On the RAG - Interview with Revolutionary Anarcha- Feminist Group


RAG is a diverse group of anarcha-feminist women in Dublin. They produce a magazine, The Rag, organise film screenings and fundraisers, host public discussions, conduct workshops and zine distro.  A conversation between Clare Butler and Angela Coraccio of the Revolutionary Anarcha- Feminist Group (RAG) and Leticia Ortega of RAG and the Workers Solidarity Movement (WSM).

Leticia: Why did you join RAG?

Clare: I’ve been involved in RAG since before the first edition came out about eight years ago and was involved in putting that together and getting the group going at the beginning. I was already involved in activism in Galway and Dublin and was really excited to see a group coming together that had a specific feminist agenda. All the members of the group were really good fun and everyone was really positive.

Angela: I joined because I read the magazine and really liked it. I thought I’d just submit an article. Someone explained that it doesn’t really work that way, but the more I learned about how RAG worked, the more I wanted to get involved.

Leticia: Why did you feel the need for a specifically anarcha-feminist group?

Angela: For me, it was the magic of RAG! I’d never identified as anarchist before moving here from America. It was a through learning the collaborative process that RAG uses and getting to know the group that I ended up learning about anarchism. It’s no coincidence that I started to explore anarchism since moving to Ireland. Back in America, I had a pretty decent job and lived relatively comfortably. Then I moved here and I’ve been unemployed for the last four years. Being on social welfare for the first time helped me turn to alternative ways of thinking.

Clare: I hadn’t set out to be part of a specifically anarchist group, but an anarchist analysis and method of organising just made sense. I felt this type of group was much more accessible and provided a space to explore and interrogate our internal and external politics.

Leticia: You have people like Katie Perry coming out and saying they aren’t feminists. Do you think feminism is a dirty word?

Clare: I think things have changed a lot in the last two to three years, in Dublin anyway. There are a lot more people calling themselves feminists and a lot of new feminist groups out there.

Angela: I think 1989 was when I started to identify as a feminist when I took a women’s studies class in High School. I remember Kathleen Turner, yer wan from Roger Rabbit, speaking at my sister’s graduation and describing herself as
a feminist, in the early nineties it was ok, albeit slightly rebellious to call oneself a feminist. A whole counter culture was created around young politicised women's voices. But then in the late nineties, there seemed to be a backlash that we're recovering from just now. Riot grrrl fashion is back in; there are women half my age listening to the bands I was listening to in university.

Clare: Another thing is that the re-emergence of feminism could be related to the recession because now people are not prepared to sit around and believe everything is going to be okay. You see all these young women suddenly getting involved in feminism and all the pro-choice stuff, maybe because they don’t have the options they did a few years ago, where they’d be getting a job and buying a house. When they look around they’re probably thinking, “What the fuck is going on here? We’re being taken for a ride.” Once they question one thing, they start thinking, reading, looking around and when you see inequality in one place you may be quicker to see it in relation to gender as well. Also, issues in relation to body image are on the increase, so while there are more people identifying with feminism, there are more people feeling shit about themselves too.

Angela: I think in Ireland the media still has a long way to go. There needs to be more female hosts of shows, more shows about women’s issues, there needs to be more female voices in radio that aren’t just what’s-her-face Finucane. There needs to be a chorus of voices.

Leticia: Not a lot of people know it was RAG who organised the first meeting that lead to the establishment of the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC). Could you tell us a bit about that?

Angela: We were in a RAG meeting and we were talking about how frustrating it was that there were so many pro-choice groups but none of them were working together, so we said let’s just organise an open meeting and ask all the pro-choice groups to come. So from that we established the Irish Choice Network which was to be an umbrella group. At the second meeting, which was a day of workshops, about eighty to one hundred people showed up. From there, working groups were created and from there the campaign just really took off.

Clare: That was the most amazing meeting. I’d never been to anything like that where you had all these women in their twenties who had never been involved in anything before and just wanted to do something.

Angela: Then we ended up with this national campaign and right from the start you could see these hierarchies forming. There was this real solidarity moment where those people who had been involved in stuff before, recognised what was happening and said, no, this is not how we want the campaign to be organised.

Clare: There is significant anarchist involvement in the ARC, but most of us don’t go around trying to recruit anybody and the majority of roles the anarchist-leaning people do is the back room work; there’s no glory. I think it’s just what all of us want to do. We don’t have an interest in being on television or being up on a stage.

Leticia: Is there a challenge in the ARC to convince people of the need for abortion on demand? Are there some people who only want X-case legislation?

Angela: There was one meeting early on where I asked if campaigning for abortion on demand might be too far for some people, but that fear was immediately shot down.

Clare: Everyone in the campaign is 100% signed up for free, safe and legal abortion on demand. They all recognise the connections between the church and the state in controlling women and that there isn’t much point in it being safe and legal if it’s inaccessible, so it should also be free. There’s been a massive change in society too. You can say the word abortion on the street; six months ago you couldn’t. We were talking about names for the campaign and we kept coming up with ones that included the word “choice”, but now, of course it’s the Abortion Rights Campaign, what else would you call it?

Leticia: What are your goals for RAG for the future?

Angela: I do like the magazine being produced and ultimately I’d like us to go back to that format or have an established, regularly updated website. At the same time I like the lack of pressure to create those things. That’s what makes RAG so cool. There are periods when we don’t feel the need to have meetings every week and when people are motivated, stuff happens. Right now the pro- choice thing is really prominent in what members are doing, so we don’t have much time for RAG. Not having a schedule to keep helps us not see it as work. When we did that before, we all got pretty burned out, and burnout is really hard to bounce back from.

Clare: I’d like to see it continue to exist for its members the way it existed for me. It’s strengthened my politics, it’s strengthened my confidence. We organised lots of events that opened people’s eyes to feminism, that introduced people to anar- chism, and if it can still fulfill that role for its members, then that would be a wonderful thing.

This article is from Irish Anarchist Review no7 - Spring 2013