Marry a killer. FAQ on feminism and marriage by Jenny Kurpen, wife of the inventor Peter Madsen, life-sentenced for murdering a woman
In the middle of January, the Finnish-Russian artist, activist and journalist Jenny Kurpen married the Danish inventor Peter Madsen, sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of a Swedish journalist Kim Wall. A year ago, Jenny published a manifesto against the exclusion of Madsen from society and defended her right to communicate with him from a feminist standpoint. Today, journalists again bombard her with questions, and outraged Scandinavian inhabitants — with threats and letters full of hatred. Jenny Kurpen refuses to communicate with journalists, but for us she made an exception and answered the questions of all tabloids at once.
— What is your background/childhood?
— I was born in Moscow 10 years before the crush of the Soviet Union in an ordinary moscow intellectual family and spent most of first 33 years of my life there, studying, working, self educating and having all usual activities for the person of that age and social group. I have two educations — cultural studies and graphic design.
— Are you a feminist? If so how does that correspond to the facts that you married a guy who is responsible for the death of a strong, independent woman doing her job?
— Yes, I consider myself a straight feminist and my choice completely corresponds with the real content of feministic ideology and agenda, not with the mass culture fake of it. I don’t wear a pink t-shirt «Girl power», since my girl power is every day of my life. Your question contains the answer — strong, independent women, doing their jobs can marry anyone they want without asking permission.
One more significant thing here is a hint of social racism lurking in your question. Let’s simulate a situation, where the victim of crime is not that young, is less attractive, is not famous, not that successful and respectable, was not born in such a good family, and on top of it all — not European. Imagine an illegal migrant from the third world, a drunk and drug addicted whore or sex-worker, random noname, dressed up in the most inappropriate way. And now guess, what kind of public reaction it would have caused. No reaction at all or something like classical «it’s her fault».
Imagine another situation — we simply replace murderer and the victim. Strong, independent woman doing her job, killed a man. What kind of reaction we should expect? Courageous female had to defend herself from a violent monster, who involved her to his territory using manipulations. So let’s at least try to be honest and admit, that people are not equal and the value and importance of an individual depends on who he/she is.
— You write that the ban of women visiting Peter in prison actually violate the rights of all women. Is this part of your fight?
— Long before we realized what is going on between us for real, it definitely was a part of my active position and it is still the same. I consider this ban a part of usual social policy which means women sexual objects by default. I fully understand the will of the system to follow the direction of society moods, but the existing situation is not a matter of protection for women, but on opposite — it is just the one more way to violate their rights. Total ban on female visiting is one more opportunity to tell women that they have to become men to get equal rights. This was not a punishment for Peter, this was a punishment for me. I’m very frustrated with the so-called 3rd wave of feminism, it seems like it appeared just to show how it shouldn’t be. The essence of the 3rd wave is the point that modern culture and consumption system objectifies women and turns them into products and goods. Finally their fighting strategies as well as rhetoric, demonstrates the fact that nobody objectifies women more than their ’defenders’, since they talk a lot about sexual relations in semantic continuum from exploitation to hard violence. Inside this logic body becomes a product of sale, something of a specific value, something that may be used in the process of barter. I stand on a very unpopular position and don’t consider the body any value at all — having a vagina doesn’t make a woman special, since every woman has it. Our brain, skills, qualities and progress make us outstanding, and only this is a field of battle for equality. I can compare it with drug legalization — if using and buying was decriminalized there were no more black market, cartels and wars, it was no longer a business. So if women’s bodies, virginity and sexuality stoped being a specifically emphasized values and goods, women were able to compete on equal terms. And as I think, the problem is right here — the ’defenders’ are not interested in this at all, since their practice comfortably installs the discourse of ’fighting for rights’ into capitalistic system. And then we see a woman, looking like a barbie doll with all attributes of men-oriented signal system, but dressed in a pink t-shirt ’Girl power’, because global market owned it and turned into a product from the current must-have list.
