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 essay appears in the current anarcha-feminisms issue of Perspectives, N. 29, available here, from AK Press!
Tiana is crying. She walks into the room, a large, powerful woman wearing a bland ensemble of a faded green top with similarly colored pants. The silent tears on her face are enough to quiet the many scattered conversations happening among us. Many of us try to make eye contact with Tiana, waiting for her to tell us what is wrong. She doesn’t speak. She doesn’t look at anyone. She sits and stares.
We’re all sitting in a classroom in a women’s prison. The space is filled with remedial educational materials for GED students, collages with magazine cutouts of models and vacation getaways, and clichéd motivational posters that inspire the incarcerated to become “ambitious” and “dedicated.” In the moments of silence that follow Tiana’s entrance, I’m reminded of the poster on the wall that lists the amendments to the US Constitution. On this poster the legendary constitutional change, the thirteenth amendment, only includes the part that formally abolishes slavery and does not include the part that says, “Except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” Every time I encounter suffering in that room, including my own, I remember that sterilized, whitewashed version of history hanging on the wall and cringe. And I rage, quietly.
(Art by Kristen Huizar)
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This essay is in the current issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory available from AK Press here!
If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression. —The Combahee River Collective
We are all feminists, united in our recognition that women’s subordination exists. Our struggle needs to be fought alongside the struggle against other forms of oppression. … We are all anarchists, united in our belief for the need to create alternatives to this capitalist, patriarchal society wherein all are dominated and exploited. —Revolutionary Anarcha-Feminist Group of Dublin
There is growing recognition among activists that we need to acknowledge the interconnectedness of our struggles if we are to harness the collective power necessary to overcome interlocking systems of domination. As Francesca Mastrangelo comments in an editorial piece for The Feminist Wire, we need to begin to “recognize that our liberation is bound up in the liberation of every person.”1 Or, as expressed by labor organizer Ai-Jen Poo, “The way we try to think about it and the way the world is, we’re all interdependent and interconnected . . . . Those connections are fairly invisible to most people most of the time. We’re taught not to see those connections.”2
(Illustration by Chris Stein & Josh MacPhee)
In part, this sentiment—the need to recognize that “we” are an “us”—may speak to the times. Since the heyday of the alter-globalization movement in the late 1990s and early 2000s, critiques of global capitalism and neoliberalism have been a thread across mobilizations. This current has only become more pronounced in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008-9 and the widespread adoption of austerity measures that benefited big business, banks, and those in power, at the expense of everyone else. And economic inequality and the trend towards corporatization only continue to deepen. Consequently, it comes as no surprise that there is a sense of common cause across struggles in their shared anti-capitalist thrust.
I played a pivotal role in the early history of the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS). I conceived of it, drafted all the founding documents, selected the initial Board of Directors, led early fundraising campaigns, and anchored it as a whole. Although I have had little to do with the IAS since leaving it in 2005, my years with the organization were an important—and positive—experience for me. I appreciate that Perspectives editors asked me to share my reflections on the occasion of the group’s twentieth anniversary.
When we were first getting started, I often thought about the IAS’s future. I assumed that the years ahead would be riven by crisis but also contain opportunities for radical social change; the challenge was to create an organization that could navigate those fissures while pushing toward substantive revolutionary alternatives. Although it should have been obvious to me, I never realized that one day I would wrestle with the IAS’s past. However, after two decades, those of us linked to the project now have the obligation to make sense of its history.
“Beauty is in the Streets,” Paris, 1968.
This essay appears in the current issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, available from AK Press here!
As anarchists look for genealogies of principles and praxis in a variety of social movements, from the anarcho-pacifists who spoke out against World War II to anarchists who joined the Black Power movement, so too should they look for their feminist foremothers, not only in the early 20th century anarchist movement but in the radical women’s movement of the 1970s. Many radical feminists shared anarchist goals such as ending domination, hierarchy, capitalism, gender roles, and interpersonal violence, and utilized and influenced the key anarchist organizational structure of the small leaderless affinity group. They grappled with the questions of how to balance autonomy and egalitarianism and create nonhierarchical organizations that also promoted personal growth and leadership. In 1974 Lynne Farrow wrote, “Feminism practices what anarchism preaches.”1
This three part piece by Cindy Crabb appears in the current issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory (N.29), and is available from AK Press.
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.”