Anarcha-Feminism by Ruby Flick
This is my favorite writing about being a woman involved with anarchism based on my 33 years of experience. What has been put in bold are my own favorite passages that I have seen so clearly for so long.
For too long anarchist feminists have been labeled as the ‘ladies auxiliary of male bomb throwers’. The misconception and manipulation of both feminists and anarchist principles and practice have resulted in the use of sensationalist and ridiculing tactics by the state and its spokespeople.
This has not only polarised the general populace from potentially liberation concepts but has also polarised anarchists from feminists. In the past and more so recently there has been a uniting of these beliefs and Peggy Korneggers article; ‘Anarchism; the Feminist Connection’ goes so far as to say that the two genres of thought are inextricable tied although the connection has not been consciously articulated by feminists very often.
Kornegger agrues that feminism’s “emphasis on the small group as a basic organisational unit, on the personal as political, on anti- authoritarianism and on spontaneous direct action was essentially anarchism”.
I believe that this puts women in a unique position of being the bearers of a subsurface anarchist consciousness which if articulated and concretised can take us further than any previous group toward the achievement of total revolution.
While anarchism has provided a frameword for the transformation required, for far too long even this revolutionary ideology has been largely male identified; male articulated, male targeted and male exclusive in both its language and participation.
It has therefore been unfortunately lacking in vital analysis especially with regard to the psychological and physical realities of oppression experienced by the majority of the human population: women. As Emma Goldman said of the Spanish Revolution of 1936:
“Despite the impressive rhetoric, most frequently male anarchists retreated to cultural orthodoxy in their personal relationships with women …The vast majority of Spanish comrades continued to expect their own “companions” to provide the emotionally supportive and submissive relationships“necessary” for the activism of the males”.
Anarchism has often duplicated the very concepts of power it sought to obliterate . One of the basic tenants of anarchist feminsm is that we are not prisoners of the past: –
”The past leads us if we force it to
Otherwise it contains us,
In its asylum with no gate
We make history or it makes us”
As anarchist feminists we are not asking men to attone for the sins of the forefathers, we are asking them to take responsibility for the masculinity of the future, we are not asking women to be perpetually aware of their opression but to emerge from it. Mostly we are not locating conflict with certain people rather than the kind of behaviour that takes place between them.
As Robin Morgan points out in her book The Demon Lover, the left have been dominated and led by a male system of violence which has created with reactionary punctuality its “opposite” (duplicate) of action theory and language.
She argues that in the search for “legitimacy” male revolutionaries adopt the forums and language of violence and domination that continue to oppress women. These forms are seemingly the sole route for political transgression; women are enticed and engaged in the struggle which, while purporting to be revolutionary, is only revolutionary on male terms and will use and betray them.
Too often feminists have been abused by and asked by male revolutionaries to make ther claim and focus subservient to “the wider struggle”.
From the women Abolitionists jeered at when they gave a feminist understaning of the problems of male drunkeness and its devastating effects on women, to the suffragists accused of diverting attention from the war effort, to Zetkin, Luxumbourg and Goldman, all suffered the eye roll and brutality of both the state that is and the state that would be.
We see Alexandra Kollontai the only women involved in the Russian cabinet after the 1917 Revolution being exiled to Norway after all her references to the necessity of a feminist component to revolution were edited and diluted.
We are asked to stop pursuing our cause and start defending it and to argue for the validity of our cause that would imply we wanted “in”.
Even recently a once respected friend said that “The womens meeting is on now, the real meeting will state in half and hour.” When questioned he added “the full meeting”. The fullness of the lack of filling penile participation I supposed, lubricated and made ready, as always in isolation. Ah but how can one quibble about the sloppiness of language when it serves their purposes so well.
Entering into political circles with men is an exercise in the risk of compromising and being obedient to this attitude or in confronting it. Ridicule is the worst, tokenism is little better and so gloriously rare and acute is our joy when the issues are taken seriously that we could be mistaken for groaning clapping seals unless we are already cringingly braced in anticipation of the backlash of men genuinely perplexed but inarticulate except in the socialised male response; defensiveness.
But there must be some way in which to address the political nature of our polarisation as sexes in political forums which involve men. There must be some way to point to the coercive power structures that display a hidden elite, invariably of men but also of women.
Socialist organisations are popular with a lot of people who are flocking to these groups because it is felt that one must be involved with a revolutionary group,. Indeed. But with their gender blind hierarchical bludgeoning from the podium these organisations have a typical style of interpreting feminist concerns and concrete grievances as irrelevant to or as symptomatic of the larger struggle.
“They appeal to women to suspend our cause temporarily which inevitable leads to a dismissal of women’s issues as tangential, reducing them to subsidiary categories.”
Anarcha-feminists have said that the “definitive body of theory is so often the comforting cushion for male reclining, such theorizing instead of articulation gives one the illusion of responding to a critical situaion, without ever really coming to grips with one’s perception of it.
With capitalism and patriarchy so safely reduced to an explanation, we distance ourselves from the problem and the necessity to immediately interact with it or respond to other people.” So often revolutionaries deal with concepts and not people.
But while as anarcha-feminists we object to much of the politics of socialists (as a friend of mine says “After your revolution we’ll still be us, but you’ll be them, “) we also argue that liberation needs to happen in small afinity groups so that people are not bludgeoned into opinions and can build up the personal relationships of trust that facilitate the grieving, the sharing and the exorcisms of the psychological thought processes and experiences that brought them to their politics..
This is often a sanity compromising process.. or do we actually become sane through that difficult time when we realise that the personal is political?
“Those of us who have learnt to survive by dominating others, as well as those of us who have learned to survive by accepting domination need to socialise ourselves into being strong without playing dominance submission games, into controlling what happens to us without controlling others.”
“To this end anarchism must start with a solid feminist consciousness and practise it or it be doomed to just as much internal contradiction and failure as anarchists traditionally foresaw for hierarchical Marxism.”
you can read and download the full version of this article here: https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/ruby-flick-anarcha-feminism
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