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Anarchist Critique of Hard-Line, Authoritarian Manarchy Feminism

category north america / mexico | gender | other libertarian press author Sunday July 06, 2008 05:43author by freedom1936 - Second Life On-line Virtual Community Report this post to the editors

A letter criticizing hardline authoritarian feminism within anarchism

A Open Letter critiquing the use of the term "(man)archists" by Anarchist-feminists, and critiquing what is now called "manarchy feminism" (which originated out of Philadelphia, PA, USA, in which men within anarchist organizations are under attack more often than external foes to liberty and human freedom.
Anarcha-Feminists Second Life Group Profile Image
Anarcha-Feminists Second Life Group Profile Image

I wanted to make some suggestions and give an opinion on your description of the anarcha-feminist group you made on Second Life, but wasn't sure if they would be received very well, but I might as well make them rather than remaining silent, else nothing can ever possibly change.

I strongly and vehemently disagree with the use of the term "(man)archist" in your group description, and the paradoxical image of female militia women from the Spanish Civil War (milicianas) in the profile for the group. I'll will give my reasons now: In her book "Free Women of Spain" ( http://www.amazon.com/Free-Women-Spain-Anarchism-Emancipation/dp/1902593960/ ), writer Martha Ackelsberg pointed out that the women she interviewed in Spain who had been milicianas had been repulsed by modern day anarcha-feminists they met in recent times who had attitudes toward men that encouraged attacks against them over such things as talking a lot or using loud voices, not automatically giving women leadership of any institution (whether anarchist, syndicalist, or even the modern attempts at re-establishing Students for a Democratic Society/SDS) purely because they were women - and not because they proved they were competent at doing delegate work in anarchist and syndicalist and general progressive organization offices, and generally had the attitude and ideology that they had to shame, yell at, and "militantly beg" men to behave the way they wished, with no allowance for explanation or testimony or discussion from the anarchist men, and no regard for the men's feelings, state of mental health (which often has more to do with casual behavior, such as tone of voice or amount of talking - that man you think talks a lot because he is sexist may simply have a form of OCD. Those of us who have attended mental clinics have shared these problems with our sisters seeking treatment as well - trust me on this. In the world of mental illness we are all equally messed up regardless of gender or sexual preference). Manarchy feminists care little for the sensitive man, and if they can tear him to pieces and call him sexist and a rapist openly just for being a male, and make him even cry with no mercy if he is a sensitive type they see it as scoring points, and care nothing for this human being they have just potentially lost as an ally. That so many men are openly emotional and sensitive today more than any other time is utterly ignored by such hard-line authoritarian feminist women who call themselves anarchists.

The modern anarcha-feminists reportedly insulted and denounced the Mejures Libres members alive today whom they met, women who during the Spanish Civil War had seen feminism as forwarded by their libertarian actions themselves: fighting and organizing against capitalism and the "free market" myth, and opposing the police, jails and state apparatus capital needs in order to exist (and which it creates - even those forms of capitalism claiming to be "libertarian" because they offer a few token gestures such as pot legalization), instead of doing what modern day manarchy feminist anarcha-feminists do: "going on strike" against all anarchist and progressive men and not permitting men to organise collectives or unions until they exhibited perfect politically correct behavior, and expecting men to suffer and be socially lowered like women have historically suffered - being abused and put down by anarcha-feminist women publicly, at meetings, and on electronic mailing-lists for the smallest things, such as talking a lot, eating meat, being interested in militaria/guns as a hobby, or speaking with a loud voice at a meeting, even if the same men did tireless work to promote feminism, read feminist books, and regularly demanded equal rights and equal pay for women in the workplace on a regular basis.

In various cases there are indeed men who harbor what are called sexist attitudes or behavior that they find immensely difficult to totally reject - this is especially difficult for men in the poor white, Latino, and black communities (as well as those in the American and British military) because they are constantly watched by their male friends who will beat them up if they exhibit any alleged "queer" behavior. In such cases, feminist women of courage and genius, who are true leaders, would understand that there are such things as tactical progress, where total acceptance of demands is sacrificed for some amount of tangible real-world success.

For example, there are some men who have contributed to Food Not Bombs who harbor what are called sexist attitudes by anarcha-feminists, yet they mostly keep them to themselves. The fact that these men cook good food and clean up and carried the equipment from the kitchens to the feeding places is regularly under-appreciated when such men are revealed to not be perfect models of politically correct "demasculinized men". It may in fact be that they are simply %100 heterosexual on the Kinsey scale, and may have no objections to real, tangible equality for women but will remain male heterosexuals regardless of what society they live in. If anarcha-feminism and its new incarnation as manarchy feminism demands "step back, so we can step up", instead of "step up together", then what possible benefit do men have for accepting, or listening to anarcha-feminists? And does the feminist women who says "who cares, they can go to hell" really expect mid-term or long-term political and social success and progress? Do they *really* believe in the libertarian ideas of *freedom* and *justice* and *equality* and *solidarity*?

