On Sunday, June 7th a group of anarcha-feminists took the stage at the Anarchist Conference 09 to protest about sexist oppression within the movement. They projected a film and read out a statement, both of which you can find below.
Their actions went on to provoke a huge response – with comments ranging from undiluted misogyny to militant solidarity.
The misogyny provided more examples of the sexism we all battle with when we try and make our voices heard. Such attitudes make the prospect of fighting back more intimidating, but also increasingly urgent.
From the audience:
“Are you going to do a sexy dance for us?”.
Bear, was there any hotties present
a few. one of the radical feminists who disrupted it, and who I know
looked really cute in black hoodie.”
These comments are undeniably sexist, but hierarchical social relations
cannot be reduced to personal insults or behaviour. Sexism thrives upon subtle and intangible processes which make gender domination and exploitation endemic.
Those responses to the action which asked, ‘why did you take the mic from a woman?’, ‘why did you not include the woman at Speakers’ Corner?’, ‘why did you criticise a poster designed by a woman?’ were missing the point. For any focus we put on the numerical dominance of men is only a detail within our broader perspective on the institutionalised power arrangements reproduced and upheld by patriarchy. These can continue to operate in situations where a woman is taking the lead.
So the attempts in our film and text to expose and delegitimate prescribed gender roles must be seen within our larger analysis of gender oppression.
We are not fighting a battle between men and women, but one against the divisive gender labels that people remain obstinately attached to.
Consequently, we reject the conception of a binary male-female
relationship, in which sexist relations are always characterised by a male oppressor acting upon a female victim. We call for a rejection of liberal feminism’s simplistic attempts to define and reform the oppressive system we want destroyed.
The action wasn’t intended to be an attack on particular groups, or on the conference itself – it was meant to be a wake-up call to the
movement as a whole, to bring sexism to light and to provoke debate and action around how gendered power is imposed.
Where particular groups are represented in the film this is because their
visual material can be used to indicate wider sexism in the movement, not because they are more sexist than other groups.
The intervention was not carried out by pre-existing groups and should not be credited to particular individuals. Those who made it happen are
strongly committed to responding to and facing its consequences, but are acting in the knowledge that it could have been carried out by so many others. By those who followed them as they left the conference, by those who responded from movements outside of the UK, by those who emailed to say that they had faced sexism in the movement for years and never had the confidence to express it. It is being carried out by all those who have shown solidarity.
NOT THE FINAL WORD
With those who want freedom from hierarchical systems, we should continue to meet, debate, fight, organise, write.
We call for critiques and improvements of our action. We call for a
queering of our text. We call for new texts.
Claim this action as your own. Change it, fuck with it, and keep fighting