Brainsplotion

Posted on October 25, 2012

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This is a very long (roughly 11 pages), very very rough, brainstorm for my thesis. There are no paragraphs and no clear organization, it’s simply my thoughts on three sources I have. So here it is, in all of its glorious messiness. Glad it’s out of my head! As always feedback is much appreciated. Cheers!

For a long time I felt lost within feminist fetters. Through the various types of theories (Postmodern, Eco, Intersectionality, etc.) I came to realize the extent to which all people, non-human animals, and even the earth, are oppressed in various ways, and all converge around patriarchy and hierarchy in general. Yet I could not find a comprehensive theory for action that addressed the deep-seated dominion over human activities. And then I was introduced to Emma Goldman’s writing, “On Anarchism”. And while it clearly was not “feminist” as in woman-centered (Goldman even uses “man” or “men” in replace of “people” *shiver*), to me it was astounding that a woman was one of the most articulate and well known proponents of Anarchism before women could even vote, and i loved that it dealt with human oppression. For too long the feminist ventures and campaigns were too… un-encompassing of the plurality of women’s experiences. Too centralized in a middle  class western location.  But I will get to that in more detail.  In “On Anarchism” Goldman identifies the ways people are oppressed: “Religion, the dominion of the human mind; Property, the dominion of human needs; and Government, the dominion of human conduct, represent the stronghold of man’s enslavement and all the horrors it entails” (72).  Obviously a feminist critique would say this doesn’t account for the ways in which women are oppressed as women.  Which is true! It also doesn’t identify the ways in which human bodies are restricted and conditioned and dominated for production (I believe Foucault writes about this).  And it obviously doesn’t take into account the modern way we are economically controlled through debt and the general cost of living. Which to me is absurd as a concept… cost of living.  Like it should cost money, fiat currency, a man-made invention, to survive.  To have water and food and shelter.. the very basics for living has a value and market price. Absurd. And the fact that we don’t even consider this strange, that “it’s just the way it is” shows how deeply conditioned we are. But I digress.  Feminists are far too familiar with the ways religion functions as a tool of oppression, and of the ways in which institutions do as well.  Schools, the workplace, etc. How patriarchy and white supremacy are perpetuated through these institutions. I do not know if the State – government – has been criticized too harshly, however (and when you think about what happens to people who do, historically speaking, it’s no wonder). We criticize certain laws, of course. But not the man-made institution which literally dictates how we live and has privileged a certain minority of the population and marginalized the rest. And this is where i feel the feminisms I have become familiar with have failed.  I had always understood Anarchy to be synonymous with chaos and destruction – Propaganda is an effective tool.  Never had I considered it to be “The philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man-made law; the theory that all forms of government rest on violence, and are therefore wrong and harmful, as well as unnecessary” (69). Women know all about living restricted lives under man-made laws, institutions, and interpersonal relationships. Women also have railed against the “male” construct of militarism and violence (which is, generally speaking too essentialist and not queer enough for me). Obviously it’s a bit utopian. But it’s better than government..Quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson “All government in essence is tyranny.  It matters not whether it is government by divine right or majority rule.  In every instance its aim is the absolute subordination of the individual” and I believe he is correct.  When discussing the founding of the United States, the Declaration of Independence is hailed as the bringer of liberty, with all of it’s talk of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Historian Howard Zinn sheds a different light on this document: “The philosophy of the Declaration, that government is set up by the people to secure their life, liberty, and happiness, and is to be overthrown when it no longer does that, is often traced to the ideas of John Locke, in his Second Treatise on Government…The Declaration, like Locke’s Second Treatise, talked about government and political rights, but ignored the existing inequalities on property…Locke’s statement of people’s government was in support of a revolution in England for the free development of mercantile capitalism at home and abroad” (A People’s History of the United States, p 73). Never mind for a moment that this government fails to secure life, liberty, and happiness (how many americans are on anti-depressants nowadays?) and should be overthrown.. the establishment of our government was primarily to establish economic freedom from England.  We are never taught in History classes how after the war for independence from Britain was won, any rebellion in the newly-born United States was punishable by death, or how the people who served in political offices were generally wealthy businessmen, carefully crafting political systems that would always benefit them and never work against them: “The Constitution, then, illustrates the complexity of the American system: that it serves the interests of a wealthy elite, but also does enough for small property owners, for middle-income mechanics and farmers, to build a broad base of support.  