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An introduction to anarcha feminism

February 5th, 2004 · post by anon · Make a comment

“Those who make revolutions half way only dig their own graves…”*
by Brenda Lone

“The true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations which we seek to escape, but the piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us…” -Audre Lorde

Often it is called reactionary – by anarchists. Funny – the Trots are always calling these white, upper-middle class anarchist men reactionary. You’d think anarchist men would appreciate how trivializing and dismissive it is to call anarcha-feminism reactionary. The frustration is overwhelming. It prevents me from making my point effectively. I wonder why they can’t make an effort to empathize or think about what I’m expressing rather than getting so defensive… The situation on both sides is not helping us as anarchists dreaming of a better world. In truth, I have more success discussing sexism and feminism with Tories, who are willing to accept they – we, all of us – aren’t fully evolved on this issue. Molly Tov and Alphabet Threat have written fantastic manifestos and rants on what it is to be a woman in an ‘anarchist boys club’ (see http://www.spunk.org/library/anarcfem/ for these pieces and lots more good essays). In our own communities, anarchists and activists need to look carefully at ourselves and our behaviours, and to think about what mutual aid means. Anarcha-feminism, as a concept, addresses an idea much bigger and more important than gender sexism – anarcha-feminism attacks the patriarchal capitalist system that assaults and exploits everyone.

“We have to recognize that to the degree that revolutionary feminism critiques and intervenes on racism, class, elitism, and sexism; which includes homophobia, it is the most left movement that we have…” -bell hooks

In the old days – so I hear – anarchists talked a lot more about theory and praxis (practice), and how these must balance in anarchy to create success. So – here we go – Step One: Theory. Anarcha-feminism is not simply a framework for feminist arguments. It is an interpretation of anarchy. Writers like Marge Piercy have created anarchist utopias in their novels that draw a picture of an overall better society. The image created is not about feminism; it is inclusive of feminism and transcends the patriarchy (or matriarchy). In Woman on the Edge of Time the feminist slant isn’t all that overt. Piercy simply integrates it into her utopia, likes she integrates the sharing of bikes and the role of partying. This is what I think most of us are trying to say – just remember to include us, be conscious of what needs to change. Again, in The Dispossessed, probably the most famous of anarcha-feminist sci-fi novels (a strange but vital genre), the protagonist is male and the feminist slant is inserted through details and aspects of the anarchist society LeGuin creates. Peggy Kornegger argues that most feminists are ‘unconscious anarchists’ – much in the way that Crimethinc argues many people are anarchists at heart (see www.crimethinc.com). From the start, she says, feminism has been a threat to the overall existing order of hierarchy and domination. She points out, though, the reproduction and recreation of mainstream society in anarchist/libertarian circles – as in the Spanish and French movements – and that ‘unconscious’ anarchy must become very conscious. Looking at the replication of the patriarchy and sexism in my own anarchist circles, I think she is very right – and we are all to blame for it. Kornegger also says (and this would be true within the growing Black anarchist movement in the States as well) that women are well-suited to anarchy and its revolution – having lived below the radar for centuries; moving slyly, subtlety, and sensitively through societies. As Margaret Atwood wrote in “Song of the WORMS” – “We know what a boot looks like when we see from underneath, we know the philosophy of boots…”

“If I can’t dance to it, It’s not my revolution… I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to beautiful, radiant things.” -Emma Goldman (to a boy who told her not to dance with such abandon)

Step Two: Blending Theory into Praxis. A few things about anarchy and feminism… For me, above all else, anarchy acknowledges humanity and life as the most important aspect to lead us. It is the most pragmatic (seriously…) plan for a society – at least theoretically – because it allows for individual and communal needs and wants. It is neither so harsh as capitalism or so constraining as socialism. From a feminist standpoint, this is a huge issue because women so often see themselves placed into molds that never quite fit or are not allowed quite with the same assumptions of human emotion and thought that men offer each other. The molds never really work for us because the frail girl always has her strengths, the mouthy girl always has her fears, the whore always has her innocence. Anarchy is the best answer for acknowledging our humanity and the way we all in different ways need liberation from a suffocating and long-lasting patriarchal model of our interactions in society. Anarchy is also an ideal model because it urges us to live everyday, now, as anarchists working within and towards our own dreams (‘the revolution of everyday life’, immediatism, situationism, all that…) – this needs to be more true and more actively worked towards with respect to women and the patriarchal system. The feminist issue, like animal rights or race, is too often treated as a side issue in the anti-capitalist and anarchist movement – but it can’t be because all these threads are interdependent in sustaining the exploitative system we live in. Kornegger claims feminism is the practical piece that links anarchy to a future reality. If this is so, it needs to be a bigger part of our theoretical and practical understanding of anarchy. Finally, anarchy gives us space to directly confront problems and injustices – take action. I believe in no platform for fascists – that includes gender and sexuality fascism. Even if the ‘no platform’ stance is too strong for some – anarchy makes room, actually encourages us, to aggressively attack problems like the patriarchy. We must, all of us, smash the patriarchy, work hard at it everyday, and accept the seemingly annoying nagging consciousness of those who call us on our mistakes in the struggle against the violence of capital and the patriarchal order. Cleaning up the mess of the world isn’t easy but ‘None of us are free until all of us are free’.

More information and fantastic anarcha-feminist essays and novels:
Woman on the Edge of Time and Vida by Marge Piercy
The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin
“Anarchism: The Feminist Connection” by Peggy Kornegger (www.cluefactory.org.uk/ace/rumours/kornegge.html)
“Sex Slavery” by Voltairine deCleyre
Anarchy and Other Essays by Emma Goldman
dwardmac.pitzer.edu/anarchist_archives
anarcha fem
anarcha fem
anarcha fem
thefword.org.uk
ukriotgrrrl
feminism represented
subvertise.org
Paris May 1968 Graffiti
(most of these sources can be found online or, if you’re in London, at Freedom bookshop in Angel Alley near Whitechapel)

*a line of graffiti found on the walls of Paris from May 1968…

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