New anarcha feminist kollective – Edinburgh

// 18 October 2009

Anarchafeminismus (sic)

There’s a new anarcha feminist group being set up in Edinburgh! The group want to collaborate with other groups and feminists from around the UK.

One of the first actions is a planned ‘femmestruation’ week for 13th-20th February 2010:

Organised by the anarcha feminist kollective in Edinburgh, we present to you a week long period in Edinburgh! And the week is like a period- it begins heavy, and ends light!…We are at the early stages of planning this event but so far the week will begin heavy with lectures on menstrual politics such as the environmental impact of sanitary products and such discourse and workshops will run such as a craft making workshop of DIY make your own sanitary products. Band and comedy nights will run taking on a positive approach to the period with such amazing radical performers as Chella Quint (www.chartyourcycle.co.uk)

At present we are organising the committees in fundraising, publicity, food/drink, and lectures/workshops, so please join us!

The next meeting of the group is this monday 19th October at 5pm in Edinburgh, at the Forest cafe on Forest road.

For more info, contact Anna Lucine Altounyan at: feministanarchistedinburgh@googlemail.com (or look her up on Facebook).

First photo by the_justified_sinner used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Second photo by designwallah used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Comments From You

Daniela Vincenti // Posted 18 October 2009 at 1:42 pm

Dear Catherine,

Whilst the initiative to challenge the excessive queasiness surrounding menstruation is of course laudable, I remain less convinced about the merits of so called anarchafeminism.

To begin with, I don’t think it is helpful to associate feminism too closely with any political ideology. One does not necessarily have to be a socialist to be a feminist, there is such a thing as free market feminism. In any case, all sophisticated democracies are based on a capitalist system couple with welfare provision. This will not change anytime soon and we are most likely to achieve progress on feminist issues by working within that system rather than trying to overthrow it.

I am also sceptical of the emphasis anarchofeminism places on overthrowing the patriarchal system. My view is that the whole concept of patriarchy has become oversold in feminism till it has almost become a metaphyisical entity. There isn’t of course a group of evil old men in suits that meet twice a month in Brussels or Washington to discuss ways of oppressing women. A more egalitarian and less gender-based approach is more likely to achieve consensus and lead to workable practical solutions that help woman overcome any obstacles to equality.

I would also challenge the anti-marriage stance of anarchofeminism. The problem in traditional heterosexual relationships is not the level of commitment that one wants to apply to them. The real stumbling blocks are the practical problems that prevent a couple from forming a more egalitarian relationship, at whatever level of commitment they want to pitch it. In this context, I believe feminism can make much more inroads by promoting a more flexible working environment than by attacking marriage.

I would finish by saying that it is fully possible to be both pro-capitalist and environmentally conscious and that a dictionary based definition of anarchy (dissipation of law and order) would probably spell disaster for women’s rights. The wikipedia definition of anarchofeminism would be a good place to start for those unfamiliar with the term.

Jessica Burton // Posted 18 October 2009 at 11:31 pm

… but still, we as women are varied and unique individuals and ‘the patriarchy’ has varied, unique and subtle ways of keeping us *all* down, so every challenge to the system – no matter our personal feelings about the politics involved – is a wonderful achievement to be celebrated and supported.

(plus capitalism’s greatest triumph has been to make us believe that the capitalist system is somehow inevitable and thoughts of overthrow a pointless excercise since “it’s always been this way”. This is not true. Change is possible, people invented capitalism, people can change it.)

Kayley // Posted 19 October 2009 at 2:16 am

I agree with the work with the system idea leading to progress, but I also think many radical feminists definitely have the right idea with something like a patriarchy existing. Denying the patriarchy and the notion it needs to be overthrown, is similar to denying oppression exists. To me the idea of a patriarchy has never been any ‘Dr Evil headquarters’ to eternally oppress women – but something intrinsic and complicated in all societies which makes a go at keeping women in their place. It’s not hard to see how ‘knocking women down’ functions in a lot of walks and areas of life.

Again I agree we need to work with the system – but there are different ways of doing feminism. Radical feminists aren’t bad-radical, just radical because their beliefs don’t gel too well with the oppressive system we have to live in.

The problem with ‘working with’ is whether the system can be changed at a deeper level, or whether it’s just carrying us along until we quiet down. Working with any dominant party, who calls the shots, giving permission for voices to be heard until it loses interest? It doesn’t make sense to imagine feminism working with a dominant and capitalist male culture, unless as some bought and sold joke.

calyx // Posted 19 October 2009 at 5:01 am

Be still my beating heart! Damn being stuck in a small town!!!

