TOTW: Feminism & Anarchy

  • Posted on: 1 October 2018
  • By: ingrate

At its root, anarchism is based on some assumptions of egalitarian relations. By default this implies a hostility to racism, fascism, and sexism (among other isms). Presumably that would make anarchists (almost by default) anti-racist, anti-fascist, and anti-sexist. However, anarchist history is filled with examples of thinkers and actors who don’t quite walk the walk, or, maybe if we are being charitable, don’t see the gaps between their praxis and their ideals.

Given the current hot mess of North American 24-hour news cycle politics, I’d like to focus on feminism. Being of a certain age, I came to embrace feminism (admittedly, not very well) as a core part of my ethical framework far before I embraced the A-word. However, my time in anarchist spaces and projects has led me to see that this is not the case for all anarchists. Anarchists can be chauvinistic and patriarchal. We can harbor predators.

While I have found feminism an important lens to frame how I want to be in the world, both in interpersonal and group dynamics, I have also seen the jargon of feminism leveled against anarchists as a way to inhibit action and attack. At the same time (or on the other hand), anarchist spaces sans feminist critique often look pretty much like a bro-down.

How does feminism inform your anarchism, if at all? What bits of feminist theory or critique or practice do you find important? What are the pieces you find incompatible with your anarchism?


Grew up mostly in a very reactionary, rough little town. Instinctively drawn to antiauthoritarian ideas from a young age but I was carrying a lot of unexamined biases from my shitty environment, some casual misogyny being one of bigger ones.

The anarchist space was where I encountered serious feminism. Fairly certain I'm way less of a piece of shit than I used to be!

Thanks anarchy!

Knowing all the egalitarian communists that flock here might I ask them to clear up what this passage means, please - Tia

"...Communists have no need to introduce community of women; it has existed almost from time immemorial.
Our bourgeois, not content with having wives and daughters of their proletarians at their disposal, not to speak of common prostitutes, take the greatest pleasure in seducing each other’s wives.
Bourgeois marriage is, in reality, a system of wives in common and thus, at the most, what the Communists might possibly be reproached with is that they desire to introduce, in substitution for a hypocritically concealed, an openly legalised community of women. ..." ( Communist Manifesto )

What is the communist position on women here? It looks like ' Business as usual ' on first sight!

Actually it's just one bleeding heart who keeps trying to tell you to get some help rat :(

we were over gender? No more gender nihilism? Damn.

Genetics predisposes women to the task of being empathy providers, whether they be individualist or collective. Doctors, psychiatry, masseurs, agecare facilities, childcare centres, nursing, all of these activities they excell at. This is assuming also that the institutionalized forms of labour are faded away and a freelance distribution of active participation, call it voluntary work in its casual form, which is non-hierarchical and allows women to attain the highest level of their compassionate potentialities.,.

Whoops, you acknowledged the reality of genetically-induced average psychological differences between the sexes in an anarchist space - prepare to be ostracized and vilified by people whose understanding of current scientific theories comes from a loose understanding of literature written by Leftists in the 1970s!

No it has been written from empirical apolitical data my poor misled friend. And I expect to find support from the nihilist individuals of non-gender consciousness yet possessing the unique empathic qualities that genitalia endow them with.,.;)

We knights possess and have rediscovered the innate chivalrous tendencies of the Neanderthal prehistoric era, and it gets damn boring there sometimes ;)

A rare glimpse of the troll obviously responding to itself in its natural habitat!

Perhaps this troll was born without natural camouflage or maybe it's just tired, needs to take the day off? Let's watch and see!

All about that gender nihilism! But identity is also forced on you, so feminism is one of the vectors to understanding that.

or is so vague a term as to be 'What do you mean by feminism?'

Well hopefully "typical white middle-class feminism" isn't the only kind you encounter in the @space. That wasn't the case for me.

I suspect you're just trying to coax a better discussion out of this topic. Good luck! ;)

Muh Casual IdPol Bigotry Margarine-Words be on point today!

