Coming to Terms: Rethinking Popular Approaches to Anarchism and Feminism, by Theresa WarburtonJanuary 13, 2017 8:16 am
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?
Let us slow down a minute, though, and be clear about some terms. At the crux of this discussion is the presence of gendered violence in radical communities in the US. “Radical communities” is a relatively loose term for interactive spaces of the radical Left committed to antiauthoritarian organizing methods and ideas.2 Sometimes, these are intentional groups of people organized around a particular geographic location; sometimes, they might be virtual spaces where people come together to discuss particular issues or political tendencies. Unfortunately, the problem of gendered violence is widespread enough in a variety of communities organized around radical antiauthoritarian politics that we can see similar forms of it operating despite widely varying locations, intentions, and histories.
“Gendered violence” includes a range of forms of violence exercised in order to enforce the gender binary (and the structures of power from which it is formed), the most prominent examples being sexual and domestic violence, sexual harassment, and discrimination on the basis of gender identity, gender expression, or sexual preference. Taking as central the work of many feminists of color, we should work against the notion that this is strictly a form of interpersonal violence and reiterate at the outset that gendered violence is a form of systemic violence that is directly and intimately bound up in other institutionalized forms of violence, including capitalism, white supremacy, and colonialism.3 Of particular concern is how contemporary approaches to the relationship between anarchism and feminism normalize gendered violence within radical communities that are created in order to confront structures and institutions of oppression.
Perhaps one of the strongest contentions that prevent a critical engagement with the reality of gendered violence in radical communities is the simple fact that these spaces do not exist in an insulated place apart from mainstream society. This fact is often upheld as an explanation for the presence of gendered violence in radical spaces, since coming into such a space does not immediately undo dominant types of socialization.4 And this is fair enough, since it does help reckon with the presence of overarching structures of institutional and interpersonal violence in spaces meant to confront them. However, we run into trouble when this logic becomes an excuse rather than an attempt to take a truly radical approach, or one that seeks to understand where and how it is rooted. Because, while it is true that these communities do not exist outside of those dominant forms of social organization, this reasoning does not account for the fact that these communities are supposed to be grounded in radical commitments that would begin to eradicate these forms of violence, rather than enable them.
To gain a sense of the prevalence of these forms of violence just talk to most any non-cis male of any radical community and you’ll likely hear an unending series of stories that run the gamut of violent behavior, from everyday microaggressions, including misogynistic and transphobic comments, to outright acts of physical and mental abuse.
These attitudes and practices become normalized using the logic and language of radicalism. For example, we can look to the particular ways hyper masculinity prevalent in radical spaces mutates the promotion of direct action into a valorization of violence. We can also see how a lack of community-based accountability processes, combined with pressure not to disclose abuse and assault to other community members, local antiviolence organizations, or state agents, creates conditions where there are no ramifications for gendered violence.5 And even when there are accountability mechanisms, cis men often function as gatekeepers which create accountability processes in which those who are most harmed by gendered violence are not in control of the structures used to address it. In each of these examples, we can see how radical ideals provide spaces for gendered violence to flourish rather than reducing its negative impacts.
So what does this have to do with the contemporary relationship between anarchism and feminism? The reality of gendered violence in radical communities seems to be one of the most salient questions that an engagement with feminism should help anarchism address. However, it is one that is often cautiously ignored or rerouted to more hushed, private discussions to be had internally within particular organizations. Perhaps in a world that can be hostile to anarchism itself, it can feel dangerous to talk about the problems within our communities for fear of providing fodder to critics. However, it is infinitely more dangerous to ignore the continued challenges of those of us who experience and witness not only the effects, but the perpetuation of heteropatriarchy within radical communities, especially since ignoring the problem ends up adding weight to critiques that suggest anarchism is incapable of providing real-world solutions to broad-based problems of domination. This trend might also be replicated in contemporary theoretical approaches to anarchism and feminism.
