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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Anarchafeminisms are everywhere (2007)


By Annarchist

Over the last ten years a dynamic range of thought, action, work and play has gone on combining anarchist and feminist practices in imaginative and inspirational ways. In addition, feminist and anarchist practices have merged with a range of other issues and movements, directly shaping radical politics.

The WTO, FTAA and G8 summit protests were all home to anarchafeminist contingents. Childcare crèches, communal cooking, consensus decision-making and well-being spaces are now commonplace at meetings, actions and events. Feminist politics are present in queer anarchist spaces, from workshops at annual Queeruptions to Queers Against Borders to weekly gigs and events. At the same time, issues of sexism, sexual violence and aggression have been confronted by many men within anarchist spaces and movements. Queer People of Colour and Women of Colour collectives continue to create autonomous projects, while generating analyses and actions that influence and shape meetings and movements. Feminist and anarchist dis/ability activists challenge dominant ways of thinking about ‘ability’ in their fight for accessible spaces both within radical political communities and against the State. Mental health, alternative medicine, herbal gynecology and menstrual politics form an integral part of movement communities, as skill-shares and support networks grow. While anarchist ecology movements engage alternative technological practices, from building wind turbines to guerrilla gardening, that incorporate ecofeminist thought.

Yet, while anarchafeminsms ‘may be everywhere,’ they are not usually talked about directly, or as a distinct politics. While some people reject political labels all together, it is far more common to hear someone call themselves an ‘anarchist’ or a ‘feminist’ than for someone to say they’re an ‘anarchafeminst’. This is often even the case for people who are committed to both anarchism and feminism. For various reasons, links between these two politics often remain what the Dark Star collective called “Quiet Rumours.”

There are a few groups around the UK that outrightly position themselves as anarchafeminist, such as Dublin-based the RAG (Revolutionary Anarchafeminist Group), the Brighton Women’s Health Collective (whose email list and website are still called anarchofeminist health) and WANC (Women’s Anarchist Nuisance Café) in London. Recent anarchafeminist perspectives can also be found in zines, journals and websites including Do or Die!, Green Anarchy, the F-word and Indymedia. However, as these groups and this writing—often by its nature--is ephemeral, localized and scattered around, it isn’t always easy to find.

A few years ago, Quite Rumours (AK Press 2002) re-released an excellent collection of early and second-wave anarchafeminist writing from Emma Goldman, Peggy Kronneger and Carol Ehrlich, along with a few recent texts from Alice Nutter of Class War and Mujeres Creando. Many of these texts, especially those by feminist writers from the 1970s, acknowledged the ways in which it can be difficult for both feminists and anarchists to see how their practices have been—and continue to be--shaped by each other.

Feminism can be particularly alienating to anarchists’ if they are unfamiliar with its radical roots and activist practices. This is largely because the feminisms we most often see have been coopted by capitalism and ridiculed by popular culture. Some anarchist practices and politics do share obvious connections to feminism. Most anarchists recognize gender, sexuality (and less often race, class and ability) as inherent concerns of feminist practice. But feminism is not just ‘about women’. Grassroots feminisms of the 1970s and 1980s brought creativity and collective decision-making to the fore, influencing current direct action and diversity of tactics approaches to anarchist activism. Ecofeminist thought and practice shapes current anarchist ideas about technology. Black and third world feminisms provide much of the backbone of anarchists’ solidarity work, no borders activism, prison support and campaigns against poverty. While queer feminisms, in addition to cultivating anarchists’ genderqueer and transpolitics, offer ways to re-imagine borders, identities, relationships and notions of family and home that are at the heart of anti-authoritarian practice.

Likewise, many feminists know very little about anarchist politics—even though they may engage in anarchist practices such as collective decision making and autonomous organizing. As Carol Ehrlich wrote back in 1977, most feminists are unfamiliar with anarchism as “anarchism has veered between bad press and none at all.” This remains true today. Yet just as feminism is linked to anarchism, anarchism has a lot in common with feminism. Both offer direct critiques of capitalism, state control, domination, property, authority and imperialism. In terms of practice, there are also a number of overlaps. Anarchists’ ecological practices, along with their focus on autonomy within community and their desire to cultivate nonhierarchical relationships, resonate with feminist politics.

Of course, the point of bringing together anarchisms and feminisms shouldn’t only be to celebrate their connections. Differences in anarchist and feminist practices and perspectives often led to debate. Contradictions, conflicts and tensions between them give rise to the ‘differences that matter,’ as well as to the dreams, ideals and visions that shape radical politics. As feminists and anarchists have long argued, both asking difficult questions and making political links lie at the heart of radical politics. It is only through confronting differences that conflict can become a productive site for transformation.

So if ‘anarchafeminisms are everywhere,’ or at least, ‘politics combining elements of anarchism and feminism are everywhere,’ it seems a good time to ask more questions about these connections, overlaps and conflicts. There are a lot of anarchafeministy folks out there saying—and doing-- inspirational and informative stuff. It is in the spirit of their work that I put together this directory and this call out for a new collection on anarchafeminsims.

Let’s amplify these whispered legacies, take the rumours out of the closet, and bring our current anarchist and feminist activisms into dialogue with each other.

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