The slightly prosperous people who make up this base of support are buffers against the blacks, the Indians, the very poor whites.  They enable the elite to keep control with a minimum of coercion, a maximum of law – all made palatable by the fanfare of patriotism and unity” (99).  We never question the establishment “property rights” on stolen land.  And while this may seem a little out of context in a feminist standpoint, I feel it is important to understand how deeply and fundamentally flawed this government has been from the start.  OBVIOUSLY women did not help establish it, or the various other institutions that sprang up thereafter, but we need to understand the economic and production/consumption aspect as well, in order to understand why the State is inherently antithetical to human growth and well-being. The centralization of power, like the centralized mode of production, is absolutely antithetical to living free lives.  Goldman says,“Strange to say, there are people who extol this deadening method of centralized production as the proudest achievement of our age.  They fail utterly to realize that if we are to continue in machine subserviency, our slavery is more complete than was our bondage to the King.  They do not want to know that centralization is not only the death-knell of liberty, but also of health and beauty, of art and science, all these things being impossible in a clock-like mechanical atmosphere” (75). It’s like a prediction of the future. Quoting Ouida: “‘It’s highest attainment is the reduction of mankind to clockwork… the State requires a taxpaying machine in which there is no hitch, an exchequer in which there is never a deficit, and a public, monotonous, obedient, colorless, spiritless, moving humbly like a flock of sheep along a straight high road between two walls’” (77-8) Sheeple. In schoolrooms across the country students are taught to be docile and obedient, to regiment their bodies and their time, to memorize and regurgitate information to show they are “intelligent”.  We make them respect authority.  Never speak out of turn. We do not teach critical thinking, we do not value the insight and creativity of the youth.  Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed is the best explanation I’ve ever read of how wrong our methods of education are for human development, how they are tailored to create obedient objects. And of course all of this affects women differently than it affects men differently than it affects trans and other queer peoples. And people of color.  And people with disabilities. People encompassing all the -isms. But for now I want to explore Anarchism as a theory. “But the chaos! We need government to make sure people stay in line!!” I can hear the dreadful cries now! “The most absurd apology for authority and law is that they serve to diminish crime.  Aside from the fact that the state is itself the greatest criminal, breaking every written and natural law, stealing in the form of taxes, killing in the form of war and capital punishment, it has come to an absolute standstill in coping with crime.  It has failed utterly to destroy or even minimize the horrible scourge of its own creation” (81).  The united states, I’m fairly certain, has the highest crime rate of any industrialized nation, as well as the highest incarceration rate. If we are the land of the free, how come “ The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.” (NY Times Article “U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations” By Adam Liptak, Wednesday, April 23, 2008). Most of them are nonviolent offenders.  I think Goldman has it right when she says, “Crime is naught but misdirected energy.  So long as every institution today, economic, political, social, and moral, conspires to misdirect human energy into wrong channels; so long as most people are out of place doing the things they hate to do, living a life they loathe to live, crime will be inevitable, and all the laws on the statutes can only increase, but never do away with, crime” (81).  The laws “on the books” don’t matter; we have statutes banning domestic violence and punishing batterers, but domestic violence is still rampant. And on the other hand it is illegal to steal, but what if you need food? The system is flawed and it cannot liberate us. For so long the Feminist or women’s rights movements have been located within the system as non profits, campaigns, and the like. AND IT’S NOT WORKING. Period. Just this year the Equal Pay Act was voted down.  In the year 2012 women still are not guaranteed by law to receive equal pay for work. In summation: “The political superstition is still holding sway over the hearts and minds of the masses, but the true lovers of liberty will have no more to do with it.  Instead they believe with Stirner that man has as much liberty as he is willing to take.  Anarchism there fore stands for direct action, the open defiance of, and resistance to, all laws and restrictions, economic, social and moral.  But defiance and resistance are illegal.  Therein lies the salvation of man.” (88) I think women are afraid to revolt.  That they still feel compelled to “play nice” or be gracious about our liberation from the oppressive shackles of this system.  Too conscious of the “angry feminist” stereotype that can, and does, delegitimize work we do in the minds of our peers.  