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(en) Opinion: What is anarcha-feminism? Do we need it?

Date Thu, 13 Oct 2005 10:56:57 +0200


The way to strengthen class solidarity is to strengthen the
relationships between men and women within the class, and this
means an end to oppression of women as women by working class men.
Historically, anarcha-fem was when anarchist women realized that
anarchist men weren’t dealing with their patriarchal conditioning
towards privilege. The women needed something in addition to
anarchist theory and practice because it was getting them nowhere.
They realized that they needed feminist consciousness. But that
feminist consciousness had to reject privilege, and had to be based in
class politics. Because without class politics, working class women
would merely be awarded gains for ruling and middle class women.

Anarchism assumes that we’re all equal, but we’re not. Our
cultural conditioning makes it impossible for us to come to the table as
equals in struggle. I’ve heard people (and even myself) give an
analysis of privilege as though we were all positioned on a ladder - all
white ruling class men are at the top, black women in poverty are at
the bottom, and everyone else jumbles into the middle somewhere.
But that’s just so simplistic and unrealistic. It totally ignores all
the different factors that contribute to create hierarchies of privilege,
and all the other complex factors that contribute to maintaining those
hierarchies on a day-to-day basis.

Once you say you’re an anarchist, you’re meant to give up
hierarchy and become equal to everyone else. But it’s not that
simple. You can’t simply leave your privilege at the door,
especially when you don’t analyze and understand how that
privilege came to you in the first place. Pretending that the problem
will go away, or doesn’t exist won’t work to dispatch global
capitalism, it won’t save our environment from destruction, and it
won’t work to eliminate sexism or racism from anarchist
communities.

There’s a current of thought circulating at the moment which is
based on 5 points of observation about anarchism and feminism:

1. Its not men’s’ fault that they were born men, so they
can’t be expected to do anything about their male privilege
2. If women feel uncomfortable about a particular man’s particular
actions, then the woman needs to deal with that particular man by
pointing out how his particular actions weren’t OK
3. Feminism is just a bourgeois attempt to shame working class men
get power over them, and when working class women take up
feminism, it is divisive of the working class as a revolutionary agent
4. When a man has other forms of disprivilege (like class, knowledge,
race, access to money) then this automatically dissolves his gender
privilege.
5. Women already have gender equality in Australia today
(This approach consists of things I have ‘heard around the
traps’. It is the sum of excuses and reasoning I have heard from
several sources while talking about men, women and privilege.
I’m not trying to refute a stated position - but I am trying to
crystallize several ‘reasonings’ so that they can be refuted.
Part of the difficulty I find in feminist theorizing is the liquidity
afforded to feminism’s critics - they aren’t easily pinned
down).

I think this approach denies the overall political importance of the
collective oppression of women, by men at every level in society.
It’s important to realize that just because a woman is oppressed by
other women (hip hip hooray for the middle classes!), that this
doesn’t invalidate that oppression of women, as women. A
woman can take the place of oppressor, but if she acts like a patriarch,
she enforces the patriarchy, she gains power like a patriarch and she
uses the oppressive tools of a patriarch, then she is a patriarch. She
doesn’t need a penis to enforce a system of values which privilege
men and maleness.
In response to these 5 elements of current anarchist thought and
practice, I would like to say:

1. Its not men’s’ fault that they were born men, so they
can’t be expected to do anything about their male privilege.

By this logic, there can be no stopping those born into the monied
classes either. In a liberal-demoncratic society, of course oppressors
will give the excuse that they don’t mean to be oppressive.
What’s more, I would accept that excuse, provided that the
privilege stops. As women, we are taught to subject ourselves to
shame about our bodies, our thoughts and feelings (and if we lapse,
there’s always someone there to help us feel more shame). As
anarchists, we don’t want to reverse the relationship of privilege
by shaming men when they dominate as men. No! We want an end to
the domination. Anarchist women want anarchist men to discontinue
engaging in male privilege. No more, no less.

2. If women feel uncomfortable about a particular man’s particular
actions, then the woman needs to deal with that particular man by
pointing out how his particular actions weren’t OK

