(please note I, owner of this blog, has never been in the French AF, I simply translated this text, will try to pass on the messages of solidarity received though 🙂 )
Resignation letter from the AF
15 months ago, in February 2012, I joined the group Quartier Pirate of the AF. Several reasons pushed me to join one of the groups of the AF, I think the main one was the will to act, to try and contribute to stop or, at least, annoy this rotten system. I wished to meet people for whom some issues were obvious and with whom I wouldn’t have constantly to explain and justify my ideas endlessly, because these would already be shared by these people. I could have worked with such people to move towards anarchy ? I could have organised, shared and fought alongside my comrades, no longer alone against a wall of hostility, but as a group, to finally break it. After 15 months, I draw conclusions from this choice, and I realise I was wrong.
I arrived in the AF just a few weeks before March 8, when Quartier Pirate was organising the libertarian bloc for the demo on that day of feminist struggle. Very young in the group, I was only observing. I was telling myself that it was a good choice to have joined the AF, that what many female friends had told me was not true, including that I would have joined an organisation in which issues of sexism are summarily treated and, most importantly, an absolutely not feminist organisation… Actually, where were the women of the AF ? Oh, yeah, I was also discovering there weren’t many. Why ? I couldn’t tell, I didn’t want to believe gossip.
On the day of the demo, I give out leaflets for the women-only night march in the AF bloc. People look at me with contempt, many women, next to their male partners, to whom I handed the leaflet, also looked me with contempt, and tell me that non-mixed events are shit, and that they wouldn’t attend without their partners. They wouldn’t even take the leaflet !
A bit disappointed, I stopped leafletting and joined our bloc. Why does no women from the AF want to attend the non-mixed demo ? I was wondering. It is strange that anarchafeminists (because I thought these women would be feminists, even if I didn’t know them yet) don’t want to attend a non-mixed night demo, refuse the practice of non-mixed events, and claim that their partner should be allowed to attend… This was only the first of many stories which made me realise that antisexism in the AF was only a facade, and most importantly that the AF is not a feminist organisation, but an organisation which tolerates, as long as they shut up, feminists.
How many meetings I attendedwhere there were almost no women, or where the few women around served coffee to the men, or, if they spoke, it was because they were taking the names of people who wanted to speak ? It was only one instance, it was not always that way in the AF. Certainly.
Let’s move on to other details from this year sent in the AF. Curiously, these past few months, a word has become taboo : « hysteria ». Everything started when the Quartier Pirate group proposed a poster and a leaflet for the 8 March demo. The poster read : « Hysterical, for as long as necessary ! » and the leaflet explained why March 8 was a day of feminist struggle. We benefitted from lessons of so-called psychologists who explained to us the word « hysteria », we were attacked because we had proposed a problematic poster because « the AF has issues passing as an antisexist organisation and this poster could not have been understood », I wonder who did not understand the poster ? So were there issues of sexism in the AF ? Of course not, but, well, there have been… So we are not going to put up problematic posters !
As for the pamphlets, it could not work, because, you see, not only it was only about women (let me remind you, that was for March 8), but it didn’t mention class struggle ! It was of course inadmissible not to mention class struggle in a feminist leaflet. This was clearly highlighting how sexism and feminism are secondary issues for the people of the AF. Our poster and leaflet were binned discretely and without a need for consensus, a new poster and a new leaflet became the official ones for the Paris region AF for March 8. The official leaflet not only was lying about March 8, but it was also antifeminist by calling for proletarian women to rise up… against bourgeois women. Divide to rule, an old custom.
As a feminist, having put my group in this position of complete isolation, I felt guilty and responsible towards my comrades who had supported me, despite the pretty emails we were receiving on the Paris region list which attacked and denigrated our work. This feeling of guilt vis-a-vis my group drove me to make a decision : never again would I engage in issues of sexism in the AF, my feminist struggles, I would lead them somewhere else, with comrades from other organisations.
This was already a huge dent in my resolve to stay in the AF. That said, the Quartier Pirate group is made of comrades who I esteem and respect to the point of deciding to remain in an organisation only to work with the on other issues. I informed them of my decision no longer to take part in any action around antisexism and my will to remain in the AF as long as my group will remain in it.
Today, I think I shouldn’t have imposed myself this choice. It would have avoided me seeing what happened over the next months. But at this point I thought I could ignore, or pretend to ignore, latent sexism of many people from the AF.
