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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thoughts on Feminism and Dividing the Movement (2003)

by Caillech
“Piss on this!” For the twentieth time, I forced myself away from scrutiny and popping and posturing and storm out of the bathroom and back to my desk. “Piss on men, piss on diets and Fuck Your Fascist Beauty Standards!” I picked up that last bit online somewhere, but with all the repetition it’s lost it’s oomph. I need to hang out with some anarchists, I thought.
I am an anarchist and I am a woman. Racism, fascism, eco-rapists, you name it, and O yes, sexism, have all heard me coming on like a hellcat long before they could see me. Zines, tabling, Food Not Bombs, benefit shows: did it, burnt out, rekindled, repeat. I went through the you’re- wrongs, and the we’re-all-rights and the less-talk-more-rocks. The worn-out truth is that even after years of lung-tearing rallies and sloganizing, turning out my inner bitch and developing a healthy relationship with cunt-hair, this all-too-typical bullshit comes back to haunt me periodically. Sometimes, at 4AM, when I have been too long away from my sisters and brothers in black, I still hate myself in the mirror.
And I shouldn’t.
Activism, anarchism, becoming socially aware is like a process. Anarchistically speaking, much of the personal becomes very political. Anarchism wasn’t meant to stagnate. You evolve and gain experience, you move along in queue, you stop throwing bricks or you start throwing bricks as you see fit. And as an experienced, vagina-happy, mother- lovin’ anarcha-feminist, you don’t spend Wednesday nights pulling on the flab on your arms and eating packets of Equal and spoonfuls of peanut butter unless something is very wrong.
I travel a great deal and I live abroad, far away from sisterhood as you know it. My neighbors want to marry a dull foreign man and accumulate things for a living; the girls in my classes can’t speak without collapsing into embarrassed fits of giggling. I’m not helping matters any: I don’t know how to say “patriarchy” in any language but English, but hell knows I’m trying. Out here I’m living my dream, but I miss being in the heart of the movement with a passion that I can’t find the words to explain to someone who doesn’t love it as fiercely as I. Around anarchists, I forget words like ‘flab’ and ‘cellulite’. Around anarchists, I forget about bodies altogether.
I didn’t start out as a feminist. Women’s issues were not what drew me to the movement, but rather the brilliant take on life and the empathy anarchists have for the universal struggle. For several years, I felt that gender wasn’t a ‘real’ issue. ‘Jeebuz,’ I would think to myself as yet another grrrl deviated from the problem at hand to jump down someone’s throat, ‘Can’t we stick to the topic for five seconds without everyone pushing their fucking agenda? Quit dividing the movement!’
In one community, I witnessed a situation in which the women bullied and harassed the men, and used personal vendettas as a basis to label men sexist. It was divisive, and watching my male friends walking softly and becoming disenchanted because of it angered me. Funny, it took being away from the activist community to begin to empathize with those girls. Not agree, but empathize.
The truth of the matter is that Anarchist men spoil us. Anarchist men, true anarchist men, are not only willing to listen to criticism, but will at very least think about sexist behavior and how to re-work their thought process. The best of them actually do it. Time and time again, comments made by the likes of Lynx, Kortez, Trigger, Puppy, Jeff, Rampage, Graham, Brandon ad infinitum, have inspired me to feel comfortable in my own skin again and again.
For those of you who’ve been out of touch with the unenlightened, let me remind you that if you ask your average Joe to ‘consider the misogynist connotations of that comment’, you can betcher frilly pink panties that his next comment is going to include the word ‘lesbian’, ‘femi-nazi’ or ‘dyke’, with not a hint of irony.
Now I need to make several admissions about myself. Firstly, I grew up in a progressive family and was never subject to sexism at home, and it was relatively benign in my social circles. I became an anarchist at a young age, and wasn’t often exposed to sexism as it is known in the world at large. Also, while I have heard many stories and read many essays on the topic of sexism within the movement and I have no doubt that it exists, I can honestly say that I’ve been fortunate enough not to run into this at all, so my experience has been very positive. It was from that standpoint that I left the country, the community and my friends.
Suffice to say I became a believer in the need for feminism very, very fast. I lived for nearly a year as one of a very few women in a boarding house that was around 95% male, in a cornfield, miles from anywhere. If you ever need a feminist flame lit under your butt, give it a try. Tits, ass, fuck, slut, flat, hot, too skinny, fat bitch, know your place – clichés become clichés because of frequent use, and by the time I left I’d had it up to my too-small tits with them. I was pissed, but I had learned.
So now I know. Sexism isn’t just a Lifetime original movie, it’s out there. Oh, is it ever out there. Anarchism is my haven from sexist ideals. But if those poisonous ideals ever showed the slightest, tiniest inclination to rear their ugly head in my beautiful movement, I’d come down them with my tongue sharpened into a blade and out they’d go before they did any irreparable damage. Thanks to all the girls who’ve had the courage to do this for real.
So on one hand, beating the philosophical snot out of each other and ripping each other apart for every perceived insult against gender – or anything, for that matter – is hurtful. No one is perfect, and just because we know the deal doesn’t mean we’ve got it down yet. On the other hand, criticizing ourselves is important. It’s one of the things that sets us apart. I guess my point is that criticism, especially criticism that deals in potentially damaging labels like sexist, racist, etc., should be dealt with responsibly, and doled out with love. My point also involves appreciating the patience and love that’s been shown me while I stepped forward, bit by bit.
By the time you read this, the opinions I’ve expressed will have evolved into something new.

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