By Kooky, an ex-Eugene manarchist
Sexism has proven itself to be quite a controversial and divisive issue within the anarchist community. Wimmin in increasing numbers over the years, have risen up, in defiance of the male "leadership" that dominates anarchist circles, to demand, among other things, the inclusion of the struggle against sexist oppression into the anarchist agenda. In theory, anarchy opposes all forms of oppression, so it seems ironic to me that wimmin should have to spend so much of their time attempting to convince anarchist men of what should seem obvious.
For wimmin, sexist oppression is the reality that they must deal with on a daily basis; being objectified, ridiculed, and silenced by men in their lives and reduced to second class status by a male hierarchy that views wimmin as objects to be possessed, and raped and murdered by men. For men, the luxury to ignore these atrocities and avoid active participation in anti-sexist struggle is a reflection of our own privilege. It is nearly impossible for men to avoid the sexist indoctrination of male supremacist culture and sexism does not just disappear from men because they call themselves "anarchists" and proclaim themselves "liberated". What is more likely to actualize the demise of sexist oppression, would be for significant numbers of men to break ranks with the dominant supremacist culture, identify and work to transcend their own sexist behaviors and attitudes, support wimmin in their daily lives and speak out against sexism to other men. In mainstream society, very few men are willing to break the silence that maintains the culture of violence that manhood has imposed on upon wimmin. Patriarchal culture has trained men to either "mind their own business" and ignore the epidemic of violence that men unleash on wimmin or to accept it as commonplace and blame wimmin for what men do to them. The silence of men, along with the silencing of wimmin, by men, has allowed for us to remain in denial, sweeping the problems under the rug, pretending they do not exist.
Many men assume that because they do not actively participate directly in physical violence against wimmin, that they should be resolved from complicity. Yet, rape, murder, and battering of wimmin only represent one end of the continuum of sexist oppression that includes on the other end, the degrading sexist slurs, controlling and abusive behaviors, condescending attitudes, and male silence that maintain an environment that encourages men to physically violate wimmin.
I am reminded of an incident last year, in Central Park, New York City. Amongst a public gathering of thousands of people, a smaller group of men, many of whom did not even know each other, took opportunity of the crowd and began groping, molesting, and basically raping random wimmin. Not only did other men not interfere, but rather, many men, when they realized that it was possible, and that they could get away with it, joined in on the frenzy themselves. Similar incidents have occurred at "Woodstock '99", and a recent LA Lakers game that resulted in a riot afterwards. That abusive men can safely assume to face no significant obstruction from other men that would prevent them from assaulting and raping wimmin in public, in broad daylight , is a clear testament that male silence acts as a green light for men to violate wimmin.
Anarchist men, who posit themselves as enemies of oppression, have even more of a responsibility to pick up the slack left by the broader, mainstream male culture. Unfortunately, many male anarchists, much like their counterparts in mainstream society, are rather selective in choosing their battles; Mostly preferring to focus their energy fighting their own exploitation and avoiding participation in liberation struggles that would require them to transform their own behaviors and attitudes. Many anarchist men tend to view "sexism" as an issue that is secondary to class struggle(their own struggle) and insist that focusing their energy to fight sexism would distract them from "the Revolution", which is often defined as a glorified class struggle against "the State" and "Capitalism". That many anarchist men tend to identify "the State" and "Capitalism" as the oppressors, suggests a preoccupation with their own class exploitation. For many male anarchists, many of whom are also white, young, able-bodied, and heterosexual, class exploitation is the only area in which they experience any form of institutionalized domination. Based solely on their own class exploitation, anarchist men often mistakenly conclude that the cops, CEOs, landlords, bosses, and politicians that exercise authority over them to be the sole possessors of authoritarian power. By assuming that capitalist parasites and officially sanctioned agents of state repression hold some sort of monopoly on oppression, anarchists ignorantly disregard an entire spectrum of oppressors to be targeted by anarchist revolt.
This limited, white male definition of what constitutes an "oppressor" does not typically include the broader spectrum of sexist, racist, and homophobic predators that are abundantly scattered throughout all classes of our culture, even within our own movement. What about the rapists and child molesters that have infiltrated our communities, conveniently disguised as fathers, brothers, husbands, uncles, and boyfriends, or the misogynistic bible thumpers who lay claim to the minds and "souls" of our society's men, churning them into homophobes, bashing and murdering queers in dark alleys behind bars and bombing abortion clinics? What of the organized racist groups: The Klansmen and neo-nazis that litter the landscapes with their vile presence and ideologies? Statistically speaking, the majority of these predators tend to be heterosexual white men, the same demographic group that controls both "the State" and "Capitalism" and ironically, the leadership positions of Anarchist movement.
Should we not be concerned with these predators because they don't have badges indicating positions of state power, or because they are not wealthy property owners, simply because they do not exercise authority over us straight white guys?
It seems to me to be completely ignorant to assume that "smashing the State" and "abolishing Capitalism" as sole strategies of anarchist revolution would somehow rid the world of these predators. In fact, to be honest, I shudder to think of the horrors that would be unleashed upon the actualization of a chaotic war-like scenario, within the contexts of an already violent, racist, sexist, and homophobic society. The conditions imposed during wartime are doorways for organized anti-gay, racist militias as well as those who prey on wimmin, children, the elderly, and disabled people. For a bunch of privileged white guys, far removed from the realities of systematic violence, with no intimate understanding of oppression, to assume the authority to impose more violence into communities of people, for whom violence is already a daily reality is arrogant, and authoritarian.
I will state, for the record, that I am not proposing "pacifism", for I am not a pacifist, and would never begrudge anyone their right to utilize whatever means necessary to defend themselves or in defense of others. I will not, however, succumb to the glorification of violence or romanticization of war, and a disorganized, vanguardist movement of undisciplined white kids, with no significant public support hardly seem capable of toppling the State anyways.
What I am proposing, however, is that we, as privileged men, recognize that we are coming from positions of relative comfort, which has been obtained from the systematic oppression of wimmin and children, communities of color, the queer community, and other marginalized members of society. We must learn to abdicate our positions of power that we have not earned, and begin to support other communities and individuals, based on their own needs, which they will define for themselves. Our struggle against "the State" and "Capitalism" simply does not represent the entirety of the anarchist struggle against an entire culture of domination. By dismissing feminist, anti-racist, and queer liberation struggles as "single issue" or "reformist", white, heterosexual, anarchist men reduce anarchist struggle into their own struggle against their own exploiters, which is in itself "reformist" and "single issue" as well as elitist, authoritarian, and everything else that Anarchy opposes.