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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Quiet Rumours: an Anarcha-Feminist anthology: Introduction

The feminist movement that began in the late '60s developed its own organisational form and practice, at the heart of which lay the small group - for example for consciousness-raising - often composed of close friends. From a base of thousands of such groups grew the larger, international movement.
In its early years the feminist movement was notable for its absence of leaders (and led), its decentralism, its federalism - best witnessed in the thousands of magazines, newspapers and pamphlets that wove the movement together - its complete lack of dogma and its denial of any one ideology or line. Lastly, springing from all this, its overall emphasis upon a non-hierarchical movement. It must be pointed out that all these forms of organisation appeared spontaneously without any external direction or preconceived programme.
By the mid '70s most of these principles were in real danger of being forgotten as the movement became dominated by political ideologies, ideologies that some women regarded as essentially male, for example marxism and its many brands. Also the movement began to be directed towards mass and reformist campaigns which were often inherently hierarchical and centrist and of course intended to appeal to the ultimate expression of the patriarchy - the state.
For those feminists already aware of anarchist ideas the dangers of these developments were immediately clear and all too familiar. The anarcha-feminist critique gained popularity and was widely studied. The first English anarcha-feminist groups appeared in 1977 and soon grew to a national network with its own bulletins and newspaper, with two national and several regional conferences. Throughout this period the Black Bear group was busily publishing pamphlets on anarcha-feminism, all of which were extremely popular, going through several reprints and selling in their thousands.
But by 1980 the anarcha-ferninist movement had to all intents and purposes ceased to function. It seems, looking back, rather shortlived. For one thing it faced opposition not only from marxist and reformist feminists but also from the traditional, and male-dominated, anarchist movement, which regarded anarcha-feminists as some kind of threat to its position. Partly because of all this, anarcha-feminists moved away into other areas of activity, particularly the growing anti-nuclear movement.
However, a great demand still exists for the pamphlets first published by Black Bear and so they are now collected together for the first time in Quiet Rumours. Hopefully their reappearance will once again stimulate readers to consider and recognise the value of their arguments.

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