Feminism is likely white and middle class for the same reasons most broad, active politics are.

Anyhow, anarchists these days more than ever need to explain and defend anti authoritarian feminism as in opposition to it's authoritarian counterpart.

What in God's name is "authoritarian feminism"?

It says women's highest calling is to be leaders of large, fascist organizations. Women are supposed to give up all empathy and become even bigger sociopaths than men. It says women who care more about caring for their children than become corporate CEOs are bad.

Anarchist feminism is often a mix of fainting couch feminism and a mob of angry ex girlfriends mad that you're dating again.

I just want to destroy gender, identity and all other forms of social control.

How's that going?

it has been an "armed joy".

I want to destroy armed joy and all other forms of social control.

doin that unarmed. ha. hahahaha!

I find the critique put forth in gender nihilism appealing, but I also think that feminist critique and theory are useful tools in the here and now.

As much as feminism can be recuperated to perpetuate a reformist liberal and capitalist agenda (and don't get me started on the reactionary politics of radfems), feminist critiques of very real systems of patriarchy that undergird our social relations have served me as a useful tool over the years.

Me too. It can be tempting to go racing ahead with the newer theories and dismiss the older stuff it's grounded in sometimes.

In particular I appreciate the work of non-anarchist feminists like bell hooks, (some of) Angela Davis, and some of the Italian communist-feminists like Silvia Federici, and Leopoldina Fortunati. I also appreciate the contribution of anarcha-feminists and anarchist feminists who might not have accepted the label during their lives such as Goldman, de Cleyre, Leila Abdul Rahim, l susan brown, dot matrix.

All of them have either expanded the understanding of feminism beyond a liberal, white, and middle class feminism to something more useful. The explicitly anarchist folks mentioned have challenged my anarchism in ways that deepened my understanding of how anarchism can't be separated from the particular forms of domination that different people experience, in this case it happens to be female-bodied people, but we could have similar discussions about race, sexuality, etc.

That is not to say that we should devolve into resorting to idpol perspectives, but that ignoring the particulars of real peoples lived experience is potentially just as damaging to our attempts at liberatory politics as it would be to only rely on them.

Ultimately I want to see gender destroyed entirely, but here is where we find ourselves.

If a dude has the right vocabulary he can get away with just about anything. I am a former predator. Not necessarily in the creepy way, my antics were more subtle most of the time, which, in the long run, was probably more damaging. Lots of gaslighting and blame shifting. I’d like to think that I’ve changed (for the better), but the dominance of call out culture and the vindictive overreach of a few male gatekeepers means that I’m excommunicated for my sins. I hope my permanent exclusion increases the sense of safety for everyone, but since I know I wasn’t the only predator I’m skeptical about the advantage of absence rather than an accounting, education and some form of conflict resolution aiming at a reintegration of what passes as “community.”

i'd love to hear what kind of process would've worked (or did work) for you. is there some way for people to actually help a predator change their ways? or is it so individual and idiosyncratic that it just has to happen when the person is ready?

If anarchism had any hope of changing anything it would be working way harder at helping people find ways to become less dominant, violent etc towards each other. Instead it focuses on portraying itself as a band of virtuous rebels fighting against external enemies. Problematic people within the milieu are treated the same and expelled to join them rather than seen as products of a sick world like everyone else. Those super-angry male gatekeepers? Probably some of the most toxic and predatory people of all...digging into their subcultural trencges.

“If a dude” here. A process that might have helped would have looked something like restorative justice adapted for anarchists. Not like the fishbowl sub-Maoist crit/self-crit sessions that have devolved into vindictive caklnout culture. A way people might be able to help predators stop being predators is to confront predation as it happens or at least soon after so the problematic behavior can be looked at in real time. Sadly, I agree with Not op that most anarchists have only been able to set themselves up as paragons of virtue fighting the good fight against any and all forms of external boogeymen. This leads to conformity, and then the only possible response to anyone going against that conformity is immediate expulsion with a ton of public shaming. And who in their right mind would want to go through even more shaming to be reintegrated into that hideous “community”? There’s a distinct lack of compassion among most anarchists I’ve rncountered.

