"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.
Intersectionality is the idea that all of our individual oppressions (i.e. class, gender, race, sexuality, (dis)/ability) intersect and reinforce one another in our oppression, for example, a working class woman is oppressed in this society but a black working class woman is oppressed even further. Intersectionality is not meant to be used as an excuse to enter into the “Oppression Olympics”, rather it is meant to be used as a lens through which we can examine the different kinds of oppression and to understand that each individual oppression does not stand alone; it needs the support of other oppressions or oppressive structures in order to survive.
It is useful to consider our current (white-supremacist, capitalist, disablist, hetero-patriarchal) society to be a ball of yarn and the individual strands of thread to be capitalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, disablism 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.
Feminism in its most basic form must be anti-Capitalist. In examining and in fighting against the patriarchal gender roles that are assigned to us as women it is important to ask where did these roles come from and whose purpose do they serve? Gender is the capital division of labour; it is a social construct, it is not based on anatomical sex (as anatomical sex and gender do not always match up), it is based on oppression. Creating the patriarchal belief that men are meant to biologically dominate over women allowed for the belief that the upper-classes or social elites are meant to dominate over the rest of us.
Certain jobs facilitated these patriarchal gender roles; men’s work was outside of the house and was typically waged, whereas women’s work, (housework, care work etc.) was not considered work and therefore was not waged. Rather it was a duty of all women to do all the cooking, cleaning, to reproduce and raise children. Reproductive labour is necessary for a capitalist society, keeping it unwaged is necessary for the continuation of its existence. Capital cannot afford for reproductive labour to be waged but fighting for waged reproductive labour is not a path to liberation, fighting against our assigned gender roles and against the power structures that exist within the working class is, however, a path to liberation.
Ultimately, class is a feminist issue. Women are disproportionately poorer than men, with non-white women being even poorer again. Single mothers are also no strangers to the devastating effects of capitalism. On average, across the globe, women still make less than men, including those who do the exact same job as their male counterparts. Not to mention that money is power and those who are in power are typically male.
Anarchism is against unjust authority and feminism considers the nuclear family to be the basis for all authoritarian systems; the father controls his wife/partner and children, the boss controls the father, the government controls the boss. Children are brought up knowing their place and not to question that place.
The state is an authoritarian system; it is an exploitative, oppressive, patriarchal and male dominated institution. The state, in whatever form, is founded upon slavery, violence, lies, treachery and deceit – and all these things must be used in order to maintain it. Quite plainly, the state is what it is; the defender of old privilege/creator of new privilege and a means to exploit the masses. It must also create certain social artificial antagonisms in order to justify its own existence. A creation of a new state will require a new privileged group of people, or class, whose function is to maintain its rulership.
We cannot ‘elect’ the revolution: as Kropotkin put it, "the state, having been the force to which the minorities resorted for establishing and organising their power over the masses cannot be the force which will serve to destroy those privileges".
The revolution must be truly liberating, this can only be done through bottom-up, non-hierarchical revolutionary organisations. Female participation in the same old rotten institutions that currently exist will not eradicate sexism, it will only ensure further oppression and domination. The anarcha-feminist movement does not want to emulate the current patriarchal power structures, rather, we want to destroy them.
It seems apparent that feminism must be anarchist; feminism by nature wants to dismantle the power structure of the patriarchy, but as we have already established, these oppressive power structures do not stand alone. Only with the abolition of power can we be free, therefore we cannot pick and choose which power structures we like and which ones we don’t like as they all work together to reinforce one another; one cannot go on its own, they all must go together.
Author: Fionnghuala Nic Roibeaird is an anarchist writer from Ireland