There are three overarching trends in discussions of anarchism and feminism Here I emphasize the benefits of each while suggesting various limitations. These approaches include the genealogical approach, the equivalent approach, and the exchange approach. The typical approaches have helped us better understand the history of feminist anarchists and anarchist feminists (the genealogical approach); the traits and practices that are shared by them both historically and today (the equivalent approach); and what might they be able to learn from each other (the exchange approach). However, these approaches have prevented us from addressing a crucial question that underlies the continued push for feminist praxis in anarchist spaces: how do misogyny, heteropatriarchy, and transphobia become normalized within anarchist theories and practices?8 Each fails to pay attention, however, to one of the most significant advances in feminist scholarship of the past twenty years: the employment of feminism as a critical methodology and praxis; that is, as a body of work that enables us to contend with the ways in which gendered and sexualized forms of institutionalized violence are not only intertwined with, but incorporated into, a variety of social, political, and cultural structures and spaces. This method is based on the work of feminists of color who have consistently demonstrated the necessity of this approach, using it to apprehend feminism itself.6
Understanding the structure of the dominant approaches is essential here because it helps answer the question not only of what the relationship between anarchism and feminism is, but why it has historically taken these shapes. That is, what questions has the conversation surrounding the relationship been seeking to answer? That is, how are these structures supported within anarchist spaces, using anarchist logics, rather than just as imports from mainstream society?
The Genealogical Approach
One of the most popular methods of approaching the relationship between anarchism and feminism is the genealogical approach. In this approach, the focus is on establishing a history of anarchist feminist thinkers, often presented chronologically. While each version of this approach may vary in what politics it highlights in its survey of thinkers, what they have in common is the goal of creating a distinct history of anarchist feminist thought. This genealogy provides the architecture for popular engagements, such as the collection Quiet Rumours, which features writings from anarchist feminist thinkers spanning the nineteenth to the twenty-first century.8
In her chapter of The Anarchist Turn, entitled “Of What is Anarcha-Feminism the Name?,” Cinzia Arruzza employs this genealogical model in her attempt to articulate “the peculiar aspects of the critique of women’s oppression” in early anarchist feminist texts in order to establish how “these aspects coalesce to produce an original view that anticipates Second Wave feminism.” Here, Arruzza lays out the genealogy of anarchist feminist thought, moving from late 19th century writers Emma Goldman and Voltairine de Cleyre to mid-twentieth century writers like Carol Ehrlich, Peggy Kornegger, Lynne Farrow, and Marian Leighton, ending in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century influences of poststructuralist feminism, queer theory, and ecofeminism.9
Understanding this genealogy has proven important for understanding anarchist feminism as a distinct and (relatively) cohesive theoretical tradition, especially since this genealogy provides a formulation that exists alongside and within the history of anarchism, rather than arising as an ancillary concern. In the best case, this approach is useful in that it helps to establish a history of thinkers who understood how deeply intertwined gendered and class violence were in the time that they were writing. This is important in that it helps demonstrate that the question of gendered oppression has been a part of anarchism for at least a century, rather than a contemporary development. In the worst case, however, this approach is used to dispel any criticism of misogyny or heteropatriarchy in anarchist spaces or history by holding up particular individual anarchist feminists as tokens.10 Instead of using the history of anarchist feminist thinkers to argue for considering gendered oppression as a central concern, this latter case disposes of the need for such a discussion by replacing a concerted effort to understand the intersections of gendered and class systems with a representational model of integration that effectively denies the existence of such systems in the first place.
Of course, this is not to argue that we should do away with this approach simply because there are people who abuse it in order to neglect the material effects of gendered and sexualized hierarchies. Rather, the slippage between the best and worst case scenarios highlight a structural problem in the approach itself that prevents it from adequately articulating an inherent opposition to the gendered and sexualized hierarchies upon which misogyny and heteropatriarchy depend. That is, both in theory and in practice, the approach of laying out a genealogy does not intrinsically work against the presence of gendered and sexualized hierarchies within contemporary anarchist spaces. Instead, it provides a genealogy of critiques of dominant society from an anarchist feminist perspective that can be mobilized to direct attention away from self-critique.
In this way, a genealogical approach is not effective for addressing sexual violence in contemporary radical communities. This is for reasons that affect both the structure and content of anarchist feminist history, as well as its influence on the contemporary moment. In the simplest terms, this is a matter of direction. The genealogical approach, in both structure and content, often places anarchist feminisms alongside anarchism more broadly, looking out.11 Thus, the history provided by the genealogical approach provides a grounded historical analysis of how anarchist feminist writers have critiqued the gendered and sexualized stigmas of dominant society. However, it doesn’t necessarily help us understand the legacies of sexual violence in anarchist communities or how people have resisted them. Nor does it help us understand how hierarchical structures have become normalized within those spaces to such an extent that they continue to be a prominent issue in communities that profess a rejection of the structures through which such violence in constructed and maintained.
