RAG is very pleased to be participating in this year's Dublin Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday, the 6th of April in Liberty Hall. (Programme details can be found by clicking on the link). We'll be there with back issues of the Rag, our distro of magazines and books from around the world, and other exciting goodies. Please visit our table and say hello!
RAG is a group of anarcha-feminist women in Dublin, Ireland. 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, not treated as an afterthought or
as a distraction. 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. RAG meets weekly as a group
to discuss topics whichare important to
us. We have produced five issues of a magazine, The Rag, and we
hold occasional open meetings. The article below was written from
notes on an open discussion we held called “Why Anarcha-feminism?”
It touches briefly upon a lot of topics in a short article, so to
read a more in-depth analysis of the issues raised please refer to
the Rag magazine.
What is Anarchism?
Sometimes defined as libertarian socialism, the ultimate aim of
anarchism is total democracy – for each person to have a direct say
in issues that affect their lives, not rely on government to
represent them. This requires the destruction of state, hierarchy and
class society, and the construction of non-hierarchical bottom-up
systems of organisations such as local councils and unions to replace
these. There is the need for strong grassroots action and
organisation in to prepare for radical change. As many people as
possible need to be personally invested in organising to take control
of our own resources and interests and to defend our right to do so.
Class and Feminism
Anarcha-feminists have tried to develop an understanding of class,
race, ability and LGBTQ issues, paying attention to the fact that all
women do not have the same experiences in their oppression as women.
We try to be aware of privilege and to make ourselves aware of and
learn from women’s struggles globally.
From an anarchist perspective, some anarchists see feminism as a
divisive issue, distracting from the 'real' issue of class struggle.
Thanks to anarcha-feminism, the anarchist approach increasingly
accepts that sexism does exist, and is not just a minor side issue
which will fade away with the end of capitalism. When anarchists
constantly stress that all experience of patriarchy is linked to
class, they can gloss over another truth: the experience of class is
differentiated by gender.
In traditional anarchist dialogue the site for revolution has been
the workplace; from a feminist perspective the family and the body
are additional sites of conflict. This is our literal “means of
production” which we should be determined to seize.
Anarcha-feminists often find it easier to publicly label themselves
as feminist than as anarchist. This is because many people who have
not considered either concept are more willing to accept the premise
that women and men should have equality than to question the core of
the current economic and political systems. Many people who profess
to believe in equality have not even considered life without
capitalism, or that economic systems affect equality. Anarchism also
suffers from negative connotations, for example the misassociation
with chaos and violence. Ironically, some anarchists are unwilling to
identify as feminist due to the negative connotations associated with
the feminist label. The capitalist system is very effective in
muddying the meaning of concepts which pose a clear threat to that
system. It is important to us to be clear that we are feminists and
anarchists, and that we see this as a pathway to freedom.
Equality not Sameness
We believe that true equality can never be achieved within any
capitalist system. Capitalism will only concede enough to give a
convincing illusion of equality. The ideals that early feminists
courageously fought for have now been entirely diluted and sold back
to us as pink and sterile girl power. We can be whatever we want to
be as long as it’s sexy - politician, athlete, scientist or
‘housewife’. We need to be clear that when feminist gains are
won, it is in the name of true equality for all people, not as a
concession or privilege. Real feminism requires complete social
restructuring which can essentially be equated with true anarchism.
One of the misconceptions of the feminist movement has been that for
women to be equal to men, we have to be the same. Women joined the
rush into the modern workplace to have equal access to exploitation.
Many women find they experience a double shift of work – both
outside and inside the home. Capitalism has made effective use of
patriarchy and in many ways is reliant on it – for example on the
nuclear family as the unit of effective consumption and control. The
work that women do in producing and caring for children, in keeping
the home and in caring for the sick and the old is not valued under
capitalism. The value system of capitalism is profit-driven; only
that which produces profit is seen as productive.
There are overlaps between feminism and queer theory (queerness might
be roughly defined as gender or sexuality non-conformism).
Anarcha-feminism recognises the fluidity of gender and its
construction from birth as a way of acting/talking/thinking. While
recognising gender binaries as socially constructed, anarcha-feminism
sees that society divides people into ‘male’ and ‘female’,
oppressing women and those that don’t fit into strict gender roles.
Although there is some acceptance by wealthy capitalist countries of
difference with regard to gender and sexuality, ultimately it is
acceptable only as a lifestyle choice, not as a revolutionary force,
which it should ultimately be. The destruction of the systems of
capitalism, state and patriarchy would lead to an explosion in
different ways of being – sexualities, gender identities, family,
Patriarchy and Men
The fight for women’s equality has been framed as a “battle of
the sexes”. However, feminism has led to a growing consciousness of
male oppression under patriarchy, such as strict adherence to
masculine gender roles, duty to “provide” in the realm of work
and lack of equal rights to active parenthood. Male oppression has
been misconstrued as either a product of the feminist movement, or an
oversight of it. Yet it is often through feminist dialogue that a
space has opened up for discussing these aspects of men’s lives and
experiences. Pro-feminist solidarity between men and women can make
meaningful inroads into these issues.
Many very real changes have been made in women’s lives due to
feminist efforts. These include suffrage, the right to work outside
the home, equal pay legislation, anti-domestic violence legislation
etc. Unlike anarchism, feminist ideology can and has been accepted
into capitalist reform. Yet it is socialists and anarchists who have
mainly been behind meaningful reform – through the trade union
movements, anti-racism work, community work and women’s liberation
movements. Unfortunately, many of the ultimate aims of those who
struggled to create these reforms have now been lost. Their
achievements have been co-opted into seeming like the achievements of
“democracy”when in fact they were
concessions hard won by activists condemned as radicals of their
While continuing to fight for meaningful reform (for
example, abortion rights and free childcare), we also want to
remain completely clear about what we are fighting for: not just
women’s equality, but absolute equality. The ultimate endpoint of
feminism is anarchism.