Daniela Vincenti, you have your own political ideology intertwined with your feminism. It’s rather unavoidable, as they are the same beast essentially.

JenniferRuth // Posted 19 October 2009 at 2:33 pm

Hi Daniela –

I must say, I disagree that it is unhelpful to associate feminism with a political ideology. Feminism is obviously a huge aspect of many political systems – socialist feminism and free-market feminism are 2 that you yourself mention. I do not think that being an anarcha-feminist reflects badly on feminism at all – unless you think that anarchism is a dubious political ideology in the first place. Personally, I feel that capatalism and feminism are almost antithesis to one another, but generally I think that it is very helpful to have feminism as part of that political ideology.

To say that our political system “will not change anytime soon and we are most likely to achieve progress on feminist issues by working within that system rather than trying to overthrow it” is not an argument against anarcha-feminism. Do not forget the many politicians and people who tell feminists that we would achieve progress if we would just stop treating womens issues as if they were something special and start working within the system rather than trying to change it. It is effectively a silencing technique to stop women from naming the issues that effect them. Your statement does much the same to anarcha-feminists. Even if your politics are not aligned to anarchism it is arrogant to dismiss anarchism has having no role to play in our political system, even if only to be a different voice.

As for your comments on patriarchy, no feminist worth hir salt thinks that it is “a group of evil old men in suits that meet twice a month in Brussels or Washington to discuss ways of oppressing women” The patriarchy is the dominant paradigm. It is not some academic curiousity that has a vague application in discussions on feminist blogs. This is the world we live in! It hurts men and women, keeps power in the hands of the few and creates social, economic, and political inequality. Without discussing it our “practical solutions” would be missing a key component – namely WHY we need a solution in the first place. I most definitely don’t have all the answers, but we can’t treat patriarchy as if it is a tiny problem we can just put a pin in and come back to later. It is the basis of inequality. It is so ubiquitous it becomes invisible. People think that since this is the way things are they therefore shall always be – I would say that anarcha-feminists at least challenge this and say that change is possible.

I tend to agree with you that flexible working would probably help promote more equality in relationships than attacking marriage. However, pointing out that marriage has a dubious history that did not treat women well and questioning it’s current value is not an attack. All feminism (free-market to feminist) is about questioning. The reason we question is because we don’t accept the default assumptions that partriarchy says we should adhere too. Lot’s of women decide that marriage is the right path for them. Other women do not. But we wouldn’t have that choice unless feminists hadn’t poked their finger at marriage and deconstructed it.

“I would finish by saying that it is fully possible to be both pro-capitalist and environmentally conscious”

Did anyone say it wasn’t?

“…that a dictionary based definition of anarchy (dissipation of law and order) would probably spell disaster for women’s rights.”

Why do you think this? Anarchy is not a dissipation of order, but order without a hierarchy of power. Thus we have anarcho-collectivism, anarcho-communism and anarcho-capatalism (to name a few!). Anarcha-feminism specifically came into being because women in the movement felt that it was necessary to ensure that women were not marginalised and that women’s rights issues were not side-lined in a movement dominated by men.

I’m not an anarcha-feminist myself, just to make myself clear. I just feel that feminism is a huge and varying ideology and we do it a dis-service if we point at other women and tell them how we think they are doing it wrong and damaging the movement. Feminism is not just for the few, it is for all of us – we cannot expect it to conform to one political viewpoint because it is as diverse as women themselves.

Catherine Redfern // Posted 19 October 2009 at 7:38 pm

Just a moderator’s note, I’m having to publish all comments at the same time in a batch as I can’t do this during the day. So sorry if anyone appears to be repeating anyone else here.

Daniela Vincenti // Posted 19 October 2009 at 10:00 pm

Well Catherine I thought it was too good to be true that nobody had contested my post in 24 hrs! I definitely have a lot to chew on here.

@Jessica Burton

Nobody is saying that capitalism is inevitable. However I would like to hear a realistic alternative that can keep the current level of wealth creation in the West whilst switching to a collectivist economy. I would also like to hear how you plan to achieve consensus for such a collectivist economy, given that all mainstream political parties in the UK and most other Western countries are to different extents procapitalist. How are you going to vote in a party that does not even exist?

Personally I don’t feel that the patriarchy is keeping me down. The sexist attitudes of certain men and women have been an obstacle in my life. I am not going to put these prejudices on an intellectual pedestal by attributing them to some concept of patriarchy. My more prosaic explanation is that they are the result of banal ignorance and stupidity.