Yet putting our faith in others to change things for the better is not only, as Thoreau says, leaving it to chance, it is placing power in the hands of others instead of with ourselves: “ Quoting Thoreau: “‘All voting,’ says Thoreau, ‘is a sort of gaming, like checkers, or backgammon, a playing with right and wrong; its obligation never exceeds that of expediency.  Even voting for the right thing is doing nothing for it.  A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority’” (86).  It’s lazy! More on this and “movement building” and “political movements” later. Politics are like theatre, a spectacle. We need to resist that which we know is immoral and unjust. And I don’t mean breaking the windows of a Bank of America. I do mean not buying products that are perpetuating human or animal exploitation and suffering. It’s hard to know now, in modern times, which actions we can take to gain liberation. A lot of it, i believe, is located in our personal lives, in the power we do have over the choices we make and the way we live our lives day-to-day. The personal is political.  “Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government.  Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations” (84-5). Women know the dominion of religion, of the need for her body to be liberated, and to be free from institutionalized oppression.  Thanks to intersectionality we understand that it is not enough that some women are free. How can we be happy and feel accomplished and liberated when our sisters worldwide are suffering still, and that we have a hand in that exploitation is deplorable. Compartmentalized or nationalistic views of liberation do not suffice for me. Our usual methods of seeking equality (through government and legislation) have failed us.  From “On Anarchism” I felt compelled to read Goldman’s “Woman Suffrage” to get an understanding of her “feminism” now that I understood opposition to production/the State.  It really brought to light for me the limitation of conventional women’s rights efforts, and the stranglehold on feminist thought until marginalized women were finally recognized and their critiques and theories (like intersectionality) incorporated into the broader Feminist camp. It also highlights the shortsightedness (although hindsight is 20-20, right?): ““Needless to say, I am not opposed to woman suffrage on the conventional ground that she is not equal to it.  I see neither physical, psychological, nor mental reasons why woman should not have the equal right to vote with man.  But that can not possibly blind me to the absurd notion that woman will accomplish that wherein man has failed…To assume, therefore, that she would succeed in purifying something which is not susceptible of purification, is to credit her with supernatural powers” (ebook from Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2162/2162-h/2162-h.htm).  The United States government was corrupt from the start, and nothing women could do could fix a broken system. It was not geared toward securing freedom for people, but rather securing economic interests and capitalist developments.  It did not “protect” people or grant them liberty (and how foolish to think something man-made, or even human made, could grant people that which is their birthright!). Believing that radical change can come from within a system crafted for a specific agenda is unrealistic.  The government, and all the power it wields, will not be challenged or overturned through its own channels and structures.  Goldman says, “The women of Australia and New Zealand can vote, and help make the laws.  Are the labor conditions better there than they are in England, where suffragettes are making such a heroic struggle?  Does there exist a greater motherhood…is woman there no longer considered a mere sex commodity?  Has she emancipated herself from the Puritanical double standard of morality for men and women?” Those questions are valid today. What, realistically, have we achieved? How much ‘progress’ can be made through traditional legal channels? As I mentioned before, just this year the Equal Pay Act was voted down, and thousands of pieces of legislation passed through state legislatures aimed at curtailing women’s access to birth control and abortion.  Yes, of course the fact that abortion is legal is an “accomplishment”, as in it would not have been achieved without the right to vote. but it also wouldn’t be necessary if not for the dominating legal apparatus that forces compliance through the threat of violence/the threat of punishment. And so abortion is legal (for now), what has legislation done to target the root cause of unintended pregnancy? Yes, we have legislation like VAWA, but has it helped us ease the epidemic of violence against women? Working at a state-wide domestic violence coalition I was confronted with the stipulation on our Department of Justice grant (under the Violence Against Women Act) that excluded any of the money to be used for prevention work. HOW DOES THAT MAKE SENSE? We can put a band-aid on the problem, but not get to the real cause. Women in politics is, at best, a protective and defensive strategy.  It helps to ensure that women are not further disenfranchised by those who would wish to exert power and control over half the population.  However, it is not an effective means of achieving true liberty.  It was never intended to be such a thing. It gives us tiny slices of the power-pie, satisfying our cravings for liberation: “True, in the suffrage States women are guaranteed equal rights to property, but of what avail is that right to the mass of women without property, the thousands of wage workers, who live from hand to mouth?” And this of course exemplifies the classic critique of the woman’s suffrage movement: that at best, it brought more power to women in the upper echelons of society.  