It's kind of weird to maintain such a lofty stance towards all these people when the whole premise of your post is that you're supposed to be owning some problematic past behaviour.

I've done some shitty things in my past and you wouldn't catch me condemning all the people around me at the time for their lack of compassion. It's obviously self-serving.

I mean processing is hard. That doesn’t mean the consequences of not doing it aren’t real and serious. People talk about restorative justice and shit, even or especially the auth. left/id pol. types. The only process that ever seems to get implemented is calling people monsters and banning them. It’s not incomprehensible that it works out that way, it’s partly structural and it partly is a lack of compassion and other psychological factors (which themselves are partly structural).

And you- what kind of compassionate consequences did you face for your ‘shitty things?’ Or did you just get away with it all.

Sure but going beyond just ejecting people from a space or community is a ton of work. Restorative justice requires more time and resources as well as willingness.

I was mostly treated as a pariah and I don't blame those people for not wanting to take my failings on as a personal project on top of having been subjected to my misogynistic bullshit in the first place. Other times, people took the time to explain things to me and that was extremely generous of them to do that.

that's kind of my point. ejecting people is work too, it only looks like an easy solution. it has a lot of costs. it's attractive to people because it gives them a rush of feeling tough and militant, and doesn't require much thought. i thought we were talking about what a good or useful process could look like, not just endlessly rehashing the obvious reasons there seem to be no good ones.

uh .. you asked a question and I answered it. My point was you can't magically expect a bunch of randos to do know how to do a complex thing like restorative justice. You'll be lucky if they even have the basic skills to eject somebody.

That's not to say it's a bad idea but it requires more serious longterm organizing than most anarchists are usually willing to do. This is the price of opposing any kind of organization, you pretty much rule out complex things like restorative justice.

While I agree that many people don't want to do the hard work that is involved in restorative justice, I don't think that is a particular indictment of anarchists or of anti-organizationalist anarchists.

Just being anti-organizationalist doesn't render one incapable of committing to long term projects based on shared relations. Relating to this TOTW, I am part of a group of men who talk about our masculinity, patriarchy, etc. that is more of an affinity group than an organization. We are working from a place that started in what could be termed "restorative justice" (I hate that term because I think it cedes too much to ideas of justice, right/wrong, community, etc., but whatever...) and in this particular case it has been really l for us in both dealing with things about ourselves that don't line up with our ethics or ideals and in deepening our connections to each other. It is an informal group, we have no bylaws or written rules, just agreements as friends/comrades.

A.K.A. a bong session ;)

That seems the obvious more agnostic end goal as opposed to all or nothing nihilsm which usually ends up being a discourse of posers.

Gender can't be saved. Nor reformed in any meaningful way. I feel like Nihilism does an excellent job of dynamiting gender along with all other social constructs that chain down individuality.

Gender Egoism is basically a discretional agnosticism on the issue of gender which defaults to personal preferences as opposed to all or nothing nihilism.

Keep in mind that gender is part of a totality of norms and norms will be around as long as there is meaning. Egoism is a much better tool for navigating norms then nihilism is.

If egosim means individuality, then individually speaking, gender is governance. Personally, my nihilism rejects governance that is socially constructed by anyone other than me. Egoism and nihilism one in the same?

For me, egoism means individualism means nihilism. Nothing above the individual. Gender as a social construct normalized by the membership of others is nothing less than governance of the chaotic individual. I am calling a spade a spade; gender is governance. At least for me, I insist on its destruction. Especially since one persons gender subsequently genders "others". Gender requires a worldview that quantifies chaotic existence, categorizing individuals with assigned roles, behavior, essentialism etc. That is why today in the "anarchist" movement you have people forcing identity/representation upon others based merely upon aesthetic judgement. Basically, for me, nihilism is a fun way of saying set it all on fire, total emancipation. Norms will be norms and around and enforced socially, which is why I believe in permanent social war.

