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Collaboration versus Competition: Narratives around Success and Failure from a Feminist Podcasting Collective in Madrid

by Valentina Longo, Sangre Fucsia

Photo Credit: Sangre Fucsia

This article is part of a two-post series on collaboration, community media and activism in Spain. Read part two here.

This article is based on my experience as a podcaster in a feminist collective, Sangre Fucsia. The project was started by a group of women who had been involved in other radio projects and who wanted to do something more personal in an activist environment. None of us wanted to create a feminist pedagogical show, but rather to talk about issues that interest us and to which, inevitably, we are going to apply a feminist perspective. We love radio as a way of listening, communicating and connecting. We need to listen and do radio live, in front of microphones, fiddling with technical controls and using only voice and sound to share all the interesting things that people around us are doing. Sangre Fucsia is broadcasting since 2013 and part of a community radio based in Madrid (Spain) called Ágora Sol Radio.

Our radio show number 223, broadcasted live on Friday 3rd of June, was an exploration around success and failure from a feminist perspective. Two concepts that, in some way, accompanied us all our life — and we both embraced or rejected them and their frame. Nevertheless, as we usually do in our podcast, we try to turn common meaning around and illuminate the issue with a fuchsia light, i.e., the feminist gaze. Ambition, power, glory — and their antonyms laziness, submission, insignificance — are references when thinking of a meaningful life. Nevertheless, we needed to talk about what this means for people who are not cis, white and heterosexual men. Is this frame valid for women, for lesbians, poor or for black people? How does it apply and how did we transform it in our own life?

Aware of the patriarchal, colonial and capitalist meaning of the frame “success and failure” or “winner and looser”, we talked about Big Mama Thornton and her success being a black, fat, masculine woman. Exploring our referents, we commented on ‘Rat Girl’, the autobiography of Kristin Hersh and on ‘Clothes, Music, Boys’ by Viv Albertine, on fantasy and science fiction authors, like Nnedi Okorafor who reinterprets the journey of the hero in coming-of-age fiction through the characters of her novels. ‘Murderbot Diaries’, by Martha Wells gives life to the cyberorganic Murderbot, a very insecure, genderless cyborg that struggles between isolating herself from the human world and indulging in sappy soap opera binges or finding a place in the world by forcing herself to connect and build bonds with human beings.

We love science fiction since it is a language that allows us to talk about our world and the way it works, at the same time it is a window to let our imagination build other possible worlds. Talking about ourselves and how the narrative of a successful life pervaded our lives and how it changed its parameters along the years. Tania Be said: “Success now means living a decent life. And this cannot depend on being more or less brilliant or lucky. I don’t know why we are not putting all our efforts on getting rid of the capitalist world of achievement and effort as we know it”.

Photo Credit: Sangre Fucsia

What does this mean in our life and in the way we conceive and do radio. To us, “success” is understood as a process, and collaboration is how we build it on a daily basis. We are six feminists with different backgrounds and perspectives, and we share the vision of our podcast as joy and celebration, as if the feminist revolution has already succeeded. This perspective is sustained by our activism: the participation in the podcast is not paid, we do it on a voluntary basis simply because we want to do it. The absence of money allows us to concentrate on the process and on building collective practices both internally, as a group, and with other collectives/groups.

During the program, Rebeca (one of our members) highlights the importance of decentralizing the pairing success/failure from the employment frame, at the same time, she underlines how her job, in general, is a space for success and ambition only in a very specific sense, very far from the hegemonic frame we are used to incorporate: “ I would like to think about what my work success or ambition is, and, without any doubt, to me it means that my mental health is not affected, that my job does not suck my energy to dedicate myself to other things in my life that make me very happy and make me feel very fulfilled, such as being part of Sangre Fucsia. It is undoubtedly one of the things that I feel most satisfied with”.

The happiness and satisfaction — success in our own terms — of being part of the podcast expressed by Rebeca is shared by the entire group that promotes Sangre Fucsia and it is rooted in the way in which we build it: as a collaborative process that recognizes interdependence and vulnerability. These two concepts, derived from the feminist economy, are put into practice and become a working method. In our case, interdependence means the recognition that the podcast would not be possible without the participation of all of us, each one with her own style, perspective and (different) dedication as well as expertise. In fact, our DIY viewpoint leads us to manage — and share — all the phases of the process: preparation, production and promotion. We work horizontally and as a team. We choose the topics together in periodical meetings and share the tasks, from researching information to editing the programmes. Our script is an open online document where each of us can contribute. In this way we learn to work as a team and we learn to do everything. We do not aim at a millimetric division of labor in which each of us contributes with the very same number of hours, but we promote and practice a capillary organization of the work, sustained by a radical sharing of the decision-making process and trust in one another.

We have different levels of expertise, both technical and experiential, among us. Some of us joined the project from the very beginning and had previous experience in community radios, some others jumped into it later, with no radio background. Nevertheless, such differences do not turn into power relations but, on the contrary, into empowerment processes to grow as individuals and especially as a group.

Photo Credit: Sangre Fucsia

Vulnerability, strictly connected to interdependence, means to us recognizing an essential dimension of the human beings: that life is fragile and, if we do not take care of it in a collective way, it is not viable. The recognition of such an ontological feature is translated into organizational practices that promote the configuration of Sangre Fucsia as a space of self-care to be build together. We recognize the different phases of life of each of us, if someone needs less tasks because she wants to attend a course or has personal issues to take care of, it is not lack of structure, it is a capillary structure. It is not a neoliberal vision of self-care, but rather a process of responsabilisation in constructing well being at the individual and collective level. It is not self-indulgence but a necessity of naming burdens, it is about reclaiming time, space and energy as a means of survival, and about boundaries, learning to say saying “no”, being aware that the group is solid and the expertise shared.

If Sangre Fucsia has such a long life it is because we turned the concepts of success and failure, underpinned by that of competition, into vulnerability and interdependence, underpinned by collaboration. And because we still enjoy very much all the work done to produce a podcast.

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Research center for the study of media, communication, and information policy and its impact on society and practice. https://cmds.ceu.edu/