@Kayley

I am not saying that the concept of patriarchy is without any merit. My view is that it is oversold in contemporary feminism. It is given too much prominence in the rhetoric of certain exponents and is needlessly belligerent and confrontational. We end up sounding like conspiracy theorists to a mainstream audience. Whenever we see laws, attitudes or circumstances that are holding women back, we should point these out and suggest practical solutions to overcome these problems. Most people have a natural sense of fair play. If we send out a positive and conciliatory message, whilst keeping objectivity and perspective, we are more likely to achieve consensus.

@calyx

I don’t believe that feminism necessarily has to be intertwined with a political ideology, as you seem to suggest. In fact my own political views are rather irrelevant here. My point is that everyone in this country will live and die in a capitalist society. As such, since I would like to see tangible improvements for women within my lifetime, I prefer to explore ways of furthering feminism that are workable within the current capitalist framework. The inequalities in the pay gap, for example, can only be realistically tackled by allowing women equal access to the top of the capitalist pyramid by establishing a genuinely meritocratic workplace. We are not going to wake up tomorrow morning to a society in which everyone is taking home an identical payslip.

@Jennifer

May I ask you to explain further why you think capitalism is the antithesis of feminism? I think that a capitalist society can be feminist or sexist, just as a collectivist or centralised society can be feminist or sexist.

“Without discussing it our “practical solutions” would be missing a key component – namely WHY we need a solution in the first place.”

I cannot follow your logic here. To me there is a simple and straightforward reason why we need solutions. Women face unfair obstacles based on prejudices and circumstances and we need to work with men to develop ways of circumventing them. I see nothing more complicated than that.

I don’t suggest that marriage is the correct path for every woman. My point is that it is more helpful and positive to suggest ways of making marriage more egalitarian rather than attacking the concept of marriage. For all practical purposes a married woman currently has much more legal safeguards than a cohabiting woman and once again I don’t see this changing anytime soon.

Quite a few people, including many anarchafeminist groups, believe that capitalism and environmentalism are incompatible. I am glad that you don’t seem to be one of them, so at least we agree on this issue.

Many dictionary-based definitions of anarchy describe a state of lawlessness, chaos and random violence. Of course anarchy in a purely political context has a different meaning, which I think is a point worth clarifying.

Catherine, I accept that you seem to be busy, but I would very much like to hear your own personal take on the issue.

polly // Posted 20 October 2009 at 8:18 am

@ Daniela Vincenti.

Just because you don’t think feminism is in any way relevant to other political considerations doesn’t mean others don’t.

As a (broadly) marxist or at least socialist feminist my analysis is that patriarchy is inevitably bound up with capitalism. To avoid this comment being the length of war and peace, I won’t give you the full thing. But no it isn’t as simple as There isn’t of course “a group of evil old men in suits that meet twice a month in Brussels or Washington to discuss ways of oppressing women.” (though old boys networks do most certainly exist). But the structures of capitalism require patriarchy as far as I’m concerned, and you can’t ever stop women being oppressed in a capitalist society.

JenniferRuth // Posted 20 October 2009 at 10:55 am

Hi Daniela!

“May I ask you to explain further why you think capitalism is the antithesis of feminism?”

Sure. Basically, I believe that capitalism encourages unequal power hierarchies which maintain oppression of those that are already disadvantaged. Those of us who have privilege can sometimes move on up within a capitalist system but most people will find themselves at the bottom of the ladder and mainly only manage to help make the rich even richer.

Capitalism is rooted in economic hierarchy and exploitation. In fact, capitalism depends on poverty and class privilege and tends to function optimally when there is less sympathy for the poor on which it depends. And who are the ones who are disproportionately poor? – women, the differently abled, ethnic minorities and those of lower class (and *especially* those in developing communities and the non-western world). Individualism cannot work in a world in which groups of people are systematically disadvantaged by their sex/race/sexuality/etc. Unequal distribution of wealth can also create social problems that effect the rich, such as crime.

I would also say that it is easy to be in favour of capitalism when you live in a wealthy nation.

However, I tend to think that the solution is to fix capitalism, not to discard the entire system. The shame is that I find that the act of merely criticising capitalism is enough to make some people think that you are asking everyone to adopt communism. I simply suggest that the system is broken, ruled by greed, mainly benefits the few and we can do better than this.

This is obviously a lot more complicated that I have summed up here. Whole volumes can obviously be written on this subject (and have been!) but I hope I have conveyed some sense of what I mean when I feel that feminism and capitalism are not easy bed-fellows.

Some good people to read on this subject are Walden Bello, Angela Davies, Patricia Hill Collins and possibly Naomi Kline and Noam Chomsky (if anyone is interested).

“Women face unfair obstacles based on prejudices and circumstances and we need to work with men to develop ways of circumventing them. I see nothing more complicated than that.”

