This essay appears in the current anarcha-feminisms issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory (N. 29), available here from AK Press! Laura received an Institute for Anarchist Studies writing grant to complete this piece.
The violence enacted against Indigenous women and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ people evokes deep questions about the intent and impact of colonization in a Canadian settler and state context. The horrors of colonial violence—bodies were violated and abandoned at the sides of highways, in ditches, in rivers—tell stories of the vital importance of Indigenous women’s leadership, their warriorhood, their gifts and their medicines, and also of the centrality of gendered freedom and fluid belonging in Indigenous cultures. It is a system of colonization that seeks to erase and subsume these realities and to replace Indigenous truth with illusions of our weakness. We are at a pivotal moment now as state and settler voices seek to understand what is needed, and it is a pivotal moment best informed by threads of anarchist and feminist thought woven within Indigenous worldviews. Vital intersections are made between gender and Indigeneity because the conversation is always in danger of being rerouted by policing and state voices, as well as settler voices.1 The work that Indigenous women and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ people do on the ground—to renew our connections to culture, to renew the innovations and economies of our nations—needs more support in every way, from allies across intellectual lines.
(Art by Lesly Yobany Mendoza, justseeds.org)
This essay appears in the current issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, N. 29, on the theme of anarcha-feminisms, available here from AK Press! Theresa is a past recipient of an Institute for Anarchist Studies writing grant.
To save our movements, we need to come to terms with the connections between gender violence, male privilege, and the strategies that informants…use to destabilize radical movements….Despite all that we say to the contrary, the fact is that radical social movements and organizations in the United States have refused to seriously address gender violence as a threat to the survival of our struggles.
– Courtney Desiree Morris, “Why Misogynists Make Great Informants: How Gender Violence on the Left Enables State Violence in Radical Movements”
How is it that revolutionary libertarian fervor can exist so harmoniously with machismo? It is far too easy in this instance to say that “it is hard to locate our tormentor. It’s so pervasive, so familiar. We have known it all our lives. It is our culture.” Because…the essences of liberty so illustriously espoused by these people have not extended their definition of freedom to their sisters.
– Ruby Flick, “Anarcha-Feminism”
The relationship between anarchism and feminism is a peculiar one. Though there has been exponential interest in anarchist movements, theory, and studies in the past twenty years, this increase has not necessarily lead to an expanse of writing or theorizing on the relationship between anarchism and feminism. While feminism has become a deep enough concern that most contemporary anarchist texts make mention of it in one way or another, there have been very few texts dedicated solely to this question. The most prominent among them is a new expanded edition of the formative collection, Quiet Rumours: An Anarcha-Feminist Reader.
Though many online articles and pamphlets from women and queer people, as well as myriad personal accounts and reports, insist that feminism is necessary in anarchist movements, the crushing reality of gendered violence in radical antiauthoritarian communities has yet to be adequately addressed.1 How might our approach to the relationship between anarchism and feminism be related to the continuing problem of gendered violence within radical communities? And how might we re-envision it in creative, productive ways?
This is the introduction to the anarcha-feminisms issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory (N.29). It is available from AK Press here!
Ok, editorial collective. Let’s talk this through. So, what are anarcha-feminisms and why do they need their own Perspectives issue?
Well, because these questions persist: what’s the relationship between anarchism and feminism? What critiques do feminists have of anarchists, and vice versa? Are anarchist spaces also feminist spaces, and if not, why not? Isn’t feminism supposed to be implicit within the meaning of anarchism, and therefore unnecessary to specify?
Supposed to be, yes. Maybe. Depends. Anarchist organizing and socializing environments are NOT always feminist (eyeroll if you agree–we thought so). The need to confront one another on the persistent failure of practices to live up to proclaimed ideals, suggesting that anarchist cultures haven’t always been able to sufficiently break free of the patterns of the society they’re trying to oppose and replace, is in itself enough of a reason for stating it explicitly.
But it may be even more than that. A certain ideal of anarchism may be feminist, and a certain ideal of feminism may be anarchist, but not all the polymorphous forms of anarchism or feminism fit that description, even at the level of principles and ideals. Just as there can be feminisms whose aim might be, for example, to insert women into state and corporate power structures, or traditional religious leadership, there can be anarchisms which promote individualist machismo in the name of autonomy, or which essentialize gender binaries in the name of “nature.”
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Regarding the earliest days of the IAS, the story is quite simple. I was living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn when Chuck Morse called me to ask if I’d like to work with him on a new project. He explained his idea for an organization that would fund radical scholarship projects outside academia. Although it was only 1996, our circles (we had moved to New York City from Burlington, Vermont four years before to join others at the New School for Social Research) had already developed serious trepidation about “radical academia.” Was there more to life than becoming a “tenured radical?” We hoped so.
Fresh from co-editing the wildly successful sci fi collection Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements for AK Press and the IAS, Walidah Imarisha gets very real in her new book about prisons and the legal system, Angels with Dirty Faces: Three Stories of Crime, Prison, and Redemtion (AK/IAS). Join us at Powell’s on Hawthorne (3723 SE Hawthorne Blvd) in Portland, Oregon on Monday, March 14th at 7:30 for the Angels with Dirty Faces book launch!
This is no romanticized tale of crime and punishment. The three lives in this creative nonfiction account are united by the presence of actual harm—sometimes horrific violence. Imarisha, dealing with the complexities of her own experience with sexual assault and accountability, brings us behind prison walls to visit her adopted brother Kakamia and his fellow inmate Jimmy “Mac” McElroy, a member of the brutal Irish gang the Westies. Together they explore the questions: People can do unimaginable damage to one another—and then what? What do we as a society do? What might redemption look like?
We are a group of six people in Canada and the US who collectively publish Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, the journal of the Institute for Anarchist Studies.
Perspectives, published since 1997, has gone through various editors and styles, but the current version has been published since 2010 with layout, art, and design done by Josh MacPhee of Justseeds Cooperative. We all donate countless hours to this work, because we love doing it. About our current issue, CrimethInc. said, “this journal is setting out to do something different. It manages to present a wide array of nuanced and critical articles while remaining accessible, which is quite refreshing … Perspectives on Anarchist Theory is well worth a read for anyone interested in insightful reflections on contemporary struggles from an antiauthoritarian viewpoint.”
Lara and Paul Messersmith-Glavin, of the Institute for Anarchist Studies, the Perspectives journal crew, and the Hella 503 Collective in Portland, Oregon, discuss lessons from a recent grassroots organizing effort against climate change in a working class North Portland neighborhood. Lara and Paul discuss the anti-capitalist assumptions they have, how capitalism intersects with other forms of oppression like patriarchy and racism, and what it’ll take to stop the climate from changing, arguing that the climate crisis offers an opportunity to fundamental transform society.