Why I’m an anarcha-feminist

// 24 January 2012

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a white woman's forearm and fist holding up a necklace with the female symbolDisclaimer: This article will discuss my personal feelings about anti-capitalism, anarcho-communism and their relationships with feminism (and other systems of oppression). Because of this, I will not be discussing the histories of the movements. If you wish to learn about these, the origins section on the wiki-page for anarcha-feminism will point you in the right direction.

When I was about seven years old, I asked my mother why everyone couldn’t just do what they were good at and share everything equally. This was my first foray into anti-capitalism, and my opinions haven’t changed much in the past fifteen years.

It has always been very important to me to strive for social equality, and capitalism simply does not provide that. I could wax lyrical all day about the oppressive and unjust nature of the capitalist society, in which we are told that the only value of a human being lies in their ability to make profits for a CEO, but this is a feminist website, and I have a 700-word limit. So I will merely outline why I believe that capitalism is inherently anti-feminist and that the solution to smashing patriarchy will necessarily involve smashing capitalism.

It is in capitalism’s best interests to oppress women. The main reason for this is that by devaluing and denigrating 51% of the population as useless and inferior, it seems legitimate to pay them less, or to not pay them at all, for their work – no matter how good it may be for society. Childcare and housework are two prime examples of this. They are services essential to humankind, yet we expect women to a) be the sole or primary providers of these services and b) perform them for free as well as generating capital by holding down other jobs. This is what is known as the “double burden” on women. In a truly equal society, not only would these roles be seen as suitable for everyone, they would be seen as equally important to other work. As it stands, “Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, produce half of the world’s food, but earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than one percent of the world’s property” (Global Poverty Project).

Another way in which capitalism exploits women is by creating problems for them to worry about, then offering to sell them a solution. This usually takes the form of making women feel disgusted about their own natural bodies, and convincing them they must change – see pantyliners, douches and pretty much the entire make-up industry. If we smashed capitalism, we’d smash the need for people to sell us things by making us ashamed of who we are.

There are many more examples of this, but once again, I am writing a blog post, not a doctorate. So – why do I believe that once we have smashed capitalism, anarchism is the solution?

Honestly, it’s mainly because I don’t believe in anything else. Any hierarchical system of government or community, be it feudalism, the current parliamentary system or party-led communism will necessarily contain inequality. The needs of the few who make the decisions will outweigh the needs of the many who have decisions made for them. We can see this with the current coalition, whose members have both simultaneously claimed £35,000 on a “second home” when their first home is literally down the street and demonised people with severe disabilities wanting to live normal lives as “scroungers”. Four legs good, two legs better indeed.

However, people in the anarchist movement have been brought up in the same prejudiced, patriarchal societies as the most rabid capitalist, and that has to be overcome. Whether it’s women’s needs not being taken care of in an anarchist environment, or silencing women in group discussions, manarchism seems to constantly rear its ugly head, and we need a feminist movement-within-the-movement to counter it, and that movement-within-the-movement is anarcha-feminism.

So, that’s a very short version of why I am an anarcha-feminist. I’m not claiming to be 100% right, or to speak for all anarcha-feminists(!), but this is what I believe we need to do to create a fair, just and equal society for all.

For more on anti-capitalist feminism in the current UK climate, this article is a very worthwhile read.

Image by K. Sawyer Photography, shared under a Creative Commons licence.

Comments From You

Saranga // Posted 24 January 2012 at 1:04 pm

hear hear!

k gallagher // Posted 24 January 2012 at 1:43 pm

Brava! It’s so good to see anarcha-feminism getting a voice in the “Big Feminist Blogosphere!”

http://anarcha.org/ is another great resource for information :)

tom hulley // Posted 24 January 2012 at 7:22 pm

What a refreshing article, thanks Natalie.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 24 January 2012 at 11:45 pm

I thought this was quite interesting, but for me, the thing that makes anarcha-feminism different from socialist-feminism is its rejection of the state (not it’s anti-capitalism). And, I tend to think that the state is a good thing, in that I think that, rather than being a part of a hierarchial system, it can be an organism for ensuring equality between individuals. I tend to think that given that a fundamental level each of us have rights that can come in to conflict with the rights of others, that there needs be a body to mediate those rights. And, I increasingly think that the way to reduce as much as possible inequality between people, is to actually acknowledge and lay bare what those lines of power are. So that we can then assess whether those lines of power are necessary and if they are, how they will be monitored to stop abuse of power. I think historically the democratic state fundamentally transformed lines of social authority in the UK. It moved power from individual landowners into a bureaocracy that is managed by the people – even if it didn’t go far enough.

I am not saying that what he have now is good enough- definitely not! But, the question I tend to have for anarcha-feminism is how to do you envision an equal society to operate? How will ensure my rights and the rights of everyone else, without a state?

Dramatika // Posted 25 January 2012 at 5:34 am

Great article, interesting ideas to think about. However, I’m sceptical about the real life implementation. People don’t want to be equal, they prefer earning a little bit more than their neighbor. You can not change human nature.

Deborah // Posted 25 January 2012 at 12:11 pm

@ Dramatica, of course you can change human nature. Through education, illumination, communication – hell even brainwashing and torture if you like. Human nature is a creation of the hegemony and our western hegemony says that greed is good and multiple ‘othering’ will justify the abuse of anyone else for our own personal gain.

Tribes, communities and ancient beliefs around the world created hegemonies which placed mutuality, support and care within the group as pre-eminant to ensure the groups’ survival. they were destroyed by our relatively recent faith systems which place humans above all other species and disconnected us from our environment.

In other words, just as we have ‘learned’ to be selfish, greedy, unequal and uncaring, so we can ‘learn’ to be the opposite.

Our abilities are unlimited. Why don’t we apply our very able selves to real life application and change the way we interact, it works!

Laurel // Posted 25 January 2012 at 5:03 pm

im an anarcha-feminist, though id defo recommend that anybody interested looks into anarchism quite a lot, preferably both from mixing with people in anarchist spaces and from literature, because i think being an anarchist because of not trusting anything else to work is a good reason, but maybe not so inspiring as it could be!

Harriet R // Posted 30 August 2012 at 8:30 am

Hi Natalie,

Love this piece, really good to see a broader ideology spoken about on a feminist site. Have to say I don’t really agree with your solution, but I agree with the way you’ve described the problems.

I’m interested in discussing/thinking about how different strands of feminism can work together, especially those interested in broader/deeper political and social change, even if we don’t completely agree on the ultimate aims of our feminism. I’d love to know if you think it is worth campaigning and lobbying Parliament and MPs on issues where legislation can play a role, even if in the long run you want to get rid of Parliament as it currently stands. I’m sure there are other examples, that don’t spring to mind instantly.

Basically how can we bring our various views as feminists together, and make them work together to produce something positive? Can I, as someone who’s socially liberal and just left of centre economically, learn something about how to envisage wider social change and how to act to bring that about?

Sorry this comment is a bit clunky – haven’t had my morning caffeine yet! But this has really got me thinking.

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