What have anarchists done for women’s rights?

“Anarchism fundamentally involves a belief that all power-relations based upon illegitimate hierarchy should be abolished. The most significant hierarchies for anarchists have traditionally been relations of capital, the state, and religion, although patriarchal relations are much more central to anarcho-feminist analysis. Anarchists place emphasis on the individual, but situate the individual within a collectivity, believing that participatory, horizontal forms of organization best enable the individual expression of all participants.” ~Beth Smith

Anarchist feminist writers and activists have progressed women’s rights in many ways. Since anarchist philosophy rejects dominant power structures and illegitimate hierarchies that oppress people, it is important in anarchist writings and communities to acknowledge power dynamics which exploit, harm, and/or subjugate others. As a result, one of the most important contributions that anarchism has made for feminism has been an acknowledgment of the existence of patriarchy, rape culture, sexual  exploitation, and domestic violence as legitimate and pervasive issues that require education and redress.

Addressing these issues of comes in many different forms such as developing movements which seek to reform behaviors, laws, and cultural norms; developing systems of accountability that prevent oppressive behaviors towards women; and creating safe spaces for women that are free from subjugation and exploitation. Specifically, anarchists have demanded that dialogues concerning oppressive institutions and cultures include solutions for the domination of women.

In communities, anarchists often mandate several conditions that support women and their fight for autonomy and liberation:

Progressive stacks: The practice that in public forums, those who are traditionally underrepresented and marginalized in society get to speak first, thus elevating voices and ideas not often heard in the mainstream or dominant culture (step up). Those who hold more power and occupy more space in the mainstream yield the floor to listen, empower, and offer mutual support and solidarity to those who possess lest power in society (step back).

Safe spaces: Creating spaces in communities that are free from sexist, homophobic, racist, and hateful remarks.  Often safe spaces are created for women only to discuss issues such as sexual assault, rape, and domestic violence without fear of being harrassed by men.

Guidelines for respect: Accountability statements constructed by the community or group which set the rules or conditions for dialogue and behavior that is respectful and not harmful to others. All must consense to the guidelines and agree to adhere to them.  Those who violate the guidelines are held accountable by the group/community by whichever process they decide.

Personal pronouns: Asking people which pronoun to they prefer to be called by instead of assuming gender.  Some persons reject notions of gender, occupy both genders, or are transgender and sometimes go by they instead of he or she.

Not using gendered language: An acknowledgement that many phrases and words, especially old ones in the English language, excluded women when they were first penned.  We can change that by using language that is inclusive.  For example the phrase , “All men are created equal.” should be stated as “All humans are created equal.”  in order to include women and others.

Support for survivors of sexual assault: Rape culture is language, behavior, opinions, jokes, and attitudes which condone sexual violence of women. Offering support and mutual aid for victims of sexual assault means holding other men accountable for sexually inappropriate behavior, unwanted sexual advances, and looking the other way when someone is victimized.

Reproductive health: Women lack access to health care, contraception, abortion services, and alternative health options. There are daily efforts to legislate women’s reproductive organs through the state.  Though women do not need permission from the state to do what they will with their bodies, the state routinely restricts access to these health services in an effort to further disempower and subjugate women and make them slaves to children, poverty, and welfare.  This act of aggression cannot be ignored.  The community or group is responsible for working together to ensure access (by private or public means) since reproductive rights are not just a women’s issue.

Open relationships:  This is the idea that in a mutual, consenting adult relationship one person does not possess or have power over another person. The adults are free human beings who belong to no one, including the state.  Each relationship is a contract negotiated by the adults involved and can create conditions for having multiple lovers, friends, and other interests.

– Communal child rearing:  Some anarchist communities reject the idea of two parent families.  Instead children have many guardians and teachers.  This can take the form of mixed families, extended families, parent teams, and communal child rearing.  Fathers are expected to have major roles in their child’s life where women are not the sole caregivers.

Not all anarchists are activists who actively challenge the state on legislative and policy reform, however they resist patriarchy in their daily lives by recognizing that the oppression of women exists globally and as a result they must create codes of behavior in their community that empower women and keep them free from harm. These practices are visible in anarchist collectives, communal living spaces, communities, schools, work places, and other events.

How should an anarchist approach the women’s movement?

“Feminism doesn’t mean female corporate power or a woman President; it means no corporate power and no Presidents.” ~ P. Korneger

The women’s movement is not a universal movement.  It is very fragmented and divided by class.  What upper class white women want, is not the same as what queer women of color want.  Some feminists want more female CEOs, presidents, and women in leadership positions, while others want to eradicate rape, sexual violence, and domestic abuse.  Some just want a seat at collective decision making tables while others simply wish to be paid more and not discriminated against.  In order to understand what feminist women want, you must ask them and listen first.

Assuming women want the same things as men, assumes that we are already all equal.  Unfortunately, we have not achieved that state yet, though women have made huge strides in achieving independence from men in the last 100 years.  Other movements ignore the power inequities that exist within their own circles, therefore they perpetuate the same dominance over women that mainstream society does. Anarchism seeks to identify all structural inequalities and address them through individual actions and changing social norms within their own communities.  If we cannot model inclusive behavior ourselves, how can we demand it from others or be in solidarity with those that ask for liberation?