The Equivalent Approach
The limitations of the genealogical approach are, in some ways, mirrored in the equivalent approach that became popular in the mid-twentieth century. Exemplified by Peggy Kornegger’s 1975 pamphlet “Anarchism: The Feminist Connection,” the equivalent approach articulates the relationship between anarchism and feminism as one of interchangeability. As Kornegger famously argued, “It is my contention that feminists have been unconscious anarchists in both theory and practice for years.”12 Lynn Farrow echoed this sentiment the same year when she argued that “feminism practices what anarchism preaches,” as did Marian Leighton the next year when she argued that “the refining distinction from radical feminist to anarcho-feminist is largely that of making a step in self-conscious theoretical development.”13 We can see expressed in these examples differentiated expressions of the same core values and practices.
This approach has proven important for emphasizing the theoretical consistency across the rejection of hierarchy by anarchists and the rejection of heteropatriarchy by feminists. In this way, the equivalent approach attempts to preclude the existence of a nonfeminist anarchism while also arguing that women are particularly well-positioned for anarchist practice, echoing developing articulations of a Marxist feminist epistemology that arose a few years later in the early 1980s.14 Kornegger described feminists of the time as “intuitive anarchists” which, according to her, put “women in the unique position of being the bearers of a subsurface anarchist consciousness which…can take us further than any previous group toward the achievement of total revolution.”15 This approach, then, attempts not only to highlight a theoretical equivalence but also to articulate the practical results of such a theoretical intervention. The danger of this approach, however, is related to its most important contribution—the preclusion of the existence of a nonfeminist anarchism. By articulating anarchism and feminism as equivalent, this model prevents an engagement with anarchism using a critical feminist lens that aims to expose the practical affinities that anarchists have found between anarchism and heteropatriarchy, leading to its continued presence in anarchist spaces.
The limitations of using this approach in order to attend to the sustained existence of sexual violence in radical communities are similar, then, to those discussed in terms of the genealogical approach. Again, this method doesn’t allow for an understanding of anarchism as a space where, for whatever reasons, the social, cultural, and political bases for sexual violence remain intact, reified by radical principles. It’s not that these reasons are not important, but rather, they are hidden by this approach; as a result, we lack a substantial body of work that helps understand what these reasons are, where they come from, and how they are maintained. In this approach, feminism and anarchism are enacted as equivalent forms of radical resistance, divesting from feminism its critical possibilities.
Foregrounding equivalence, rather than the critical potential of feminism for anarchism, this approach to anarchist feminism creates the illusion that anarchism and feminism are inherently synonymous. Though this approach has been important in emphasizing the similarities, it also prevents the use of feminism as a critical lens through which to assess how heteropatriarchal structures become normalized within anarchist theory and practice. This critical feminist assessment of anarchism seems essential to understanding how sexual violence proliferates not only in radical communities, but also through the actions of radical people, including those who are sincerely committed to nonhierarchical and antiauthoritarian principles. It is not enough to simply argue that sexual violence committed by radical people is merely a result of a continuing infection of dominant ideas that bleed into radical communities. Rather, we must be honest about the fact that, for many of these people, the violence that occurs may not, to them, seem out of line with their radical principles.
The equivalent approach precludes this type of inquiry by articulating anarchism and feminism as not only theoretically unified but also inherently synonymous in practice. What is more, this approach also precludes a more developed discussion of how certain forms of feminism also end up reifying structures of oppression, ranging from radical feminist investments in transphobia to liberal feminist investments in the state.14 Within the equivalent model, feminism becomes synonymous with a very particular rendition of radical feminism. Such an approach hinders our ability to critically assess feminism as well as anarchism, preventing us from seeing a fuller picture of how certain forms of feminism have been, and continue to be, complicit not only with state power and capitalism, but also with gendered violence.
