Anarchism 101: Anarchafeminism

by Andrew Louks (taken from Anarchist journal Linchpin #6)

As with anarchism, there are many ways to think of anarchafeminism. It can be thought of as a way to promote anarchist ideas within the feminist movement or vice versa – to promote feminist ideas within the anarchist movement. But anarchafeminism is not simply spun together by people involved in both. Anarchism and feminism share deep connections. —- Both combine values of
individual autonomy with collective good and collective action. An anarchafeminist women’s health clinic, for instance, would necessarily include abortion in its services or referrals because women should control their own bodies. It would value equitable service for all, which means it could never be a privatized, never charge fees or institute practices that would exclude lower-income, immigrant or marginalized women from its service. And it would be organized by women, for women in a non-hierarchical fashion.

Both demand a rooting out of power and authority to achieve a liberation far beyond surface level equality, not stopping, for example, at wage equality and “equal access to exploitation” in top down workplaces that exploit for profit.

Anarchism can be thought of in relation to other political traditions as well. Anarchafeminists will find the liberal feminist focus on liberating Afghan women from their burqhas insufficient if that means most will then find themselves free from ultra-oppressive home environments only to be forced into exploitative labour markets oriented at rich Western consumers. Anarchafeminists would also see this limited focus on one kind of oppression as recreating colonial and patriarchal relations – telling women how they should be liberated, and using limited understandings of oppression to ultimately support war, occupation and different kinds of exploitation.

In practice, anarchafeminist struggles are often a response to sexism within anarchist organizations. The traditional left idea that so-called “non-class oppressions” should be regarded as secondary, that they will be automatically addressed by a successful working class struggle, is unacceptable to anarchafeminists. Anarchafeminists demand that change begins now, that radical
feminist projects are an integral part of social change and not a subordinated after thought. An excellent example of women’s struggles within and alongside larger anarchist movements is Mujeres Libres, or “Free Women of Spain,” which organized and empowered women for decades leading up to the 1936 Spanish revolution. Here, women fought on the front lines against fascism and pushed the anarchist movement to recognize women’s struggles as revolutionary struggles.

For more on anarchafeminism, do check out:

Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women
AK Press: 2005

RAG (Revolutionary Anarchafeminist Group):

The Emma Goldman Papers:

Look for more anarchafeminist content in the December/January Linchpin

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