However I'm reminded of what Bob Black said about rules in the context of game and play, rules can be played with.

You're taking nihilism to be active negation which at it's base it is not, it's just not believing in a value currency. Really what you're looking for is gender cynicism(the classic philosophical conception) not nihilism. There are people however who quite like gender and want to continue to play around with it. Your nihilism is an imposition on those people. In this regard I think it's better to have an agnostic discretionary approach to these issues then an all out negating approach.

Ultimately I would also remind you that physical reality itself is imposing on an individual and there are those out there that take an ideological general want out position(anti-natalism effilism). If you take an overall affirming position on life then you can simply negate out what is impersonal and undesirable to you. Nihilism as it's come from 1968 radical discourse has become to all or nothing without a sense of egoistic discretionary preference.

Egoists against activism merge with eunuchs for Dads rights in my book. At least Max Stirner worked in a milk co-op.

did he, really?

Oh c'mon, that would be below him, you didn't really think he would participate in such a grovelling animal exploitive industry such as dairy production did you? You obviously have no idea about Stirner's ideas!

Lyra, if Stirner was a woman you wouldn't have even worried about his occupation would you have you inverted sexist !

Ultimately I see feminism and anti-racism as good things, nihilism and STIRNERS egoism aren't compatible with identity politics (nazism, some forms of feminism/anti-racism, MRA for the most part). The key historical factor that needs to be rejected by people is more specifically Bio-politics, viewing individuals through more or less statist categorizers of bodily characteristics. It becomes really depressing to see people in radical left and anarchist circles just lumping misogynists and racists in with egoists and nihilists. Of course, the other problem is that is completely interconnected with this is people being reactionary and lazy about their parsing out of historical ideologies and how this influences behavior.

Ultimately the root of modern predatory male shit seems to in part stem from "brosky" culture which is rooted in men viewing their self-esteem through the number of va-jay-jays they penetrated (men in power both being the most serious victims and perpetrators of this logic) and just a general nihilistic/capitalist disregard for human life, emotional health, and the need to talk about things instead of soldiering on. The thing that sucks the most is the difficulty in talking about it from a more individualistic frame of mind and just being honest with oneself.

This wasn't really that huge of a problem in native american societies because there was a deeply ingrained respect for women (MORE IMPORTANTLY AS PEOPLE) and their fundamental role in a more familial/communal existence. As for this current culture, there seems to just be a continuing strain of anger and trauma that never gets resolved mostly because people continue to look at the problems through biopolitics and the tiresome idiocies of the legal system. It would also just be helpful if people once again had equal power just to flat out confront and kill their enemies.

"nihilistic/capitalist disregard for human life, emotional health, and the need to talk about things instead of soldiering on."
This is a fallacious slur upon the character of the nihilist. And so, your calling of yourself "Nihilist" was in the end just a sarcastic intentional dig as I suspected. To even just think of associating nihilism with capitalism ideologically and emotionally is a total affront and insult to us positive and compassionate nihilists who number themselves in the hundred thousands globally, yes, a minority for sure, but nevertheless a unique facet of alternative anti-capitalist sentiments, who DO NOT soldier on, but stroll casually along their own unique way, always willing to talk to any stranger they meet, and contented to live by their own terms ignoring all customs, moralities, ethics and expected identity behavioral mannerisms of all cultures and their restricting psychologies. HOW DARE YOU !! * Throws cold latte at cafe manager*

nice trolling! i would say that we may have bigger numbers than the lower 100,000s...There are many types of different nihilists so this one is kinda hard to parse out...

yah know, as much as i would like to distance myself from my ideological enemies, i can't do it 100% :-(

I'm the 13:44 full-on 100% nihilist here, well try harder, resist the quarter-pounder, spit on portraits in art galleries, BE CARING AND DARING!

I won't do what you tell me

How is that attitude going, just asking?

rejecting morality and custom is not something that is 100% doable, but it's ultimately better to feel yourself above ideas and spooks rather than beneath them, you know? That part is therapeutic and why i try my best to be a bible-thumping stirnerite.

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