The Exchange Approach
The attempt to rectify this limitation is central to the exchange approach that characterizes most of the contemporary writing on anarchism and feminism. In recent years, numerous writers have attempted to account for the diversity of feminist thought in their discussions of the relationship between anarchism and feminism. Articles like J. Rogue and Deric Shannon’s “Refusing to Wait: Anarchism and Intersectionality,” and Abbey Volcano and J. Rogue’s “Insurrection at the Intersection: Feminism, Intersectionality, and Anarchism,” destabilize this monolithic engagement with feminism in order to emphasize the work of feminists of color. For instance, drawing on the notion of “intersectionality” first named by Black feminist legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, Shannon and Rogue argue that “anarchists could learn a lot” from feminists of color, especially “about the importance of addressing the needs of ALL sections of the working class and their attempts to check the tendency of the Left to ignore or dismiss the concerns, needs, ideas, and leadership of people living in the dangerous intersections of capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, etc.”
Drawing on the work of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, a “national activist organization of radical feminists of color advancing a movement to end violence against women of color and our communities through direct action, critical dialogue, and grassroots organizing,” Rogue and Shannon bring the critiques that feminists of color had of white liberal feminism to bear on contemporary anarchism. Similarly, Volcano and Rogue use the example of radical approaches to reproductive freedom to demonstrate why anarchists must incorporate an approach to feminism that recognizes the multiple ways that “capitalism, white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy…have required control over bodies”—a control that has been differentially enacted upon the bodies of women of color and queer folks. Echoing the work of feminist writers Andrea Smith and Dorothy Roberts, Volcano and Rogue argue for “an anarchist intersectional analysis of reproductive freedom” that can account for the differential ways that people experience both the restrictions of their reproductive freedom as well as the structure and content of their movements to fight against these restrictions.16 In both of these cases, contemporary anarchist writers attend to the important interventions of feminists of color in order to reconfigure the approach in a way that recognizes not only the diversity of feminist thought, but also the critical potential of feminism as well.
However, there is also an important limitation to the exchange approach. In particular, this approach is often predicated on the idea of a bidirectional exchange enabled through a process of synthesis. As Rogue and Shannon put it, “We firmly believe that this learning process is a two-way street.” Because of this, they argue that “when synthesizing our practice to include these concerns raised by feminists, feminism could stand to benefit from learning from anarchism as well.” This method is echoed in Volcano and Rogue’s article, which attempts to use a synthetic method to develop an “anarchist intersectionality,” as well as in the collection Queering Anarchism: Addressing and Undressing Power and Desire, the introduction of which is titled “Queer Meet Anarchism, Anarchism Meet Queer.” In these formulations, the presumption is not only that anarchism needs feminism, but that feminism needs anarchism, as well. And, of course, there are many instances in which this seems to be the case—for instance, in the case of trans-exclusive feminism or in schools of feminist thought that look to the state for liberation, and which see advanced class status as an indication of progress against gendered oppression.17
However, this element of the exchange approach is limited in its implication that feminisms of color, in particular, require the influence of anarchism. Rogue and Shannon argue that “anarchism can provide a radical base from which to critique liberal interpretations of intersectionality,” as well as “a critical analysis of the state.” But it is not clear why feminists of color would need anarchism to provide a “critical analysis of the state,” as Shannon and Rogue note, when such an analysis is often central to the feminism they espouse. For instance, INCITE!, the organization from which Rogue and Shannon draw their analysis, is expressly antistate, arguing for an understanding of sexual violence that views it as one example of statist violence enacted through systems of colonialism and militarism.
What is more, while anarchism is grounded in a political method of prefiguration that moves beyond a critique of the state in order to envision social organization outside of nation-states, there has been no engagement with Native thinkers that moves beyond their inclusion in lists of ethno-racial groups. Compelling alternatives to the nation-state exist throughout hundreds of Native tribes and nations on this land, who demonstrate alternative modes of social organization prior to the establishment of the US nation-state in particular, as well as the nation-state structure in general—modes which continue to this day, as Native peoples enact and fight for sovereignty and self-determination.18 What each of these examples demonstrate is not that there is nothing that Native feminists and feminists of color have in common with anarchists (or that there may not be people who see themselves as part of both groups) but rather that Native feminists and feminists of color have historically come to their own critiques of the state and capitalism, as well as visions for alternative methods of social organization, through different genealogies than those of anarchists. That is, though not all feminists of color and Native feminists have offered an anticapitalist and antistate analysis, there are certainly enough that it remains questionable that these thinkers would need to turn to anarchism for these critical analyses. Because of this, any approach to anarchism and feminism should affirm these differing genealogies, concurring with the insistence of Native feminists and feminists of color that they can explain and resist their own oppression best on their own terms.