Property rights!  Rights to properties that were stolen from indigenous peoples, stained with the blood of other women. And today we still fail to see how our actions perpetuate the exploitation of sisters worldwide: ““Still, those who believe in the power of the vote show little sense of justice when they concern themselves not at all with those whom, as they claim, it might serve the most…The rest [of suffragists] look upon toil as a just provision of Providence.  What would become of the rich, if not for the poor? What would become of these idle, parasitic ladies, who squander more in a week than their victims earn in a year, if not for the 80 million wage workers?”  Today slave-like labor produces the goods consumed by people in the United States, specifically ladies. Our comfort items, this fast-paced consumer lifestyle, this disposable lifestyle, rests on the exploitation of women around the world.  And we don’t really want to talk about that.  Or I will hear self-proclaimed feminists discuss it, philosophize it, but never do anything about it. Still shop at WalMart, where women are systematically disenfranchised in the various forms from unequal pay and punishment for pregnancy to sexual harassment and repercussions for speaking out.  Still buy products made by women in sweatshops over seas. Because it’s convenient. And because the way we view “the movement” today is that equality is in the hands of others, who are better-equipped to fight for our justice.  And so Emma had it right when she said, ““The history of the political activities of men proves that they have given him absolutely nothing that he could not have achieved in a more direct, less costly, and more lasting manner.  As a matter of fact, every inch of ground he has gained has been through a constant fight, a ceaseless struggle for self-assertion, and not through suffrage.  There is no reason whatsoever to assume that woman, in her climb to emancipation, has been, or will be, helped by the ballot…[Woman] can give suffrage or the  ballot no new quality, nor can she receive anything from it that will enhance her own quality.  Her development, her freedom, her independence, must come from and through herself.  First, by asserting herself as a personality, and not as a sex commodity.  Second, by refusing the right to anyone over her body; be refusing to bear children, unless she wants them; by refusing to be a servant to God, the State, society, the husband, the family, etc.; by making her life simpler, but deeper and richer…by freeing herself from the fear of public opinion and public condemnation.  Only that, and not the ballot, will set woman free, will maker her a force hitherto unknown in the world, a force for real love, for peace, for harmony; a force of divine fire, of life giving; a creator of free men and women”.  The ballot will not suffice. For so many reasons. So after reading Goldman and having a brainsplosion, I knew there had to be anarchofeminist literature out there, because the two fields fit perfectly together. What was there to be offered in this camp of thought that had been lacking elsewhere? I needed to ground myself in a pre-blended medley, not just the stew that was swirling in my own brain.  I found an article “AnarchoFeminism: Two Statements” written by “Chicago Anarcho-Feminists”, the latter of the statements was written by Red Rosia and Black Maria of Black Rose Anarcho-Feminists. Both articles first appeared in Siren – A Journal of Anarcho-Feminism Vol 1 No 1 in 1971. Anarchism touts itself as the most ultimate and necessary form of radical politics, “far more radical than any form of Marxism” (1).  Marxism, as Shannon says in Articulating a Contemporary Anarcha-Feminism (2009) is traditionally the politics of activists in the streets. The go-to philosophy of radicals, as it were. Perhaps I’ll explore further how Marxism is inadequate, since it’s the “next best” radical ideology and has a rich historical tradition of resistance and liberation (labor rights and unions, anticapitalism, etc).  This woman’s collective believes “anarchism is the logically consistent expression of feminism” (2), and I could not agree more.  Since feminism understand the various ways all people are oppressed, the only logically consistent way to express that is in fighting for the liberation of all people.  They also feel “that a Woman’s Revolutionary Movement must not mimic, but destroy, all vestiges of the male-dominated power structure, the State itself – with its whole ancient and dismal apparatus of jails, armies, and armed robbery (taxation); with all its murder, with all of its grotesque and repressive legislation and military attempts, internal and external, to interfere with people’s private lives and freely-chosen co-operative ventures” (1). Love the sentiment, minus the very seemingly rigid gender dichotomy of man/woman. A little too essentialist for me. But really the idea that we cannot mimic the current power structure, that it all needs to be re-worked from the ground up, is essential.  And soon, as “the world obviously cannot survive many more decades of rule by gangs of armed males calling themselves governments.  