What is Anarcha-Feminism to RAG?

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! 

Leading up to the bookfair, we thought we would share an essay by RAG that was recently published in the new expanded edition of Quiet Rumours, an Anarcha-Feminist Reader by Dark Star Collective (published by AK Press). You may have often wondered, "What is Anarcha-Feminism?" and we hope this short essay will give you an idea.

Why Anarcha-feminism?
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 which are 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-feminist Identity
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.

Queer Feminism
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, structures etc.

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.

Meaningful reform
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 time.

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.  

RAG is always looking for new members, so if you'd like to get involved, please drop us a line either on our Facebook page, or by emailing RAGDublin@gmail.com.

The Rag, Issues 1 to 6

The Rag, Issues 1 to 6