A Basic Introduction to Anarcha Feminism

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Anarchism holds as one of its deep convictions the principle of self-determination for individuals; that we should be able to live our lives whatever way we like so long as it harms no one else. We believe that oppression is a result of asymmetrical power relations where groups of people suffer so that someone else can benefit. We believe our freedom lies in the abolition of oppression, in its many forms; economic; racist; homophobic; sectarian; and of course, sexist, etc. Anarchists strive for a society that is community based, where we make decisions over our lives and communities directly through a system of local councils and delegates. Most importantly, we aim for a society free from coercion and oppression. With anarchism, there is no end goal – we will always have to keep an eye out for creeping inequalities and unequal power structures within interpersonal and community relations. Anarchist-feminism is the gelling together of these anarchist principles and goals with the black feminist theory of Intersectionality.

Intersectionality is a tool to examine how oppression operates; it is a lens through which should look at oppression. This emerged as a theory through the Combahee River Collective where black feminists examined their double oppression of being black and of being women. From this theory we have the idea that oppression rarely stands alone; that these power structures reinforce one and other and strengthen and support each other. Intersectionality is often misunderstood as an ideology that seeks to invert the social hierarchy in order to achieve equality. This misses the crucial aspect of intersectional theory which seeks first and foremost to abolish hierarchies and inequalities; not to merely turn them on their head. Further, this is often used by critics to write Intersectionality off as divisive, when in reality they are writing off a misunderstanding of what it is; a tool.

To illustrate intersectionality, it is useful to consider our current society to be a ball of yarn and the individual strands of thread to be capitalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, disableism etc. These pieces of thread, or oppressive structures, do not exist on their own to create the ball of yarn and by recognising this fact and by further identifying where and how they intersect we are provided with a greater understanding of power and how to destroy it.

From this, feminism must reject and fight against all forms of oppression. Within a capitalist society, roles were created on the basis of gender. Gender is a socially constructed phenomenon that varies according to the time, space, and place in which it exists. Gender is often conflated with sex which is biological. From this, the gender roles that determined over 100 years ago that women didn’t have the mental and emotional capacity or maturity to vote (or to choose not to) were deemed as biological and naturalistic. The patriarchal belief that men are meant to biologically dominate over women introduced the concept of hierarchies which was ruthlessly exploited by class society.

These patriarchal gender roles intersect well with capitalism. Traditionally, men worked outside of the home and received a wage. Women worked within the home, and yet while this work is important capitalist society attributed no value to it, which was reflected in its wage. Rather, patriarchal-capitalism deemed this work the duty of women by virtue of their gender. Further, under this system women are treated as incubators, with motherhood being viewed as inevitable and unavoidable. This is ideology is reflected in the abortion laws on this island.

Patriarchy and capitalism mean that women are disproportionately poorer than men, with women of colour being poorer again. On average, across the globe, women continue to earn less money than men, including those who do the exact same job as their male counterparts. Money is power, and those who are in power are typically men.

Anarchism is the polar opposite of authoritarianism, which feminists trace back to the nuclear family: the father dominates the house, the boss dominates the father, the government dominates the boss. Through the reproductive unit of the family authority is reproduced, which is of direct benefit to the authoritarian state. As an authoritarian institute, the state is founded upon exploitation, violence, and lies. In order to justify its own existence, it creates social antagonisms and through social division it can place the burden of blame elsewhere.

As anarchists, we don’t believe that we can ‘elect’ the revolution, as one of the mothers of intersectionality, Audre Lorde, put it: ‘For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.’ Feminist participation in these institutions would do little more than make the demographics of those who dominate and exploit more diverse. The state was built to dominate, and should socialists be elected to it, the surrounding system has many mechanisms to ensure that they achieve no change through the markets and the threat of violence.

For genuine change to occur, we need a hollowing out of the current system and its institutions, and the creation of our own society based on mutual aid, direct democracy, and respect.

Feminism and anarchism are kissing cousins; feminism aims to abolish patriarchy, yet patriarchy does not stand alone and its abolition is intertwined with the abolition of all oppression. We cannot pick and choose which power structures we like and which ones we don’t like; they are all connected, for patriarchy to truly be dismantled they all must be.

Words: Fionnghuala Nic Roibeaird

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