Then, Dadoun’s article happened, and the emails on the federal list attacking a feminist woman because she had made public her indignation and anger at an aticle which made an apology for rape. I had decided no longer to intervene on these issues in the AF. I had told my comrades I would not bring them into issues of antisexism again. So I shut up. I regret this. I regret having left a comrade alone, only because I had just received painful attacks, I would have liked it so much if I had been less isolated over the past few months and now I was leaving a comrade alone because I was afraid in my turn to be abandoned by my group, exposed to the anger (because, for men, it is only anger) of the AF people. To pass once again for hysterical, to have to listen to morality lessons from the older militants who know all about the AF and who, of course, were feminists before I was born (although they seem they had forgotten the meaning of the term), to feel alone and guilty because I did not want to be subjected to very heavy attacks on a personal level. I left a comrade alone. That is the only regret which I have about those past few months, because I only know too well what it feels like to live this silence and this isolation.
However, the importance that this Dadoun article took left me confused. Not because we talked about a men’s rights’ article (that would have been good!) but because the article and its contents were completely secondary compared to the grave sin committed by a brave woman from the AF : to publish a counter-article on Indymedia critiquing Dadoun’s article and questioning the God-given antisexism of the militants of the libertarian milieu.
The fact that a highly-problematic article by an Emeritus uni professor who hangs around the anarchist milieu, because let’s say it, it’s so cool to be an anarchist professor or at least pretend to be, was published by the AF’s newspaper, that was not the issue ; the fact that a cis straight white man claim that rape was an access of « hysteria », that was not an issue either ; the fact that the rape perpetrated by a cis white straight man in power on a black, powerless woman is narrated as the « chance meeting of two bodies » and an act of fate (no luck, woman, you entered a room when the man was naked and wanted it) it was not an issue, it was a depiction of facts. But what was a problem was that a woman spoke up to denounce the fat that yes, it is unbelievable that it is an article published in the newspaêr of my organisation which is supposed to represent me.
What I witnessed then was not a questionning on the article, but a personal attack against the woman who had spoken out to denounce that fact. What mattered was not that rape appeared like an inevitabe incident of a chance meeting, what mattered was that a woman dare publicly denounce this article. What a crime ! Attentat ! Terrorist ! Let’s all take up arms against her !
With disgust, I was following the emails who attacked this brave woman, who hinted at intimate trauma which could explain her hysteria, preaching like good old paternalists, who wlaimed that rapes affected mainly men. I realised with the same disgust that she was left all alone, isolated. The AF is a feminist organisation who still attacks its feminists so that they shut up.
Finally, the Quartier Pirate group published a communiqué in which we distanced ourselves from Dadoun’s article, and we linked to the article by this brave woman on Indymedia. What a scandal ! My comrades first received personal phone-calls telling them to take off the communiqué from the blog (I wonder why I didn’t have this honour!). Then we received an email from the female general secretary, ordering us to take off the communiqué from the blog right away. Er, what organisation had I joined again ? The AF ? Orders ? We had a good laugh ! We didn’t take off the communiqué and I thank comrades to have kept going and not given in to pressures from influential people of the AF.
Today, after a year observing the AF ecosystem, I realise there are informal but deeply-rooted powers ; that the word of some matters more than others ; that any project aiming at transforming, or at least changing in the tiniest way the organisation or anything inherent to the organisation was constantly blocked ; that an organisation which claims itself to be anarchist is trapped in eternal and petty quarrels on its email lists ; that evil intent is never far away and that the freedom and autonomy of the groups only exists as long as we follow the party line which the informal leaders drafts in secret. I observe that for my word to matter, I would have to have been a better militant for longer han others, but that anyway I will always miss something vital for them – balls – to be allowed to express myself without being suspected of only speaking because of intimate trauma, in other words, my hysteria.
I observe that the AF fights systems of oppression, but not all of them, because to stop sexist jokes would be a bit like not enjoying a good steak. I observe that to stay in the AF would mean to accept a domination that I want to destroy.
I realise that I am now weaker than a year ago, because having to fight and defend myself all the time against people who should have been my comrades has destroyed my vitaliy and my resolve. I observe that I no longer want to do anything because all the projects we have proposed with my group have been blocked by people who had power within the AF, when we opposed this. I observe that I ended up fighting against people who I first thought I would be fighting alongside with. I observe that to go on within the AF would mean to be subjected to a way of organising that is not anarchist but is made up of threats, orders, pressures and hierarchies. I observe that to stay in the AF would mean to renounce to fight against sexism and accept to be feminist within the limits which are tolerable to men, also known as as long as their priviledges are preserved.
I now resign from the AF and I go back to being a lone wolf, but with other anarchafeminist comrades by my side.
The AF wins once more : another feminist resigns.
I know that I renounce a fight, but I do’t want to fight pointlessly, and to fight to make the AF a feminist organisation seems a delusion to me.
I resign from the AF because I never want to receive orders again, be pressured into things or receive morality lessons. I resign from the AF because I no longer want to witness collective attacks on isolated women. I resign from the AF because I won’t take part in the perpetuation of anarcho-patriarchy. I resign from the AF because it was only a tool, but this tool I discovered is rotten.
I resign from the AF because if one day anarchy is realised, it would be a shame if it looked like the French Anarchist Federation.