The limitations of the exchange approach for dealing with sexual violence within radical communities stem from a lack of this affirmation, grounded in the misassumption of a bidirectional exchange between the two bodies of thought. In the simplest terms, we cannot assume that feminists, particularly Native feminists and feminists of color, must be required to take something from anarchism in exchange for their critical interventions. Sexual violence is a problem that, regardless of politics, is predominantly perpetrated by white men and has the strongest negative impact on women and queer folks of color.19 This is a problem that is often replicated in radical communities and, in our attempt to better articulate the relationship between anarchism and feminism, we can’t ignore the presence of this unequal relationship. That is, because sexual violence in radical communities disproportionately affects women and queer folks, especially those of color, we can’t assume that intellectual exchange between feminism and anarchism, a body of theory that is still dominated by white male thinkers, should be bidirectional either. This isn’t to say that anarchism has nothing to offer feminists, necessarily. Rather, we would need to be very clear about what it is that anarchism brings to the table that hasn’t already been put forward by women of color and Native women critiquing mainstream feminism. As it stands, it isn’t clear what this intervention would be.20
Attending to a different framing of the relationship between anarchism and feminism is paramount because of the very real, material effects that sexual violence has on particular populations within and without radical spaces. This is a need that continues to be reasserted, as instances of sexual and gendered violence seem to be woven into the fabric of radical resistance in the US. As Morris notes, “Gender violence has historically been deeply entrenched in the political practices of the Left and constituted one of the greatest (if largely unacknowledged) threats to the survival of these organizations.” This is both because it enables certain members of radical communities to enact violence on others with impunity, and because it enables agents of state repression, such as informants, to exploit those weaknesses as well. Luft makes a similar observation in her piece, “Looking for Common Ground: Relief Work in Post-Katrina New Orleans as an American Parable of Race and Gender Violence,” highlighting how instances of gendered violence in a particular radical community pushed a foundationally antiracist organization to mutate the logic of their radical politics in ways that are “almost generic” as a “discrete example of sexism and violence.”21 Both emphasize the detrimental effects not just for survivors, but also for the movements of which they are a part. As Morris notes, “Radical movements cannot afford the destruction that gender violence creates,” because “if we underestimate the political implications of patriarchal behaviors on our communities, the work will not survive.”22
Each approach is predicated on the question of how we might consider anarchism and feminism together. The result is that each attempts to articulate the positive connections between these two bodies of thought: the genealogical approach attempts to highlight individual thinkers throughout history who have built the anarchist feminist tradition; the equivalent approach argues that anarchism and feminism are not only similar, but synonymous; and the exchange approach suggests that anarchists and feminists must come together to create a synthesis of the two that is grounded in principles of bidirectional influence. Each of these approaches has provided useful contributions, both theoretical and practical. However, we need to move beyond these approaches to ask the more complicated question that undergirds the persistence of gendered violence in anarchist communities: what is the relationship between anarchism and heteropatriarchy, misogyny, and transphobia?
Addressing this question requires understanding feminism as a method or praxis through which to practice self-critique, rather than only as a body of analysis. Though self-critique is not entirely absent from Leftist movements, few have integrated it as an intrinsic part of the movement as deeply as feminist movements of the past 40 years. In a recent interview, Black anticapitalist feminist bell hooks discusses this as a core reason for her continued identification with feminism, despite its problems:
My militant commitment to feminism remains strong, and the main reason is that feminism has been the contemporary social movement that has most embraced self-interrogation. When we, women of color, began to tell white women that females were not a homogenous group, that we had to face the reality of racial difference, many white women stepped up to the plate. I’m a feminist in solidarity with white women today for that reason, because I saw these women grow in their willingness to open their minds and change the whole direction of feminist thought, writing and action. This continues to be one of the most remarkable, awesome aspects of the contemporary feminist movement.23
For hooks, this is one of the core elements of feminist praxis that makes it distinct from other radical Left movements and thought. It is this vision of feminist praxis that is missing from the approaches that I described above.