— You have two sons: How will you involve them in this relationship? Aren’t you afraid of giving them a bad male role model? Have you thought about the risk of them being teased or bullied because of your choice of husband?
— According to Danish law, my husband doesn’t have legal rights to meet my children. I think that he could be a perfect father and the best male role model, which he used to be for at least 15 years of his public biography before the tragedy of August 10 2017. Also I don’t support the concept of collective responsibility and try to make my children ready to fight all kinds of invasions regarding their family, origin, look or anything else.
— I have to ask: Your youngest is called Peter, isn’t he? Is it a coincidence — or is he named after Peter. If so — why?
— Yes, my younger son is called after Peter, because Peter sr happened to be a herald of my personal resurrection and returned sense and content to my life.
— I think you use the hashtag #madnessfamily or something on Instagram — what does that mean?
— It means that I always used to have interesting and unusual life, exciting and unbelievable, and I share it with my children as a part of my family as well.
— What made you contact Peter for the art project in the first place?
— When I saw Peter for the first time I knew from the first minute that here is a person who knows all, who came to me through centuries, he was one of those eternal heroes of mythologic narratives, he was one of those, who saw births and deaths of empires, the one who discovered new continents and stars, who invented the world. He was the one to talk with till the end of eternity, it’s that simple.
— When and why did it move forward to a personal and romantic relationship?
— It happened the same way how it usually does with most of other people on earth — we are the same biological type as you and your readers.
— Why did you decide to marry him instead of for instance just being friends or lovers?
— I think because we both felt something new, that we have never experienced before and it changed our vision of many things. I’ve never been officially married before and never planned to, since I always was very sceptic about all kinds of rituals and formalities. It changed and I found that it is something about unity, something that is made far above and beyond, and I want to be devoted and connected on all possible stages.
— What does he give you?
— Everything. Bread and wine.
— Peter said himself during the court case that he is not monogamous — does that mean anything to you?
— Peter is in process of learning himself, analyzing past, surviving present, imagining future. I won’t discuss Peter’s personal past life, because we live today. If you ask my vision of being polygamous, I consider it an absolutely healthy thing in case it’s a consensus for all acting agents. I don’t need such a construction from my side, because I found all I needed in one person, as for Peter’s position — you should ask him about it.
— The mental examination of Peter stated among other things that he was manipulative and narcissistic. Isn’t he just manipulating you?
— I don’t know anyone, who is not manipulative, since manipulation is one of the basements and main instruments of human interaction. Manipulation is the first social skill for every baby with normal progress. Manipulation makes you stop eating gluten and lactose, manipulation forces you reduce your weight to 48 kilos and follow fashion trends instead of being yourself. As well as manipulation impacts public opinion about Peter and the fact of our marriage. I am manipulative and it makes us a perfect team, manipulating the manipulator is an exciting game.
As for ’narcissistic tendencies’, it’s important to note what does this term really means — it’s very far from self admiration, it’s mostly about perfectionism and permanent process of self evaluation and tough suffering of all even smallest imperfections. This is exactly what Peter experiences along the way.
— Other women who have married prisoners convicted of murder have regretted it afterwards. Are you afraid that you will regret and not having the options to roll it back?
— It’s quite a ridiculous question, because according to the world statistics in 2019 from 47% to 73% of all marriages end up with divorce. Success or failure of marriage is not determined by the status of prisoner or an ordinary law-abiding person, as well as I can hardly compare my husband with real criminals with criminal background, mindset and ’careers’. Actually even those who can be described this way are also individuals with their own personal stories, qualities and characteristics. Every marriage is a bet and risk, and there are no guarantees that this boat won’t sink. In the same time I must say that the price we payed to have any chance to become together increased the importance and value of our marriage to a superlative.
— Why does Peter deserve to have people caring for him?