Basically, while modern anarcha-feminists may take abstract inspiration from Mejures Libres, the women of Mejures Libres who were militianas in the CNT, FAI, as well as the socialist (POUM and UGT) and communist (before May of 1937 and the marxist/leninist authoritarian domination of the Popular Front) institutions and other Spanish militant union organizations did not hold the same values as modern day anarcha-feminists, especially of the manarchy feminist type. It is misleading to suggest a direct correlation between Spanish militianas, who allowed men to organize unions, etc, and attacked *specific* men for *specific* documentable and visible sexist behavior, and modern anarcha-feminists who do not allow anarchist and syndicalist meetings or any other progressive organizing to proceed until they have unquestioned control, and establish speech codes and perfect politically correct behavior reminiscent of maoist authoritarian feminist doctrine in which force, not consent, not inspiration, not setting examples, is used to get hollow and purely symbolic social progress (and which is quickly abandoned when the leninist commissars have left or been overthrown). What I am calling "manarchy feminists" are those who attack men for the subjective, not the objective, attack and abuse men for the emotional, the mystical, the symbolic, not the intellectual, physical and tangible) tend to reject ideas of logical positivism (that sexism comes from specific ideas, individuals, and social institutions) and reject ideals of habeas corpus (that the specific individual guilty of rape and sexual abuse is the one who must be called out - and instead "all men" are guilty for the individual action, all men must collectively suffer and be disenfranchised) and instead view the world in abstract symbolic metaphysical terms where generalizations carry more weight than actual established facts.

It would be much better that if your group unapologetically takes a position hostile to anarchist men purely for being men or purely for adopting some sexist behaviors because they grow up in modern culture and have little chance to see the benefits of non-sexist behavior to them when they are men who consciously choose to be sexist ...to (has anyone even considered actually trying to *convince* people, and let them decide on their own? Or does this idea have no place in anarchy today?) instead use modern anarcha-feminist imagery directly related to such groups, available here: http://www.anarcha.org/pictures.php

On the other hand, if you do feel a strong connection to Mejures Libres, I suggest reading Martha Ackelsberg's book, and also reading articles such as this one: http://infoshop.org/library/Are_you_stuck_on_%22Manarchy%22 which support anarcha-feminism but understand that if men (not as "men" but purely as human beings) have *nothing* positive to look forward to by being anarchists or syndicalists besides abuse, insults, shunning and shaming on the basis simply that they are men, and on the basis that sexism is defined as a nebulous, abstract, metaphysical, non-logical positivist and counter-scientific idea that can never be defeated unless men are reduced to emotional suffering, abuse, banishment, and "having their dicks cut off" (as the essay by a mentally ill woman, "The SCUM Manifesto" recommended) purely for being male, ignoring the fact that such may be queer, bisexual, mentally ill (especially suffering from depression, addiction, obsessive compulsive behavior, or attention-deficit disorder) and even identify with feminism themselves (regardless of in the past being banned from attending meetings of exclusive feminist groups, such as the Women's Action Coalition (WAC), and modern existing ones as well), Human beings who embrace feminism on their own regardless of gender because *they see it as right*, and because they suffer too in our society, and they are such human beings who abhor all social suffering of humanity, and not because they feel guilty, or must be expected to feel guilty or shamed.

Final comment: If anarcha-feminism takes a "hard line" and is a sort of reactionary and authoritarian force within the anarchist movement similar to the maoists and homophobic "the man is the leader of the family" black nationalists infiltrating (and some sadly leading) the Anarchist People of Color movement who see anarchism as a convenient label to clothe authoritarian revolutionary ideas and get "street cred" then what will become of anarchy? If people calling themselves "anarchist" get to control institutions using the label "anarchist" but harbor no interest in ideas such as setting examples and using direct action and real testimony and proof of suffering to *convince* people to become anarchists *because it is right and because it will benefit them*, not because they must be shamed and yelled at until they "get with the program", then the terms "anarchy" and "anarchism" themselves have no real meaning or value. If we are to, for example, reject Goldman, Bakunin, Korpotkin, Proudhon and the rest because they came from a more sexist, nationalist, and anti-semitic age, and if anarchism is not the alternative (no, not the "conscience of") the statist left, then while individuals who are angry at the world because they have suffered, who see politics as a sort of point-scoring game as it is defined by the capitalist culture (how many men, or white people, etc. can be made to "suffer" and feel guilty and be excluded from organizations), then what is the point? Where will the activists come from who will want to be an anarchist or a feminist? Who will want to fight racism or sexism? Why be an anarchist for the label and not for the original libertarian idea?