To be sure, emphasizing the contradictions of a nonfeminist anarchism, or one that does not recognize the fight against gendered structures of oppression in its rejection of hierarchy, is a necessary project. Likewise, so is emphasizing the places where these bodies of work intersect. However, such work does not help us understand how those structures become manifest in radical communities, using radical political logic and language. As Ruby Flick points out in one of the epigraphs to this piece, it is too easy an answer to merely say that gendered oppression, including gendered violence, in radical communities is only a result of their presence within a system where heteropatriarchy is omnipresent. Rather, we must ask the more difficult question of how we can come to terms with not only the presence but also the tacit sanctioning of gendered violence that is enabled through our failure to address how it becomes rooted and reinforced using radical principles.
This question is much more difficult both to accept and to address. It’s an uncomfortable question, because it requires that we critically assess anarchism and its limitations—something that can feel very dangerous in a world where anarchism carries such negative connotations and is often misrepresented in truly disfiguring ways. The title to this piece, “Coming to Terms,” is used to invoke the process of addressing this question because it underscores two related practices that are essential to developing a transformative approach to anarchism and feminism that is capable of addressing the persistence of gendered violence in radical communities. First, we must come to terms in the sense that we must acknowledge the presence of gendered violence in the particular forms that both its exercise and its defense take in radical communities. This first coming to terms might be understood as a form of mourning, a time to be vulnerable in recognizing the limitations of our practice so far. Second, we must come to terms in the sense of developing new terms for engaging the relationship between anarchism and feminism. This second coming to terms might be understood as a form of architectural rebuilding, a time to create a new foundational structure from which to develop the discussion itself.
Both of these forms of coming to terms are important. Though it might feel risky to engage in the type of self-critique that makes anarchism vulnerable to outside condemnation, avoiding it is even more dangerous. We risk turning our backs on those in our communities who are most affected by the forms of violence we seek to dismantle; we risk ignoring the contributions of those who come to similar analyses of power from different genealogies and histories than ours; and we risk attempting to create equal relationships through ideology, rather than through material changes in people’s everyday lives. With this in mind, this piece is not an answer to the question of how to deal with gendered violence in radical communities. Rather, it is a gesture toward possible approaches, both intellectual and practical, through which we might enable ourselves to struggle together in finding new answers.
Theresa Warburton lives on Lummi/Coast Salish territory in Bellingham, WA where she teaches US Multiethnic and Native literatures as well as Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She has been involved in a number of community projects that focus on indigenous sovereignty, reproductive freedom, prisoner support and prison abolition, and working towards new models of addressing sexual and domestic violence. Both her organizing and intellectual work focus on exploring how better attending to the literary interventions stemming from indigenous sovereignty and US/Third World feminist movements can help to realize the radical potential of anarchism in the contemporary moment. She has big dreams but small hands, so is always looking for people with whom to build. She is a past recipient of an IAS writing grant.
- For some examples of work that describes the presence of gendered violence in these communities, see Zabalaza Books, eds. A Collection of Essays on Feminism and Sexism in the Anarchist Movement (South Africa: Zabalaza Books, 2015)
- Here, I use the terms “antiauthoritarian” and “anarchist” relatively interchangeably, though I understand that anarchism, depending on the tradition, is not always conceptualized this way. In this way, I am gesturing towards the issue of gendered violence not only in self-identified anarchist spaces, but also in spaces that invoke antiauthoritarian political principles, particularly an anticapitalist and antiracist platform that is grounded in a rejection of all forms of hierarchy, and antiauthoritarian organizational principles, like the use of affinity groups, consensus-based decision making, direct democracy, and noncarceral accountability processes.
- For examples of these feminist accounts of gendered violence as an institutional form, see: Sarah Deer, The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015).
- These types of socialization include hypersexualization, racialized discourses about sexuality such as the myth of the Black rapist, and the normalization of sexual violence enabled through practices like victim blaming, lack of consent, and harmful understandings of aggressive masculinity.
- In 2004, the National Sexual Violence Resource Center reported that men are more likely to commit sexual violence in communities where sexual violence goes unpunished.