The situation is insane, ridiculous and even suicidal” (1). It’s true that if we continue on this exploitative, unsustainable path of destruction/reign of terror on our natural resources eventually it is inevitable that we will reach the tipping point of non-habitability, irreversibly harming the fragile balance that enables our planet to harbor life. But this goes beyond gender constructs – with the exception of the patriarchal relationship to the earth that ecofeminism explains so well. Men, women, and everyone in between participate in the exploitation and destruction of the earth. But it’s true that something’s gotta give if we are to continue to live healthily on a healthy and thriving earth. “The State, by its inherent nature, is really incapable of reform.  True socialism, peace and plenty for all, can be achieved only by people themselves, not by representatives ready and able to turn guns on all who do not comply with State directives” (1). The State forces compliance on citizens through the stated and unstated threat of punishment. And as Goldman pointed out, noncompliance is illegal, and being forced  to deal with the legal system, from jail to court, is a damn good way to deter people from rising up.  I speak from experience. And the legality of resistance to an oppressive State is currently dwindling.  Initiatives like the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Patriot Act and all spying provisions (reinstated by our “liberal” President Obama), the blatant violence and repression against protestors and activists, not to mention COINTELPRO and infiltration activists have faced over the years.  Look at Bradley Manning. We need to rise up while it’s still possible; it seems that soon we will not have the right to even protest, even though protesting does nothing more than bringing attention to an issue. Which when combined with voting can protect marginalized peoples from further oppression. Which shouldn’t be confused with liberating. This piece is very obviously dated, in that decades have passed with gangs of armed man-governments destroying the planet. And this, “…the coming Socialist Sisterhood which is destined to play a determining role in the future of the race, if there really is to be a future” (1). It’s so dramatic! And yet the strong desperation and urgency is not unfamiliar to me. I only wish the Socialist Sisterhood had survived. And before we get our panties in a political wad about socialism, “Another synonym for Anarchism is Libertarian Socialism, as opposed to Statist and authoritarian varieties.  Anarchism (from the Greek anarchos – without ruler) is the affirmation of human freedom and dignity expressed in a negative, cautionary term signifying that no person should rule or dominate another person by force or threat of force” (1).  Of course in practice the question always becomes how do we stop a person or people who wish to harm or otherwise dominate others?  In stopping someone from harming another, are we not imposing our will? Tricky, tricky. And indeed it seems too…utopian, “Socialism… means all the groovy things people can do and build together, once they are able to combine efforts and resources on the basis of common interest, rationality, and creativity” (2). Groovy! The ideas of mutual aid and free association are often scoffed at as beyond the realm of possibility given “human nature” – by which people mean that human beings are inherently bad, greedy, malicious.  I think Goldman said it best in “On Anarchism”: “Poor human nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in they name!  Every fool, from king to policeman, from the flatheaded parson to the visionless dabbler in science, presumes to speak authoritatively of human nature.  The greater the mental charlatan, the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and weaknesses of human nature.  Yet, how can anyone speak of it today, with every soul in a prison, with every heart fettered, wounded, and maimed?… John Burroughs has stated that experimental study of animals in captivity is absolutely useless.  Their character, their habits, their appetites undergo a complete transformation when torn from their soil in field and forrest.  With human nature caged in a narrow space, whipped daily into submission, how can we speak of its potentialities?” (84). We have no idea about human nature, after centuries of captivity. When we look at some of the indigenous peoples of the Americas before Europeans killed and conquered, we see that cooperative community living was possible and practiced.  Howard Zinn, quoting Gary Nash, describes the Irogois culture: “No laws and ordinances, sheriffs and constables, judges and juries, or courts or jails – the apparatus of authority in European societies – were to be found in the northeast woodlands prior to European arrival.  Yet boundaries of acceptable behavior were firmly set.  Though priding themselves on the autonomous individual, the Iroquois maintained a strict sense of right and wrong… He who stole another’s food or acted invalorously in war was ‘shamed’ by his people and ostracized from their company until he had atoned for his actions and demonstrated to their satisfaction that he had morally purified himself” (A People’s History, p 21). And the Iroquois were no small clan. I use this example to highlight the fact that not only are we unaware of the capabilities or the true form of human nature, we have re-written histories to reflect a specific and useful attitude toward human nature as a viable excuse for governmental control “for our own good”.  We are used to living in uncompromising or otherwise extreme ways – extreme consumerism, consumption in general; extreme wastefulness; etc.  And yet we are also, as a society, used to NOT questioning this normalized way of life. Even though our collective/average lifestyle is COMPLETELY, one hundred percent, unsustainable. We are in dire need of dramatic and uncomfortable paradigm shifts and new ways of living. “As anarcho-feminists, we aspire to have the courage to question and challenge absolutely everything – including, when it proves necessary, our own assumptions” (Two Statements, p 2).  