Anarchism can learn a lot from the feminist movement. In many respects it already has. Anarcha-feminists have developed analyses of patriarchy that link it to the state form. We have learned from the slogan that "the personal is political" (e.g. men who espouse equality between all genders should treat the women in their lives with dignity and respect). We have learned that no revolutionary project can be complete while men systematically dominate and exploit women; that socialism is a rather empty goal--even if it is "stateless"--if men's domination of women is left intact.
This session at the 2015 Dublin anarchist bookfair examined the reasons why gender liberation is central to the Rojava revolution in northern Syria and looks in particular at the importance of the struggle against tribal feudalism.
On the last day of August 2014, in a ruling the country and the media barely noticed, Mr Justice Ryan in the High Court in Kerry found against Ciara Hamilton and for the HSE in an utterly terrifying moment for every person becoming pregnant or giving birth in Ireland from here on out. Ciara Hamilton had taken a case against the Health Service Executive after the birth of her second child, during which a midwife had, without obtaining consent, broken her waters, leading to an umbilical cord prolapse and an emergency caesarean section.
The breaking of waters during labour, in medical terms, amniotomy or Artificial Rupture of Membranes (ARM), is not recommended best practice precisely because it can lead to a cord prolapse, which is a serious emergency when giving birth as it cuts off the blood flow and air supply to the baby. If the person giving birth is a Strep B carrier, as Ciara Hamilton was, it can also carry an increased risk of Strep B transferring to the newborn and causing serious damage to the baby, as happened to Ciara Hamilton’s child. It is listed as a Do Not Do under NICE recommendations. Despite this, and despite ARM being known to carry dangers and risks to both birthing woman and baby, it is still a widely carried out procedure in many Irish maternity hospitals. In the case of Ciara Hamilton’s birth, it was a procedure carried out by a midwife without seeking consent to do so.
In this society we are told that we have certain rights; the right to vote, the right to protest, the right to bodily autonomy (i.e. the right to decide what happens to our bodies). All of these rights can be taken away in a flash at the whim of those in power. But you cannot take away from a pregnant person that which they don’t have: bodily autonomy.
Abortion is extremely restrictive on this island, with the southern state not acting on the prohibitive legislation that is in place – as was highlighted with Ms. Y in August 2014 – and the northern state only allowing abortion when the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life (read: not health).
“Women of all classes, races, and life circumstances have been on the receiving end of domination too long to want to exchange one set of masters for another.” - Carol Ehrlich
Anarchism is the idea that no one is more qualified than what you are to determine your own life and that you should have self/personal determination. It is the belief that power structures are oppressive and that only with the abolition of power will we be free. There is no end goal as there will always be power dynamics in our lives that need to be addressed and abolished in order to arrive at a society that is coercion free, community based and operating on the principles of direct democracy. Anarcha-feminism is the application of these anarchist policies to the Black Feminist theory of intersectionality.
The hardship of the current economic crisis has impacted unevenly across genders. This panel from the 2014 Dublin Anarchist Bookfair discussed the intersection of austerity, care-work and women’s reproductive rights. Selma James and Conor McCabe presented with Conor focusing on what this has meant in Ireland in particular.
The 2014 Dublin anarchist bookfair hosted a panel of women activists who informed us about how they became involved in the movement, what drew them into this life of campaigning for social justice, rights and attempting to change the world in which we live. They inform us of how they remain motivated, inspired and sustained in active political life.
“In Turn off the Red Light – Should We Advocate It?”, T.J., explores the problems faced by sex workers in gaining recognition by those who normally fight for workers rights and outlines how criminalisation of demand has created new problems in countries where that has been introduced.
In “Sex and Sex Work from and anarcha-feminist perspective”, Leticia looks at the theoretical background to the debate between those who argue for decriminalisation and those who “see sex work (or even sex in general) as violence against women”. She argues that because sex is commodified, sex workers should be treated in the same way as others who engage in exploitative labour.
Fin Dwyer looks at the latter years of Ireland’s first post independence government, which having successfully suppressed political opposition and the workers’ movement, went on to “attack women and enforce their moral and ethical values on wider society”. From the clearing of prostitutes from the Monto and the filling of the Magdalene laundries to the institutionalisation of child abuse, he describes how the state’s close association with the Catholic Church played a decisive role in forming attitudes to women and sex that have had a devastating effect on Irish society that can still be felt today.