- See Amanda Lock Swarr and Richa Nagar, eds.. Critical Transnational Feminist Praxis, (Albany, SUNY Press, 2012).
- I use the terms misogyny, heteropatriarchy, and transphobia in tandem here in order to give shape to the myriad forms of gendered violence. From my perspective, none of these terms alone accounts for all these forms, though these terms indelibly intersect.
- Throughout, I will use the term “anarchist feminism” rather than anarcha- or anarcho-feminism. I do this in order to enable me to use the same term throughout, even in cases where the type of synthetic approach that the terms “anarcha-” or “anarcho-feminism” imply.
- Cinzia Arruzza “Of What is Anarcha-Feminism the Name?,” in Jacob Blumenfeld, Chiara Bottici and Simon Critchley, eds. The Anarchist Turn, (New York: Pluto Books, 2013), 113. It should be noted that this genealogy follows the popular “Wave” genealogy of feminism more broadly, a trend that has been critiqued by feminists.
- On a personal note, I cannot count the number of times I’ve brought up the continued overrepresentation of whiteness and maleness in the anarchist milieu, particularly in publishing and movements, and been confronted with Emma Goldman as an indication of how that isn’t true.
- For instance, though she did discuss the failure of her comrades to take some aspects of her work seriously, a significant amount of Emma Goldman’s writing about misogyny was often a critique of dominant social and political denunciations of sex work and sexuality. In this way, her commentary was often focused on mainstream society rather than explicitly on critiquing anarchist communities.
- Peggy Kornegger, “Anarchism: The Feminist Connection” in Dark Star Collective, eds. Quiet Rumors: An Anarcha-Feminist Reader, 3rd ed. (Oakland: AK Press, 2012), 25-35.
- See Lynn Farrow’s. “Feminism as Anarchism” and Marian Leighton’s “Anarcho-Feminism and Louise Michel.” in Quiet Rumors: An Anarcha-Feminist Reader. 3rd ed. (Oakland: AK Press, 2012).
- See Nancy Hartsock, Money, Sex, and Power: Towards a Feminist Historical Materialism (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1985).
- Peggy Kornegger, “Anarchism: Feminisms Make the Connection” in Quiet Rumors, 31.
- Abbey Volcano, and J. Rogue, “Insurrection at the Intersection: Feminism, Intersectionality, and Anarchism” in Quiet Rumors, p. 45.
- For descriptions and critiques of trans-exclusive radical feminism, see: Julia Serrano. Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Exclusive. (New York: Seal Press, 2013).
- This reflects a broader lack of engagement with the question of settler colonialism in anarchist writing and activism. Native feminists have not only developed critiques of capitalism, the state, white supremacy, and heteropatriarchy alongside engagements with settler colonialism, but have continually emphasized how these critiques are grounded in Native cosmologies rather than influence from the radical Left. What is more, they emphasize the need to disrupt the conflation of indigenous nationalisms and nationalisms that stem from the nation-state.
- According to the Rape and Incest National Network (RAINN), who draw their statistics from the US Department of Justice, 52% of those arrested for forcible rape were white and between 93% and 98% of those arrested for forcible rape are men. According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 64% of transgender people report being sexual assaulted in their lifetimes. Keep in mind, of course, that these numbers only take into account reported instances of sexual assault. Given that sexual assault is one of the least reported violent crimes, it is probable that these rates are much higher.
- Genealogies and collections of anarchist theory are still predominantly white and male, as one can see through just a cursory glance at the titles published about anarchism in the past 20 years. Though this is slowly changing, there is a long way to go before this balance is shifted to a more equitable representation.
- Rachel E Luft, “Looking for Common Ground: Relief Work in Post-Katrina New Orleans as an American Parable of Race and Gender Violence” in NWSA Journal, Vol. 20, No. 3, New Orleans: A Special Issue on Gender, the Meaning of Place, and the Politics of Displacement, Fall 2008, 5-31.
- Courtney Desiree Morris, “Why Misogynists Make Great Informants: How Gender Violence on the Left Enables State Violence in Radical Movements.” make/shift: feminisms in motion journal. Los Angeles, 2010.
- bell hooks, and Greg Yancy, “bell hooks: Buddhism, the Beats, and Loving Blackness.” The New York Times, 10 December 2015, paragraph 6.
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