— Everyone deserves it, not only Peter. Each and everyone of Peter’s inmates deserves it, it should never be measured in this units, it’s not a matter of committed crime. If we dare to call ourselves humans, we have duties, kind of ethical taxation, we must match the honor to be entitled this way.
— Is this a marriage of love/an art project/a cultural study?
— Our marriage is based on love, friendship, total mutual interests and views, ultimate devotion and trust, that non of us has ever experienced before.
— The marriage has already made you put some of your own work projects at pause — why is Peter worth risking/pausing your own career?
— It was my own decision and Peter never was and never will be risking or pausing my plans. My husband is a tough pro-feminist, who inspires, encourages and stimulates my creativity. I made such decision for a clear reason — for few upcoming years only a lazy one won’t blame me of advertising my projects using my affiliation to Peter and our family name. Another reason is the fact that for us being a married couple, a family, means to be a team and our priority now is work in collaboration. And besides that, the main concept of my own delayed project was the idea of restitution, of returning Peter’s name back to cultural scene. So, I’m still doing the same and following my fundamental plan.
— According to the verdict Peter planned this sexually motivated murder and dismembered the body afterwards. How does that make you feel?
— According to all the main known cosmogonic myths, earth is flat — a giant disc surrounded by the ocean, or like Scandinavian Midgaard, created from the eyelid of the killed giant Ymir and represents the middle world in a multi-dimensional universe, located on the branches of an ash-tree Yggdrasil. According to Hitler, Jews, Gipsies and many others should be demolished due to their origin. If you still want to talk about the verdict, I let myself doubt that anyone precisely knows what happened on August 10 2017. It’s obvious to me that it definitely was never planned and never was sexually motivated. I know and deeply understand what a windy road led to this terrible day, as well as I know that the explanation is not equal to excuse. Peter is guilty, Peter is punished and he will go through it with strength and dignity.
— How can you marry a man guilty of such a crime?
— I married the man, who is so much bigger than his crime, that it made it possible. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t matter to me. It matters a lot, probably much more than you can imagine. An innocent human being had to give up life to make me meet the one I needed. It will never be possible to forget about.
— Do you understand if someone thinks that you approve of the crime by marrying Peter?
— I don’t operate with term «someone» in such a context. «Someone» doesn’t exist, it’s an abstract artificial construction, which is traditionally used to find acceptable grounds to judge. It’s a kind of an antique choir, which doesn’t take active part in a plot, but constitutes and legitimizes the declared moral conclusion. It’s a perfect example of a classical term «spiral of silence», invented by a German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann and which precisely describes this phenomenon. A person is less likely to express his opinion on a particular subject if he feels that he is minority, as he is afraid of retaliation or isolation. Elizabeth Noel-Neumann considers the ’spiral of silence’ an attribute of the manifestation of public opinion: ’All manifestations of public opinion are united by their connection with the threat of isolation for the individual. Where an individual cannot freely speak or act at his own discretion, but must take into account the views of his environment in order not to be isolated, we always deal with manifestations of public opinion.’
If my friend asks me about it, I will answer, because I respect exact people for being who they are in my life, but «someone» should continue his way to somewhere without taking my time.
— You call Peter a victim as well — explain that.
— The explanation to that is very simple. From my perspective it’s an extremely presumptuous position to evaluate a person for only one even ultimately horrible act. During the investigation and court process the whole situation looked like the verdict was ready long before the official conviction and all the answers were found without asking questions. In my opinion it is natural to assume that all that happened had some serious prehistory, something that should has been taken in account before making any conclusions on the subject. It can’t work as an excuse, but only attempts to explore and analyze the situation can legitimize any kinds of thoughts and opinions. Without a least of knowledge about Peter’s personality and life situation preceding the tragedy, one’s aggressive position would always remain junk. I can’t imagine what kind of a sick mind should one have to guess that actions of such kind could be a pleasure and amusement. It seems important to remind that Peter destroyed his own life, career, reputation and usual order of things and it’s again a ridiculous guess that physical existence has any value without having a chance to rebuild his universe from ruins.