We HAVE to question everything. Including ourselves. Otherwise we become stagnant and unable to stay current with various theories of oppression. Praxis.  I would question this article’s essentialist assumptions and how realistic the goals are. No. Fuck that. Rather I question how to see such lofty goals manifested in reality, how to put it in practice. Movements and campaigns, as highlighted above, have failed.  “Why are many women sick and tired of ‘movements’? Our answer is that the fault lies with the nature of movements, not with the individual women.  Political movements, as we have known them, have separated us from our personal dreams of liberation, until either we are made to abandon our dreams as impossible or we are forced to drop out of the movement because we hold steadfastly to our dreams” (2). Political movements, especially today with the rise in popularity of campaigns and non-profits (usually driven by consumerism, government funds, and grants/donations) Takes responsibility out of the hands of the people and into institutions.  Institutions that are usually tied to the system we are up against in one way or another. Working in a social-justice oriented nonprofit I became familiar with this phenomenon as “the nonprofit industrial complex”.  Campaigns and non-profits, because of where funds come from and the ways they are legally bound by the system they are navigating WITHIN, have a lot limitations and are forced to make a lot of compromise.  A lot.  According to this manifesto/statement, there are principally two kinds of action in the women’s liberation movement (in the 1970s, at least): “One has been the small, local, volitionally organized consciousness raising group, which at best has been a very meaningful mode of dealing with oppression from a personal level and, at worst, never evolved beyond the level of a therapy group” (2). I believe bell hooks had a similar critique. I shall try to find it.  I think it is important to recognize the benefits of CR groups, important for woman to have an affinity group and a space to explore and understand the ways we face oppression in our daily lives (I’d like to see one around politicizing the everyday choices we make to ensure a lifestyle in line with our philosophies).  To create a shared understanding to work from.  Hopefully CR groups would cross class, ethnic, sexuality lines and would foster a deeper understanding of intersectionality.  But it isn’t direct action.  “The other principle mode of participation has been large, bureaucratized groups which have focused their activities along specific policy lines, taking great pains to translate women’s oppression into concrete, single-issue programmes” (2), which makes sense when that translation is the only political language allowed.  And that political system is upheld as the best, most effective and most polite and respectable way to change the world. Imagine if women like Gloria Steinam were worried about being respectable.  Part of me wonders if women today have lost our backbone, or are too distracted. Again, this isn’t to say that the political system has been completely useless to women, but marital rape laws don’t stop marital rape.  “The elitism and centralization of the old male left thereby has found and already poisoned parts of the women’s movement with the attitude that political sophistication must mean ‘building’ a movement around single issue programmes, thereby implying that ‘we must be patient until the masses’ consciousness is raised to our level’.  How condescending to assume that an oppressed person must be told that she is oppressed! How condescending to assume that her consciousness will grow only by plodding along, from single-issue to next single issue” (3).  This problem is multi-fold. First, single-issue campaigns are a problem in and of themselves. Second, it definitely is elitist to think “well, the masses must achieve our intellect” – oppressed people know they are oppressed and campaigns that don’t appeal to them or the fact that they wont donate $5 for a cause that might affect them says nothing of their understanding of the issue.  How long have middle and upper class white women told their marginalized sisters what is best? How long have middle and upper class white women controlled the women’s liberation movement? Centralization is a problem in and of itself. It does not leave room for the multiplicity of people’s experiences. “We are so numerous and dispersed that we have identified ourselves erroneously as members of particular classes on the basis of ‘our men’, our fathers or our husbands.  So women of the left regarding ourselves as middle-class more than oppressed women, have been led to neglect engaging in our own struggle as our primary struggle.  Instead , we have dedicated ourselves to fight on behalf of other oppressed peoples, thus alienating ourselves from our own plight…[women] speak of the need to organize working class women, without concentrating on the need to organize ourselves – as if we were already beyond that level” (3). I think the alignment with “our men” goes deep, and has translated into certain women presently achieving high and middle social and economic statuses without men at all. Strong forces divide women.  In media (propaganda) women are always shown as fighting and/or in competition with one another, never in solidarity.  