This denies that there is a broad political basis for the exclusion of
women from participating in their own lives in any meaningful way.
Individuals do perpetuate hierarchy when it benefits them to do so; so
individual men are the proponents of patriarchy. And individual
women are the victims. This ‘individual man’ approach pits
the victim against the oppressor, alone, unsupported, and unable to
access a political case against her oppressor (because he is an
individual man, not a representative of an oppressive system). This is
so alien to anarchist politics (especially those of us who are into
workerism and anarcho-syndicalism) that it barely warrants refutation.
As anarchists, we strive to organize collectively against those
oppressive relationships that fuck up our lives, but as women
anarchists, we’re expected to go it alone against the most
complex, intimate and oppressive relationships.
In anarchist thought, it’s up to the oppressed to organize and
overthrow the oppressor. But when you’re talking about insidious,
hidden relationships of power that disrupt even the most intimate
relationships (of partnership, voluntary union, love, child raising,
co-working) in subtle ways; you can’t simply overthrow the
oppressors. They are our partners in the species, if nothing else.
Valerie Solanas in her “SCUM Manifesto” suggested
eliminating men from the planet as a sure-fire way to combat male
oppression. People called her crazy (and let’s face it, she probably
was), but this course of action is pretty much what is expected of
anarchist women - to rise up against their oppressors in the same way
that the working class will rise up against the ruling class to purge
them from this earth, because men don’t really want to deal with
the issue of themselves as oppressor. Anarchism seems to give
women the choice of either eliminating men, or bearing the cross of
womens’ oppression.
Even that language is so insidious! “Womens’
oppression” as though we own and perpetuate the oppression of
ourselves as women! Ha. It’s “oppression of women by a
system which privileges men”. The only way to disrupt male
privilege is for men to consciously cease to engage in male privilege.

3. Feminism is just about shaming men to get power over them, and
this is divisive of the working class as a revolutionary agent

It is the power that men wield over women that divides working class
men from working class women. The only way in which working class
women anarchists are divisive is by demanding an end to the privilege
held over us. The way to strengthen class solidarity is to strengthen
the relationships between men and women within the class, and this
means an end to oppression of women as women by working class
men. This will mean an appraisal of the roles that men and women
play within class struggle, an appraisal of the gender balance in
anarchist organizing, an appraisal of how often we all clean the toilet
or take out the garbage, and on and on until the class is actually united
in struggle for a better life for all (not just male revolutionaries united
and supported by unpaid female domestic labour) … Power to the
sisters and therefore to the class.

4. When a man has other forms of disprivilege (like class, knowledge,
race, access money) then this automatically dissolves his gender
privilege.

I’m caucasian. I went to uni (but didn’t finish). I was a gifted
child (but not very). I was born into the arse-end of the working class
(but didn’t fit in there because I was fairly clever, and hated for it).
My job pays me well, for what I do, but I’ll probably never own
my own house - not even in cessnock. I’m not in a lesbian
relationship, and never have been. I buy new clothes, but I don’t
dress like a corporate woman. What is the sum total of my privilege?
My privilege can’t be weighted and summed to a round number,
and then compared against everyone else (if nothing else, that’s a
hierarchy, and we’re against those).

The myth that privileges can be balanced does media miracles for
white liberals (and those wanting to appear so). Take the Bush
administration in the ’states: Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell -
2 Black people (one a woman) in very high positions in the
government, so Bush must be a tolerant, anti-racist, all-round good
guy. No! Two millionaires who have no trouble developing and
enacting racist, anti-woman, anti-worker policies to further their own
aims. They’ve got no sympathy with the working class because
their blackness is only skin-deep. They’ve been excused from the
negative connotations of blackness and womanhood in exchange for
selling their image as symbols of tolerance AND participation in
dominance over others.
Anarchists should know better. Blackness, or womanhood, or being
working class doesn’t excuse you from responsibility over your
own daily relationships with other people. This includes relationships
of co-operation and of dominance. When men are being oppressors as
men, over women as women, then their privilege should be apparent
to all.

5. Women already have gender equality in Australia today.

Women do not even have gender parity in lots of trades, professions
and positions of trust in Australia today. Lots of middle class women
appear to have an equality of opportunity, but that isn’t nearly the
same as an end to gender-based oppression.

A note on men and maleness
I’ve talked here about “men”, “men’s
privilege”, “patriarchy” etc. I want to make clear that this
is by no means all men that I’m talking about. This has parallels
with class - not all ruling class people are evil. Lots of them just go to
work, do their jobs and it never crosses their minds that thousands of
people can lose their jobs and livelihoods at a stroke of their pen. Some
of them would even think that they truly deserve their six-figure
paychecks (after all, its only enough for a house in the country and a
flat in the town). Only a few really live like kings, and most of them
have a genuine job that they do which lets them explain away their
privilege as something they’ve earned.
Not all men hate all women. Only a few would actually hate them all,
and most might only have slight feelings of disharmony with specific
women they didn’t get along with. Men are still socialized to be
aggressive (and women to be passive), they have a myriad of reasons
to explain their behaviour as natural and normal. BUT this
doesn’t mean that their behaviour is natural and normal or a
neutral way to behave.
If you’re a man, and you’ve got to the end, woo. Maybe your
behaviour is really cool and good, and you’re not a sexist dickhead
at all. But, what do you do when your women anarchist friends need to
stand up to someone who is being a sexist dickhead, who is exercising
his power and privilege over them because they are women?
==========================

http://annaaniston.blogsome.com/
Copied from infoshop.org

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