. Now I want to go to a stable schedule - two or three excursions a month.
We came up with the name together with a friend and colleague. For an hour, they threw in options, there were probably about seventy of them. At some point, "flanorka" came to my mind.There are the words "flanneur" and "flanneur" - that is, to walk idly. Flaner is a man who walks the streets, looks at passers-by, sits in a cafe. When I start the tour, I usually tell the participants that we are flankers. In fact, flanneur is a rather sexist story, because this way of life was available mainly to men. I like that I took this "masculine" word and made a feminitive out of it - it's time to return to women what they are supposed to.
The tour takes three hours. We walk from point to point, I tell something next to them and periodically in transitions. Since it was winter, I took special hand warmers and distributed them to everyone. We have coffee breaks, one to three. The latter takes fifteen to twenty minutes, we come to our senses a little, warm up, get acquainted and say - this happens before the last point of the excursion.
I have no formal education in women's history - in Russia, in principle, there is practically none. But I have the tools, I am not afraid of the need to read and take notes a lot. I spent two and a half months preparing the first excursion. It seems to me that it is much more important to start than to wait until I have accumulated enough knowledge to consider myself an expert. Now there are five heroines on the tour - you can spend your whole life to understand them. You have to sacrifice the depth of immersion in order to get at least some result.
At first, I sketched a list of interesting people - on the long list there are about sixty or seventy. When I began to talk about excursions more often, acquaintances and friends began to send materials about other cool women whom I did not know. I wanted to make a basic, general excursion, and then deal with thematic ones (for example, I sat down for material about revolutionaries, and here the volume of work, of course, is solid). Now the main tour takes three hours, and there are five heroines in it. I chose women who, in my opinion, are somehow connected and, most importantly, are of interest: for example, the artist Varvara Stepanova and the cosmonaut Svetlana Savitskaya.
For this excursion I bought ten books - for example, an autobiography of Svetlana Savitskaya, three Soviet editions of the seventies about revolutionaries, fiction biographical stories, diaries and letters of Varvara Stepanova, a collection of "Avant-garde Amazons" - a monograph about an exhibition of avant-garde women. Of course, I do not only use this - for example, I searched for scientific papers on Google Scholar. I can't get to the library, although in the end I have to. In general, I am engaged in scientific work in a lightweight format.
There was a funny situation with the excursion about revolutionaries. I am very worried that I do not know history well, and I wrote a post on Facebook, if there is an infographic somewhere about the history of the 20th century, so that I can understand the context and dig deeper. A friend advised the Museum of the Political History of Russia with a cool exposition, where there is an exhibition "Women and Revolution". I found out that the museum is located in St. Petersburg - and went there for a day. The exhibition turned out to be very cool, I thanked my friend, to which she said: "Oh my God, I was sure that this museum is in Moscow!" It was funny - you can say that I was already on a business trip.
I said that an excursion is better than a lecture hall, because there is no need for a platform. On the other hand, it is worse than a lecture hall in that you need to connect the city with your story. A separate layer of work is to look for addresses in order to understand which objects to show. I write them out and then I try to verify. Recently I downloaded a register of memorial plaques in Moscow - there are several thousand of them. I looked through all of them and marked those dedicated to women - it turned out that there are only 5% of them. I have five or six places on the map associated with each heroine - I choose two of them, otherwise the route is stretched to the point of impossibility.
About the beloved heroine
All five of my heroines are dear to me, but, for example, there is a fashion designer Nadezhda Lamanova.She was born at the end of the 19th century, before the revolution, in Nizhny Novgorod, as they say everywhere, "in an impoverished noble family." On the excursion I joke all the time - I wonder what “impoverished” means: three servants instead of twenty, or is everything really bad? She was born among several sisters, graduated from high school - seven compulsory years - and on her own initiative took the eighth year of study. After that, she decided that she did not want to be a burden for the family and, being quite young (she was probably less than twenty), she left for Moscow and got a job in an atelier. When she was twenty-four years old, she herself opened an atelier in Moscow. Through her husband, she met Stanislavsky, and he arranged for her at the Moscow Art Theater. A.P. Chekhova to deal with costumes - she worked there for forty years, until her death. In 1905, a few years after the first studio, she built her own five-story building on Tverskoy Boulevard - she bought out a plot of land and did it with her own money.
When the revolution happened, she and her husband were imprisoned for two and a half months. But since she was indirectly acquainted with Gorky, he asked for her, and the woman was released. She continued to work, engage in theater, for example, sewed costumes, which participated in the exhibition of arts and crafts in 1927 in Paris - and took the Grand Prix. Before the revolution, she rose to the position of being a supplier to the court of His Imperial Majesty, and after the revolution, she continued a brilliant career - and this is amazing.
I want to conduct tours more regularly. Now I have one excursion, and I am methodically refining it - I want to add more and more cool information there and make the route more interesting and comfortable. After each one I ask for feedback - and a lot coincides with my own feelings. I want me to have about five different excursions - firstly, it's cool, and secondly, all the heroines that I like don't fit into one. So far, I have a lot of fun driving general, but I think it will get bored with time.
From the nearest plans - an excursion about revolutionaries, although there are difficulties here: a lot was happening in St. Petersburg. I also think it would be interesting to make an excursion about women's life. I want to have excursions about artists, writers, terrorists, criminals. I would like there to be more than one general excursion like the one we have now, and more modern heroines to start appearing there. The only thing I have given up on the idea of doing excursions about famous women so far is that it seems boring to me. It would be cool to make an interactive map - there are memorial plaques, street names, objects that I show, but we need to figure out how best to do this technically. And, probably, everything should be translated into English.