Well, I don’t think that solutions can happen without getting to the root of the problem. For example, we have many laws that are meant to protect women from discrimination like the Equal Pay Act 1970, but nearly 40 years later we still live in a world where there is a significant difference in the amount men and women are paid:

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=167

I think tackling why this is the case is a better solution than circumventing the problem. I think the reasons usually lie within institutional sexism, assumptions about the role of women in society and the value placed on so-called “women’s work.” Simply creating laws to make sure women are paid the same as men is obviously not convincing enough for many businesses. I think we need to work harder in tackling the underlying problems and sexist assumptions that create women’s disadvantage in the first place.

I still pretty much agree with you on marriage, but I disagree that the situation is not changing. The rate of marriage is declining and I don’t necessarily feel that this is a bad thing.

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/cci/nugget.asp?id=322

I also sort of disagree that patriarchy is over-sold. If anything, I think it is under-explained. You said in reply to someone else:

“We end up sounding like conspiracy theorists to a mainstream audience.”

and I thought that this was actually very true. However, I think that this is more about our failure to communicate the concept rather than the fault of the concept itself. It is true that patriarchy is a very difficult concept to articulate, especially since it’s ubiquitous nature makes it practically invisible, but I don’t think we can discard it just because it is complicated. It is the framework on which the world is founded (capitalism is dependent on it for one thing!). But perhaps you are right, it may be used too much during conversations with those who have not been introduced to or do not understand the concept – maybe that does hinder us. I will have to think on it further.

Kayley // Posted 20 October 2009 at 12:01 pm

Daniela –

I think there’s a problem with sending out nice, apologetic messages as a feminist. It makes the movement something to be embarrassed about and not really a movement. Nobody actually listens. I think the real issues need to be addressed, the many women that have a problem being constantly belittled and mocked need to come round on their own terms without being ‘apologised to’. When the voices are angry, strong but realistic, that’s when people listen. The thing feminism lacks is the welcome and appeal of a strong, comfortable community. Those involved in it currently need to get their acts sorted out and be more comfortable and self- confident with the movement and each other. It’s nothing to do with being angry with issues that more than deserve it.

So I disagree, again to say – how far can feminists work with a culture which is designed to ostracise them?

rachel // Posted 20 October 2009 at 10:46 pm

@Daniela – it’s deliciously liberal fo you to see your own very specific feminism as ‘feminism’ and other feminisms as upstart ‘insertlabel’feminism.

Please forgive a working class radical/anarcha-feminist like myself but I do like the following accademic quote

“the multiplicity of foci we now call feminisms is not a group of fragmented, competing, subfields but rather a vibrant complex conversation” [Rosemarie Garland-Thompson 2006)

However, to be rather more argumentative than conversational, I do have to say that ‘liberal feminism making change within capitalism’ is ok if you are only wanting to change things for globally privileged white women [who for example gained the right to high flying careers on the backs of working class and / or women of colour who looked after their kids and cleaned their houses]

and also, just to introduce a note of apocalypse, we’ll probably soon be unable to avoid seeing that environmentalism and capitalism are incompatible – and it probably won’t be the liberal feminists who are having to walk double the miles to fetch water.

gadgetgal // Posted 21 October 2009 at 8:21 am

@JenniferRuth

Well said – though we live in a capitalist society it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t see the inherent problems between that and feminism, even if the only option ends up trying to work with it rather than trying to implement an alternative. I would never say anything’s impossible but too many people in power have invested too much in the free market system for it to be given up lightly. That said I think feminism and other forms of political ideologies have about the same amount in common, I have yet to hear of one that advocates the equality of everyone without it being to the detriment of someone, or maybe it just ends up poor in practical implementation!

I will say on the subject of the term patriarchy I agree with you too about it being generally under-explained, but I think in practical terms I have to go with Daniela and say it is also a little overused. Most people I know who you even mention the word to simply roll their eyes, and unfortunately I’ve been known to do so too on occasion, not because it doesn’t exist, but because of how it’s used – usually I find it’s in the middle of a “right on” moment, which just ends up sounding pompous, especially when it’s to a possible future ally who’s never heard the term before. That doesn’t mean we should stop using it, but maybe we should be more aware of the fact that other people don’t necessarily understand it the way that we do and that it can be off-putting. So yeah, not so much overuse then as the WAY it’s used in conversation. That’s what I meant (sorry, gobbledygook, it’s early…)

polly // Posted 21 October 2009 at 9:57 pm

My argument with liberal feminism in a nutshell:

I can’t see the poing in women being equal to men if men are not equal to each other.

polly // Posted 22 October 2009 at 8:38 pm

To what JenniferRuth said I’d add. briefly, in the world’s biggest over simplification:

Personally I believe that the root of patriarchal structures is private property and inheritance – which led to the nuclear family structure becoming popular among the ruling classes – it was (theoretically at least) a means of controlling female sexuality and ensuring the passing on of property to a male’s offspring.

