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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Smash Patriarchy, Smash the State (2006)

from http://web.archive.org/web/20061026183730/http://www.che-lives.com/home/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=191

Disclaimer: I hope that this article is not taken as a sectarian, dogmatic rant. I feel that a united front of feminists is integral in achieving genuine equality of the sexes. However, I also truly believe that the only way to do this is to recognise the structures that oppress womyn and to destroy them, rather than engage in them. I in no way wish to discredit or belittle the achievements of past feminist movements.
By rioters bloc
Womyn have always had to fight for rights that men take for granted. This is a truism, and an underrated one at that. Any win at all, no matter how small it may seem, is hailed as monumental. The reactionaries and fundamentalists see the outwardly, while feminists and centrist/leftist males pat other womyn on the back in hearty congratulations. [Some of them might even be trying to cop a feel, who knows? Even self-acclaimed lefties can be horribly misogynistic.] Legislation is amended, workplace regulations are modified, and it’s not until later that womyn step back and realise: “Hang on a second, nothing at all has changed.”

One of the pitfalls of the mainstream “liberal” feminist movement is that it seeks to bring about equality between the sexes through the very patriarchal structures we should be opposing. Rather than striking at the root of the problem, it has worked at covering it up, disguising it with facades of ‘equality’ donated by their male counterparts. Rather than aiming for social upheaval, it has contented itself with minor reshuffling, with the view that more femayl politicians/CEOs/professionals/bureaucrats/etc. is enough to challenge the reactionary norms held by society. Rather than questioning the very nature of hierarchies, and the role that the state plays in maintaining these hierarchies, the bulk of the feminist movement has been engaged in attempting to simply reform the current system to make it just that little bit more palatable for womyn.

In doing so however, the liberal feminism movement fails to recognise that factors such as race, class, and sexuality also play a large role in the oppression of womyn, and that as long as the state exists, these issues will also fail to ever properly be addressed. This can be seen in the composition of the various movements. At the zenith of modern feminism in the 1970’s, the entire liberal movement was made up of middle- and upper-class womyn, the latter constituting 30% of the numbers. However, more than 50% of the anarcho-feminist movement were from the lower classes, as these were the womyn who, for the most part, had nothing to gain from reform but everything to gain through revolution. As is the case even today, the majority of ethnic and queer womyn fell into the lower-class category, and they realised that substituting the authority of a white, straight, bourgeois male, with that of a white, straight, bourgeois femayl, was hardly going to liberate them. In some cases, a femayl boss might even lead to more oppressive conditions – considering how much harder a womyn would have to work to achieve the same goals as a man, it’s also likely that she would fight much harder to maintain her role, even if it meant playing to men’s wishes.

Similarly, gaining womyn the right to vote in Australia was hailed as revolutionary, particularly as it was one of the earlier countries to do so. While Australia prides itself on this, the fact that the vote was restricted to white, middle/upper-class womyn is barely seen as an issue. Indigenous Australians and people of ethnic backgrounds were utterly disregarded. The right to vote in itself is hardly relevant, considering the choices on the ballot papers in 1902 were restricted to those who perpetuated womyn’s oppression in the first place. And even that is irrelevant: as Lily Gair Wilkinson said, the "call for 'votes' can never be a call to freedom. For what is it to vote? To vote is to register assent to being ruled by one legislator or another?” The purpose of the feminist movement should never be to replace one exploiter or oppressor with another of a different sex.

How to avoid this? Easy. Abolish hierarchical structures altogether, whether formal, cultural, political, religious, or otherwise, and you abolish the idea that certain humans should have power or dominance over others. Here is where anarchism and feminism collide. Rather than advocating an increased ability for womyn to participate in a male-dominated society, anarcho-feminism promotes the idea that such a society and it’s established conventions are constructed to keep womyn in a position below that of men, and should thus be shattered; and a new society be built with the help of both men and womyn, regardless of their race, sexuality, age, or previously-held class.

The majority of those unfamiliar with anarchism equate it with chaos, lawlessness, and bloodshed. The majority of those familiar with it disregard it as an idealistic utopia. The truth of the matter is that if we want genuine equality, we need to see anarchism still as a utopia, but one that can be accomplished. One of the tenets of anarchism is that the means should be the ends. Participating in autonomous groups that engage in direct action [relying on ourselves and our fellow activists to get things done, rather than an inaccessible, anonymous entity in the higher echelons of bureaucracy] and are involved in raising public awareness is one of the key ways to combat authoritarian structures. Instead of representative democracy, such groups operate under direct democracy, where decisions are made collectively by the very people that those decisions effect, rather than a government which is far detached from the needs and wants of it’s “subjects.” In essence, anarchism recognises that such governments and other structures will continue to support patriarchy and other forms of oppression; and in this way, anarchism is inextricably linked to the fight for gender equality.

In solidarity.

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