Women in movies is, to me, best summed up by the Bechdel test: 1) there are at least two named female characters, who 2) talk to each other about 3) something other than a man. It doesn’t get much more obvious than that.  But why do women, collectively, seem to fail to see themselves as oppressed?  And why do we continue to feel helpless against it? Obviously we are constantly told that we are the most free in the world (more propaganda – “they hate us because of our freedom!” and “if you don’t like it here, see how women are treated in the middle east!” – as if comparative liberty is all we can hope for).  Maybe we recognize that we are more liberated than some of our sisters and to fully acknowledge that would mean to recognize our hand in their exploitation/oppression.  If women in china are free who will make iPhones, for the love of god??? It’s also an externalization of responsibility: If I do not acknowledge my own oppression (or the oppression of others) I am not forced to do anything about it in order to maintain my sense of myself as a good and ethical person.  I’m sure there’s a name for that… cognitive dissonance? That might be it.  Maybe we just honestly do not want to face it.  It is so overwhelming and multifaceted – how enmeshed in inequality we are – it’s seemingly hopeless. But our fate must be in our own hands.  And as feminists we know that humans are coerced and conditioned to live cissexual, heterosexual lives.  Compulsory heterosexuality.  The performance of gender (Butler).  We cannot possibly be blind to the fact that all humans are coerced, conditioned, and forced to live inauthentic, prescribed lives that locates us all as object and never subject. Even though the system – the State – is man-made, it has become its own monster; Men need to be freed from patriarchy as much as women do, just in a different way.  To be complete beings allowed all forms and variation of desires and emotions and expression.  Freire explains in Pedagogue of the Oppressed that the oppressed are the only ones in a position to liberate themselves and their oppressors, to restore humanity to everyone involved in the dehumanizing process of oppression and hierarchy. “[Anarchism] is a tradition less familiar to most radicals because it has consistently been distorted and misrepresented by the more highly organized State organizations and Marxist-Leninist organizations” (3-4) not to mention in the media (news, TV, movies, NEWS). “Anarchism is not synonymous with irresponsibility and chaos.  Indeed, it offers meaningful alternatives to the out-dated organizational and policy-making practices of the rest of the left” (4).  How is the Left serving us currently?  It’s currently mid-October in an election year, and we are being bombarded with political advertisements that say “Obama is less evil than Romney!” and the like. Which isn’t working.  However, I am left with questions of how anarchist organizing would take form and how effective they could be in modern times.  “The basic anarchist form of organization is a small group, volitionally organized and maintained, which must work toward defining the oppression of its members and what form their liberation must take” (4).  This gets tricky when we take into account the fact that we live in an information-sharing era, that globalization has firmly taken hold.  In a global society comprised of money and land hungry superpowers it is hard to imagine liberation. How we could create such a change.  “Organizing women…is viewed as amassing troops for the revolution.  But we affirm that each woman joining the struggle is the revolution. WE ARE THE REVOLUTION… We must learn to act on impulse, to abandon the restrictions on behavior that society has taught us to place on ourselves…we must no longer think of ourselves s as members of a movement, but as individual revolutionaries, co-operating” (4). I’m imagining women refusing to partake in the exploitation of others. Of refusing to cooperate.  Of saying no to centralized food (and GMO) and growing gardens and feeding communities.  And not because women are “naturally” prone to caretaking or grace, but because we have explored the multifaceted beast which is oppression/hierarchy/dominion/power and control through the eyes of our sisters everywhere, because we have a unique perspective and ability to cut across class, race, sexual lines to see how hierarchy functions, women are probably the best suited to defeat it.  I imagine women and people everywhere refusing to allow someone else to speak for them. To participate cooperatively in affinity and direct action groups, where “each member participates on an equal level of power, thus negating the hierarchical function of power. DOWN WITH ALL BOSSES! Then we will not be lost in a movement where leadership determines for us the path the movement will take – we are our own movement, we determine our own movement’s direction.  We have refused to allow ourselves to be directed, spoken for, and eventually cooled off” (4).  Fluidity and evolution.  Not rigid structures that do not benefit all members supposedly represented.  We saw this begin to blossom in the Occupy Movement, and we also saw the ways in which efforts can be infiltrated, toppled, misguided, and fizzle out.  It was, to me, a valuable learning moment in activism, and my first experience with anarchist principles.  The general organization of General Assemblies around the world were modeled around the consensus process used by anarchists. It also exemplified how the internet and information sharing can help and hinder the creation of affinity groups and bringing together of like-minded individuals around a common cause. 

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