Such hard-line people will win their little wars, but will lose the battle in the end, and anarchism will die. The nationalists claiming to be "against the state" but for homophobia and class stratification, the marxists, leninists and maoists who want better sounding labels to mislead and recruit people, the market-rule agorists or Rothbardians claiming the label "libertarian" because they want liberty only for the rich and those with property, the primitivists and crimethincers who reject organization or responsibility and embrace living in squalor and using blind violence for political goals, the Internet griefers and script kiddies, the sociopaths and criminals, and all the rest who constantly try to claim the label "anarchist" and "libertarian" will have their way, and we wont even have language and labels to define what is real or just. There will be no place to go, and all of humanity will suffer because in these times all the people will have to rely on is what the government and the police and the corporations tell them to do, instead of listening to themselves and each other and organizing together for a better world.

author by Roguepublication date Thu Jul 10, 2008 01:42author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm not terribly familiar with the current situation in Philadelphia, but I am a bit skeptical of this line from the article:

"...which originated out of Philadelphia, PA, USA, in which men within anarchist organizations are under attack more often than external foes to liberty and human freedom."

Now, I am all for discussing and debating tactics and approaches within anarchist feminism, but to me, this reads as a someone reacting badly to strong feminists. I certainly have my critiques of reactionary feminism, but this post smacks of the sort of castration anxiety that comes from men whose intentions are to discredit feminism because they see it as an attack on them as men, as opposed to only having the motive of fair criticism.

author by freedom1936publication date Wed Jul 16, 2008 09:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Well Rogue, the problem with your comment is you didn't actually address the complex issues bought up in this opinion piece/commentary/open letter, and you don't seem to have bothered to read the article pointed to (the one at "infoshop", which explains the origins of the "manarchy feminism" concept), and you simply gave the typical knee-jerk reaction and dismissal that any complaints about these ideas and behavior will get from proponents of authoritarian feminism. Would you at least agree that there should be a distinction between "feminism" and "anarcha-feminism", and between authoritarian/maoist feminism based on force and shame and abuse, as opposed to anarchist/libertarian feminism based on discussion, demonstrable examples, and consent?

Any anarchist man should rightly be concerned about male castration, be it real or metaphorical, just as they would be equally concerned and outraged about female castration, real or metaphorical. I hope you actually grasp the significance and importance of this statement, because if you simply don't care, then this will forever be a one-sided issue.

I encourage you to look up and read the original "Are You a Manarchist???" document, because it has far more authoritarian overtones than point-for-point lists/programs such as the "Organizational Platform of the Libertarian Communists", which has been openly debated a lot in the past decade. Are we anarchists, and are we allowed to debate and voice our opinions on all issues, or is there some special case here, and if so, does it matter that the anarchist movement falters because of it?

author by Roguepublication date Thu Jul 17, 2008 09:31author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I'm unsure of why "freedom1936" feels the need to react so aggressively, nor why my post would illicit such a response. I am, as noted in my post, absolutely pro-criticizing "authoritarian feminism," I just felt the article does an injustice to itself by being written in such an excessively defensive tone. There are criticisms made for all the right and deserving reasons, and then their are critics who chime into anything that attacks any kind of feminism. All I am saying is that the line I quoted from the article gives the appearance that the motivation is more blind fear and anger, rather than a well-researched and reasoned approach. As someone who is openly critical of the brand of feminism that the article seems to be objecting to, I am merely frustrated at the reactionary tone, which I believes does the subject a disservice.

author by freedom1936publication date Fri Aug 01, 2008 07:36author address author phone Report this post to the editors

The tone was simply written in in a sense to suit the tone and urgency warranted by the attacks of the authoritarian feminists who are actually taking a "hard line" and insisting on the abandonment of democratic or consensual debate, and equal-time from both sides. We have seen a similar tone from Animal Rights activists within the anarchist movement in places like San Francisco and Boston. This idea of extreme anger, resentment, etc. justifying a sort of "steam roller" approach to the problems outlined in the essay. I think there are times when such a response are warranted. For years, AK Press had been promoting the S.C.U.M. Manifesto... obviously with some irony, but look at what really happened: an innocent, sensitive artist (Andy Warhol) had been shot by the author, who was mentally disturbed. I do believe we can sympathize with the writings of feminists such as Andrea Dworkin when she outlined women's suffering and the direct threat of abuse and rape all women have lived under from men who are cowards and unable to deal with their own sexual feelings, some of them bordering on homosexuality. I simply want to emphatically point out that there ARE sensitive men who are on the same side as the feminists, and there ARE heterosexual and heterosexist men who are tactically on the same side as the feminists, and with such harsh measures and language directed at them by the manarchy feminists, it is difficult for any opposing views to have a word edgewise. The question still stands: do feminists actually wish to "win" in practical terms, which involve more subtlety, honesty, equality, open discussion and acceptance, or is winning less important than the "appearance" or "feeling" of winning?

 
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