Anarcha-feminism is one of the early facets of feminism that is often shunned by mass media.
Maybe that’s because it provides a double-whammy to the established orders of mankind.
Anarcha-feminism is a philosophy that espouses anarchy and feminism, due to their intrinsic relationship. Anarcha-feminists believe that the struggle against the patriarchy is merely one of the facets of the greater fight against class division and major state control. In fact, many anarcha-feminists claim that the existence of a patriarchy is simply a manifestation or a centralized hierarchy, and that the removal of one will logically bring about the fall of another. L. Susan Brown, a prominent writer and adherer to the philosophy, has put it at its concise best thus,
“As anarchism is a political philosophy that opposes all relationships of power, it is inherently feminist”.
Since the 1860s, anarchists’ vocal critique of capitalism and the class divide has been extended to form an attack on the patriarchal system. Authors like Emma Goldman and Lucy Parsons began to unravel the ideas behind the theory in the 19th and 20th centuries. During the Spanish Civil War, a group of female protesters joined to form the first documented anarcha-feminist group, “MujeresLibres”, or “Free Women”.
In Argentina, thousands of kilometres away VirginaBolten ran a publication called “La Voz de la Mujer”, or “The Woman’s Voice”. It systematically and methodically exposed links between the oppression of women and the existence of a rich bourgeoisie. According to Bolten, marriages were institutions designed by the richer classes in order to have power over and dominate women. By breaking down the hold of men on women – established through marriage, then the elite’s hold on other men would similarly collapse, opening up the world to a decentralized and free society. In those days, the marriage contract was almost literally an agreement that nullified a woman’s inherent human rights, and women like Bolten (who was deported) sought to end it.
Anarcha-feminism is very similar to the “Free Love” movement in that they both repudiates the presence of religious or governmental institutions in personal relationships like amorous affairs or child-birth. The “Free Love” movement was very anarchist in its desire to have the freedom to live with and enjoy other people’s company far from the prying eye of the state. It also disputed the existence of laws against adultery, as they were believed to be invasive and disrespectful of a person’s capability to make choices about their partners.
The main pillars of anarcha-feminism are its complete opposition to the traditional roles of the opposite genders, and the opinion that nobody should define a woman’s role in education and family. The concept of marriage is completely opposite to anarcha-feminist values, and the two women commonly regarded as the founders of the philosophy have attacked it vehemently. Voltairine De Cleyre said that it stifled individual growth, whilst Emma Goldman claimed that it was “primarily an economic arrangement” which the woman paid for with “her name, her privacy, her self-respect, her very life.
Non-hierarchical family structures and looser educational models are also a staple of anarcha-feminist philosophy. The Modern School in New York City was based on the ideas of Francesc Ferrer I Guardia, and moulded by many of the anarcha-feminists ideas.
In certain publications in the USA, anarcha-feminists have attacked other anarchists for being too dismissive of women’s issues and how an anarchy would resolve them, publishing some texts calling out a “Manarchy”, or male-oriented anarchy that’d be no better to them than the current state of affairs. The friction also arose out of the perception that some anarchists were overtly anti-feminist.
Anarcha-feminists have found support from Eco-feminist groups due to their support for the healing of the planet and for being the only feminist sub-group to show any concern for the environment.
Currently, there are not a great number of anarcha-feminist groups, but the major ones are Bolivia’s MujeresCreando, Radical Cheerleaders and the Spanish anarcha-feminist squat La EskaleraKarakola. Boston, USA, is home to an annual anarcha-feminist conference called La Rivolta!
L. Susan Brown & Peggy Kornegger are two of today’s most prominent anarcha-feminists authors. They have published several books and papers explaining the philosophy to other women in order to garner more support for their philosophy.
Two films have been made regarding anarcha-feminists, one in Spain and another in Argentina – where some of the most iconic anarcha-feminists hailed from. “Libertarias” was released in 1996 and told the story of the 30,000 strong anarcha-feminist group that undertook very aggressive forms of propaganda, organizing rallies and radio shows and newspaper publications all geared towards letting people know about their movement.
The other is called “Ni Dios, Ni Patron, NiMarido” and was released in 2010. The title means “Neither God, Nor Boss, Nor Husband” and recounts the story of Virginia Bolten and her publication, “La Voz de la Mujer”. Although she was deported, an edition of the print appeared in Montevideo some years after her exile, which suggests that she never stopped campaigning.
Despite its lack of publicity, the group is an important one because it fuses traditional anarchist values with what they will mean to a woman specifically, and unites two philosophies that aren’t obviously linked. It is just an example of women fighting to be understood and respected, regardless of the world’s dominant philosophy.