 

We have a really big problem with positive female self-images in Latino culture. The main culprit, Latino media, has contributed to an impossible standard of beauty created by men which idolizes whiter, taller, thinner, voluptuous european looking women. TV programs like Nuestra Belleza, the various beauty pageants, las noticias (the news) and all of the novelas reinforce the idea that this what Latina women should aspire to look like if they wish to be beautiful. See video below.

The reality is Latina women don’t actually look like this, so many women (not just Venezuelans) resort to plastic surgery and other body modifications to achieve this standard of beauty. When it is not achieved, women feel ugly and depressed. This practice is not only detrimental to positive self-images in Latino culture but it also diminishes the real beauty that exists in more indigenous and African looking women who tend to be shorter, browner, and bigger. Both Latino and American media exclude these real women from pretty much everything in the same way only mixed, lighter skinned black women were featured in early cinema and tv in the US while everyone else was literally invisible. A century later, we are still struggling to see ourselves accurately represented in the media.

Latinas come in all sizes and colors and we are all beautiful. Unfortunately, this unrealistic view of Latina women distorts what we really look like to both ourselves and the outside world and promotes a fetishization of an ideal that is essentially fake. As media consumers, we have to demand more from these content creators. If want to see ourselves reflected in media in a way that is more real, and values natural beauty of all kinds, we have to start with changing our own cultural standards of beauty. We have to stop obsessing over what we look like and trying to achieve an ideal that only serves the interest of capitalists and men. Talking more openly about these practices and the media that encourages it is a first step, but we ourselves have the ability to create our own media that is more accurate, inclusive, positive, and reflective of our true selves. So let’s celebrate all of our own unique beauty that exists inside and out and say FUCK YOU to these false Latino media ideals.

ImagePhoto and Article by Vanessa Maria

As I watched Monday night’s legislative session, Congress gave their final bitter comments surrounding the shutdown.  Pretty much all the House representatives spoke at length about why Obamacare was horrible or conversely, why its so necessary and how neither side is willing to negotiate. I wondered what it would be like if we had elected one representative who was brave enough to say, “Stop all this madness!  Let’s end the wars and legalize cannabis. We wouldn’t have to pay those nasty prison corporations, since we wouldn’t be arresting so many people any more, and people would have access to a magic natural health remedy, so they wouldn’t need Obamacare.” I wish someone would say, “Let’s balance the budget by ending the drug war, closing prisons, and reducing military spending.  Then we could  afford free healthcare, schools, new roads and bridges, and more!”

No, instead, our government is run by…what’s the right word here? Lunatics. Yes, lunatics, or at least people with temporary insanity, who think that we should shut the government down over whether or not to provide universal healthcare and ignore the fact that the majority of our money continues to fund these expensive and never ending wars.

In Philadelphia, the absurdity of the government’s economic wastefulness was fully visible to those of us who joined yesterday’s Smoke Down Shut Down at Independence Mall.  The event, organized by members of the Panic Hour and PhillyNORML,was meant to test a theory. We hypothesized that if we called for a Smoke Down at Independence Mall it was likely that Park Police would not be there to enforce the laws which prohibit cannabis smoking on federal land.  Since all National Parks had been shutdown, all non-essential government employees had been furloughed, and we are in the middle of an economic crisis, it seemed likely that we might get a break. We wondered, would the Park Service make the decision to spend some more money on Park Rangers just so they can bust potential marijuana smokers?

The answer is yes.  As soon as we arrived and saw the Freedom Cage and dozens of park police and Philadelphia Civil Affairs police, we knew our theory was wrong.  We should have known better because the Park Service is actually very predictable.  They are always there. Afterall, they read our Facebook pages.  They wouldn’t want to let an opportunity go by to intimidate us and collect fines from pot smokers. So why would a government shutdown or a lack of funds stop them now? Just put it on China’s tab!

Now, time for some facts:

  1. As of right now, the federal debt is in the trillions of dollars, around $17 trillion dollars to be exact.
  2. To date, in 2013 the federal government spent $11 billion dollars alone on the drug war.
  3. This year 648,000 people have been arrested for cannabis.
  4. According to the latest data from the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Report there were 6,614 marijuana related arrests in Philadelphia during 2012. 
  5. African Americans are five times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Philadelphia than their white counterparts. 
  6. It costs upwards of $39 billion in taxpayer dollars annually to fund incarceration in the US, according to a survey by the VERA Institute of Justice.

The government shutdown is exemplary of a system that is broken. How can any of our any of our legislators justify spending this ludicrous amount of money on punishing individuals for possessing a plant that has shown to have proven medical benefits, no risk of death, and making people feel happy and nice? That’s because it’s profitable to arrest and incarcerate people for marijuana. It also ensures the continued oppression of people of color, which is pretty necessary to turn a profit in capitalist America. 

 We continue to organize Smoke Down Prohibition every month because these laws are unjust, racist, and fiscally irresponsible. As a result, PhillyNORML and the Panic Hour call both the Philadelphia City Council and the federal government to investigate, in public hearings, the implications and costs associated with marijuana prohibition enforcement.

In the meantime, while the drama of the Obamacare shutdown continues, look for us at Independence Hall.  We’ll be the ones smiling peacefully, protesting, and calling for an end to the madness!

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