— You say that you are proud of Peters life except for one day. But how can you extract that one day from the rest of his person. Do you think that anyone could do, what he did — or is it a part of his personality that made him capable of this horrible crime?
— On opposite, I’m probably the only one who is able to accept Peter’s complex personality as a complete sealed system without any need of making exceptions. I accept Peter with all that happened and all he did, since his personality is much bigger than that and can’t be determined this way. Why shouldn’t I be proud of all the fantastic projects, ideas and achievements of my husband, of his intellectual and creative heritage, of his glorious past, of his strength, courage and will to evaluate and elaborate his hard crime and guilt? Of course I am proud of it. I have quite a substantial number of examples of people who’s only one personal indication is their crime and it’s definitely not the case if we talk about Peter. In the same time I want to emphasize that I accept the personality, but I never justify the crime, it can be explained and understood, but not excused.
— People say that when he can do it once he can do it twice. Do you think about your own safety with Peter?
— I have no idea, why should I spent my time on what people say. I am much more safe with Peter than with anyone of these people, and I find inappropriate thoughts of this kind in general.
— Some people say that Peter are not entitled to happiness — and least of all marriage — because he is responsible for the horrible death of Kim Wall. Do you understand their opinion?
— I’m very sorry for this people, because they are probably lost in darkness and might forgot about the Christian foundation of culture, which gave birth to them and which still tolerates their weaknesses, their sins and their pride.
I will forever remember Kim as a personality, a professional, a soldier, who gave up life on a battle field, implementing her professional duties, as a hero, and definitely not as a helpless female victim of a violent male. This is how real feminists think and act. As for crowds of our haters — I am not responsible for their will to build Kim’s memorial from dirt and shit, it’s their ethical choice. It’s an unusual and quite an exotic idea to defend and support the injured party multiplying the evil.
— You more or less (scarily precise actually) predicted the reactions in your ’manifest’. Have you made a point about that?
— Maybe it’s because I am a smart, well educated, attentive and experienced person.
— Are you afraid of your own safety coming to Denmark (by angry people)?
— I am worried mostly for my children’s safety. I collect all the threats carefully, with all the names and faces and contact police.
— What are your plans/hope for the future?
— We have many plans of professional nature, we work together a lot and we are full of inspiration and energy. I hope we will be ready to announce some of our projects soon. As for hopes, I have a hope that common sense will win one day, after years, and my husband will be able to see the rising sun and sunset, to feel the light sea wind on his face and hot sand under his feet being physically free. He will never forgive himself, he will never forget what he did and will never get freedom from his guilt and it was a hard task to to convince him to stay alive and then try to live. It will forever stay with us and we will work on it as long as we breathe. I don’t hope that he will ever be able to release himself from the prison of his mind.
— Peter will be in prison the next many years. You have your freedom. Why do you want to get involved with someone you cannot have a life with outside prison?
— I chose and married a personality, an exact person with exact number of qualities, the one, who was created for me, so this current conditions is not a factor. Our life exists inside us and our «home» is much more safe and real than many others. My vision of relationship depends on much more valuable things than family vacations or wasting time in restaurants or luxury hotels, I’m not interested in so-called normative marriage, I don’t need a house with white fence and a small dog, so it’s quite a ridiculous guess.
— How often are you planning to come visit?
— As often as possible, according to law, rules and our wishes.
— How will you describe the unity you have with the other people (women?) visiting Peter (how many are you)?
— As you probably know, in spite of all weird opinions and gossips, Peter could not have any female visitors at all for a very long time, about a year. For now he has two — our close friend and me. I have a hope, that with time this situation can change. My great wish is to introduce a list of my friends to Peter, females and males. But it’s a matter of time and big work as well as all rewards we have today.