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Why is love political?

Radical tenderness
Forfatter: Seyda Kurt
Forlag: Harper Collins (Tyskland)
PSYCHOLOGY / Love is not a project of isolation, but a project of freedom, according to Seyda Kurt: The freedom to be able to choose for oneself is about radical tenderness, about justice.

In the autobiographical and philosophical book Radical tenderness writes the Turkish-German journalist and moderator Seyda Kurt about "radical tenderness" when it comes to love. "Why is love political?" she asks.

The book springs from a growing uneasiness in Kurt. In her analyzes and musings, she starts from herself as a cultural journalist, former philosophy student and daughter of a migrant family from Turkey. She writes because the world worries her, and because she wants a change.

The book is divided into nine chapters, which are again mainly divided into two parts, as I read it. Chapters 1-8 are included in the first part, and only chapter 9 is included in the last part. The first 8 chapters will be called "On the purpose of love" in Norwegian; "Love Philosophies"; "Monogamy and open relationships"; "Unfair conditions in an unfair world"; "A new language of tenderness"; "How we want to take care of each other"; "Technology and tenderness" and "Self-love is the answer?". Chapter 9 is called "Utopias of radical tenderness".

The personal is political!

"The personal is political!" Kurt believes that change must start small, "microscopically", in our personal relationships with those closest to us: mother, father, sister and/or brother. We must treat love more tenderly and carefully.

She understands radical tenderness as a program of justice. A justice in tenderness in one's own relationships, which is the most private space. This can then spread outwards and apply to all relationships you have.

A family works with rules, just like an institution. A family is structured with hierarchy. A family creates a shared history that the members carry with them into the world. A family maintains its own truths, opinions and values. Just like an institution. In Kurt's family, the truth is that nothing is more important than one's own family.

Monogamy

Love is powerful – romantic relationships are shaped by sexism, racism and capitalism, according to Kurt.

After her parents divorced, she wanted to return to her childhood paradise, the monogamous home, with a father and a mother under the same roof. She thought for a long time that a family could only be happy when one was monogamous. Missing her once whole and monogamous family led her into a monogamous relationship.

After Kurt had been in a monogamous relationship for two years, she quickly realized that it wasn't for her. An uneasiness that she could no longer continue to ignore grew within her. She no longer wanted to be in an exclusive type of relationship.

In popular culture, monogamy is portrayed as the ideal. The nuclear family is the answer to happiness. For several years, cis men have wanted to commit their wives to a monogamous marriage. The woman must belong to her husband. Marriage and monogamy are rooted in a misogynistic, patriarchal and racist worldview.

Marriage between whites and blacks was forbidden for a long time, since "racial hygiene" had to be maintained. Even today, it is a requirement in certain Turkish families that the girls are exclusively married off to Turkish men. Over the years, we have also seen the consequences for German-Turkish girls who have refused to follow their family's demands: honor killings.

In white, middle-class families, there should preferably be a white, heterosexual and monogamous woman, according to Kurt. This way of thinking has existed for several centuries and still shapes our notions of the ideal family. For example, dark-skinned men are often portrayed as sexually potent, animalistic and exotic in popular culture. It's a racist stereotype. Just look at Lars von Trier's film N (2013), writes Kurt, with the French-British (and white) actress Charlotte Gainsbourg in the lead role as the 42-year-old Joe, where in one scene she invites two dark-skinned refugees for sex.

Seyda Kurt

Polygamy

Men could have polygamous relationships for a long time. Even the Prophet Muhammad, in Islam, had multiple wives. In several Muslim countries, polygamy in men is accepted and completely normal today. In several Western countries, polygamous relationships have become normal, among both men and women.

For Kurt, getting out of the monogamous relationship was about the freedom to possibly choose several partners.

Monogamy isn't for everyone, but neither is polygamy. However, it is important that these forms of relationship are there for everyone so that you can choose for yourself whether you want one over the other. The goal is that none of the forms should limit a person. Love is not a project of isolation, but a project of freedom. The freedom to be able to choose for oneself is rooted in radical tenderness. It is about justice.

Utopias of radical tenderness

In the ninth and last chapter of the book, Kurt writes about the utopias of radical tenderness. Here she comes up with a kind of recipe for how we can achieve radical tenderness. First of all, we need an ethics of love, which is based on the African-American writer and feminist Audre Lorde's famous quote "I am not free as long as another woman is unfree". It is about humanity and about taking responsibility for injustice committed against someone other than oneself.

Our body is at the center of the utopia of radical tenderness, emphasizes Kurt. We er our body. We possess it doesn't. Laws against abortion and the LGBTQ+ movement are some examples of how our bodies are owned by others than ourselves. As long as our body is not free, we cannot be free people.

Radical tenderness needs a post-capitalist world, where we have more time, and are not part of the capitalist hamster wheel. Capitalism robs us of the most important thing we have as humans: our time.

According to Kurt, we also need to talk more to achieve the utopias of radical tenderness. For example, she mentions the LGBTQ+ movement's visions of equality. Dialogue is a human and cultural resource – for political change.

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Pinar Ciftci
Ciftci is a journalist and actor.

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