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Thursday, October 14, 2010

What is Anarcha-Feminism? (2004)

What is Anarcha-Feminism?
by E.G. Smith  
Although opposition to the state and all forms of authority had a strong voice among the early feminists of the 19th century, the more recent feminist movement which began in the 1960's was founded upon anarchist practice. This is where the term anarcha-feminism came from, referring to women anarchists who act within the larger feminist and anarchist movements to remind them of their principles. Anarcha-feminists point out that authoritarian traits and values, for example, domination, exploitation, aggressiveness, competitiveness, desensitisation etc., are highly valued in hierarchical civilisations and are traditionally referred to as "masculine." In contrast, non-authoritarian traits and values such as co-operation, sharing, compassion, sensitivity, warmth, etc., are traditionally regarded as "feminine" and are devalued. Feminist scholars have traced this phenomenon back to the growth of patriarchal societies during the early Bronze Age and their conquest of co-operatively based "organic" societies in which "feminine" traits and values were prevalent and respected. Following these conquests, however, such values came to be regarded as "inferior," especially for a man, since men were in charge of domination and exploitation under patriarchy. Hence anarcha-feminists have referred to the creation of a non-authoritarian, anarchist society based on co-operation, sharing, mutual aid, etc. as the "feminisation of society." Anarcha-feminists have noted that "feminising" society cannot be achieved without both self-management and decentralisation. This is because the patriarchal-authoritarian values and traditions they wish to overthrow are embodied and reproduced in hierarchies. Thus feminism implies decentralisation, which in turn implies self-management. Many feminists have recognised this, as reflected in their experiments with collective forms of feminist organisations that eliminate hierarchical structure and competitive forms of decision making. Some feminists have even argued that directly democratic organisations are specifically female political forms [see e.g. Nancy Hartsock "Feminist Theory and the Development of Revolutionary Strategy," in Zeila Eisenstein, ed., Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism, pp. 56-77]. Like all anarchists, anarcha-feminists recognise that self-liberation is the key to women's equality and thus, freedom.
Anarcha-feminism tries to keep feminism from becoming influenced and dominated by authoritarian ideologies or either the right or left. It proposes direct action and self-help instead of the mass reformist campaigns favoured by the "official" feminist movement, with its creation of hierarchical and centralist organisations and its illusion that having more women bosses, politicians, and soldiers is a move towards "equality." Anarcha-feminists would point out that the so-called "management science" which women have to learn in order to become mangers in capitalist companies is essentially a set of techniques for controlling and exploiting wage workers in corporate hierarchies, whereas "feminising" society requires the elimination of capitalist wage-slavery and managerial domination altogether. Hence anarchism's traditional hostility to liberal (or mainstream) feminism, while supporting women's liberation and equality. In the historic anarchist movement, as Martha Ackelsberg notes, liberal/mainstream feminism was considered as being "too narrowly focused as a strategy for women's emancipation; sexual struggle could not be separated from class struggle or from the anarchist project as a whole." [Martha A. Ackelsberg, Free Women of Spain pp. 90-91] Anarcha-feminism continues this tradition by arguing that all forms of hierarchy are wrong, not just patriarchy, and that feminism is in conflict with its own ideals if it desires simply to allow women to have the same chance of being a boss as a man does. Anarcha-feminists, therefore, like all anarchists oppose capitalism as a denial of liberty. The ideal that an "equal opportunity" capitalism would free women ignores the fact that any such system would still see working class women oppressed by bosses (be they male or female). For anarcha-feminists, the struggle for women's liberation cannot be separated from the struggle against hierarchy as such. (from www.anarchistfaq.org)
Anarcha-Feminst Internet Resources
anarcha-feminist links from the Mid Atlantic Infoshop
anarchism and women’s liberation
Anarchafeminism and Gender Anarchy Resource Page
Quiet Rumours: an anthology of anarcha-feminist pamphlets originally published in the '70's and '80's
Women in the Historical Anarchist Movement
Emma Goldman (1869-1940) stands as a major figure in the history of American radicalism and feminism. An influential and well-known anarchist of her day, Goldman was an early advocate of free speech, birth control, women's equality and independence, and union organization. Her criticism of mandatory conscription of young men into the military during World War I led to a two-year imprisonment, followed by her deportation in 1919. For the rest of her life until her death in 1940, she continued to participate in the social and political movements of her age, from the Russian Revolution to the Spanish Civil War.
Lucy Parsons (1853-1942) was born in Texas to parents of Native American, Black American and Mexican ancestry. In 1871 she married Albert Parsons, a former Confederate soldier, and both were forced to flee from Texas to Chicago because of their interracial marriage. Described by the Chicago Police Department as "more dangerous than a thousand rioters”, Lucy Parsons was an anarchist primarily involved in the labour movement but also participating in revolutionary activism on behalf of political prisoners, people of color, the homeless, and women. In 1886, her husband Albert Parsons was executed by the state of Illinois for his participation in the movement for the 8 hour day during the Haymarket affair (hence the beginning of May Day). In 1905 she participated in the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World, a radical labour union, and continued her fight against oppression until her death in 1942. The state still viewed Parsons as such a threat to the political order that after her death police seized her library of over 1500 books and all her personal papers.
Louise Michel (1830-1905) was a schoolteacher and active in the Paris Commune and the French Revolution of the 1870's, both in looking after the wounded and fighting. She was deported after the fall of the Commune, but returned to France after the Communards were granted amnesty. She drew huge crowds in the meetings for the worker's movement, and was a tireless militant who held many conferences in France, England, Belgium and the Netherlands. In 1881 she took part in the anarchist congress in London. From 1881 to 1895 she lived in London, as head of a libertarian school. She returned to France and her travels, dying in Marseilles. According to Anarchist historian George Woodcock, Michel is the originator of the anarchist black flag. Michel flew the black flag on March 9, 1883, during demonstration of the unemployed in Paris, France. An open air meeting of the unemployed was broken up by the police and around 500 demonstrators, with Michel at the front carrying a black flag and shouting "Bread, work, or lead!"

from http://web.archive.org/web/20080331055634/http://thunderbay.indymedia.org/news/2004/03/12633.php

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