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.
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)
Friends and comrades, we need you.
As 2016 gets its final punches in, many of us are looking for ways to find hope and positivity in dark times, to connect with those we care about, and to recommit to our collective struggles. If you are dedicated to creating a free society, if you believe in equity, liberation, and mutual aid—then here is a way you can help.
The Institute for Anarchist Studies relies on financial support from you to do its work. We are a largely volunteer-run organization—proof that a small number of dedicated individuals can produce inspiring results! Our goals are to further anarchist analysis and to spread the influence of anti-authoritarian ideas and praxis through reflection, dialogue, and education. Our work takes many forms, including:
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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 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.”
We regret that, due to an editorial error, an incorrect version of the following piece appears in the print edition of Perspectives, N. 29, on “Anarcha-feminisms.” Please read and share this version of McClelland and Dodd’s essay, as it demonstrates the language and ideas they intended to represent. We are grateful to the authors for their grace and understanding with this error, and apologize for any confusion this may have created.
“As a woman living with HIV, I am often asked whether there will ever be a cure for AIDS. My answer is that there is already a cure. It lies in the strength of women, families and communities, who support and empower each other to break the silence around HIV/AIDS and take control…” – Beatrice Were, Ugandan AIDS activist ₁
In the early days of the HIV epidemic, within a context of massive and systemic state neglect, people who were impacted and affected by HIV came together out of desperation and urgency to help care for and support their own communities, friends, and families. This care and support took many forms. Some helped people die with dignity in non-stigmatizing environments, while others pooled medications in buyers’ clubs and distributed them to one another outside of official healthcare systems of access. Still others established collective community clinics, developed community prevention, support and care organizations, and distributed sterile equipment for injecting drugs, even when it was deemed illegal by the state, or opened supervised consumption sites without official institutional forms of medical or public health approval. Despite these productive examples, which undoubtedly saved many lives, the devastating past of the AIDS crisis is not one to be romanticized. This is not our intention. In looking back at history, we can see that many of these radical actions were inherently anarchist. At the time, people’s intentions may not have been rooted in an anarchist worldview. People did what they needed to do to maintain their own survival despite what higher authorities deemed appropriate. These examples are the active realization of mutual aid, spontaneity, trust, and collaboration—all tenets of anarchism. While anarchism was not central to those organizing in the early days of the AIDS movement, there was an anarchist component to New York City’s AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP), Toronto’s AIDS ACTION NOW! and there have been many smaller anarchist AIDS activist initiatives over the years. We aim to help reconnect the work of these past movements to what is happening today, or what could happen in the future, with liberatory concepts and ideas brought forward through anarchism.