When the industrial revolution took place, women were forced out of the workplace to some extent by measure such as the factories acts, which although they may seem benign, (in that they stopped women and children doing certain ‘dangerous’ occupations) can really be viewed as having the wider aim of replicating the workforce. (there was infant mortality of about 25% in Manchester during the industrial revolution). Although working class women have always done waged work, and the nuclear family, dependent on a male wage, is largely a middle class late twentieth century phenomenon, the nuclear family continues to be a very useful structure for capitalism, especially as a source of unwaged caretaking labour.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 22 October 2009 at 10:35 pm

Polly- the nuclear family was the predominant (as in the biggest number of people lived in that form) family form since at least the medieval period in Britain. It is by no means a modern phenomenon. But other than that, I think you analysis is sound! You might want to read Mary Hartman’s The Household and the Making of History: A suversive view of the Western Past- you can even get the best bits on google books.

polly // Posted 23 October 2009 at 7:21 am

Point taken Feminist Avatar. I meant nuclear as in unwaged wife, waged husband. However I’d also argue that the family units were part of larger extended families in most cases, so they didn’t function in the same way that late twentieth century families did.

An example is my father who was brought up in a ‘single parent’ family with a mother who did waged work (because otherwise they would have starved) in the 1920’s and 30’s. But he was in fact also cared for by a network of relatives. That still happens today of course, but it’s not seen as the norm.

Daniela Vincenti // Posted 24 October 2009 at 1:59 pm

Dear Polly,

Agreed with you that inheritance tax and land ownership tax would greatly improve the current capitalist model. The abolition of unpaid overtime would be a step forward too.

As a liberal feminist, I would say that it is impossible to create a totally equal society without de-incentivising wealth creation. As such, we have to find a middle ground. Capitalism creates hierarchies, that is true, but their is no reason why women should have to gravitate towards the bottom of these hierarchies. The establishment of a genuine meritocracy is more important to me. Of course, others see meritocracy as a false utopia and argue that being born smarter is just another form of privilege. I do not have all the answers.

Charlotte // Posted 25 October 2009 at 12:10 pm

Wow, I was really pleased that there were so many comments on this thread, thinking that they were going to be what I was going to say, but apparently not…

…talking about periods for a week? Seriously?! Is that all there is to being a woman?!

I’m really surprised no one has said this sooner!

I’m totally in favour of talking about periods and removing the taboo and stopping society thinking that being a woman is gross, but wow – a whole week!

Juliet // Posted 25 October 2009 at 3:07 pm

A DIY workshop in which women make their own sanitary products? Sorry, but that doesn’t sound like big fun to me.

A lot of women have to use sanitary products. To try to make them feel guilty about the environmental impact of those products (I’m not talking about the collective here, but in general)seems to me to be yet another stick.

And Daniela, yes, of course capitalism creates heirarchies. But so did communism. And women were still at the bottom of the heap then.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 25 October 2009 at 6:43 pm

@ Polly- re extended families- you have now opened a hornet’s nest of historical debate. There is a substantial school of evidence that suggests that in Britain extended families are a product of industrialisation and more common in the nineteenth century than in earlier centuries (this is even evident when the industrial working class is compared to non-industrial workers in the same century). The alternative argument to this is that family networks are harder to reconstruct for earlier periods, but at the same time, it is probably untrue that people were generally part of large families due to high death rates among children. A lot of evidence suggests that while women gave birth to large numbers of children, most families only had 2 to 3 children living at any time. Then, for those that made it to adulthood, they could expect at least one if not both parents to die before they had children (helped by a late age at marriage in Britain since at least the medieval period- the 1970s were a freak in the bigger historical picture). And, all this points, to less opportunity for extended families than might be imagined.

You have me on my favourite subject…

Liz // Posted 25 October 2009 at 10:16 pm

Juliet. Communism (though many people identify Russia post 20s more as state capitalism etc.) women did have a difficult time of it, which was by enlarge the failure of challenging the patriarchal role within capitalism by the male leaders of the time – however, Russia in 1917 was more progressive than anywhere else in Europe in terms of what women’s role should be – free abortions, freedom of divorce..women being at the bottom of the heap can be seen as the failure of critiquing partiarchy and capitalism simultaneously rather than the inevitablity of heirarchies.

If you don’t find making sanitary products fun, then, you know, no-one is making you…

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