Why two anarchafeminists resign from the French AF

TW: Depiction of bullying, threats of violence, harrassment.

Why two anarchafeminists resign from the French Anarchist Federation

On May 18-20, 2013 the AF Congress was held.

We decided to go, us, two anarchafeminist women, in order to read out our resignation letters.

For my part, because, following my response article about Roger Dadoun I had published on Indymedia, I have been subjected to collective harrassment on the federal email list, which shed the light once more on antifeminism within this organisation.

For my part, because I could not accept to be complicit with the bullying of a female member of the organisation just because she had spoken out, outside the closed email list, and because the pressures, orders and morality lessons which we were receiving showed that the organisation was anarchist in name only.

For our part, because we no longer could be part of heteropatriarchy, of power struggles, of hierarchies, and internal bureaucracy.

This congress was very difficult, since we were identified as the feminists who had criticized the AF from outside. Conversations stopped when we walked through, some people refused to talk to us, some people talked about us in front of us as if we didn’t exist.

The plenary debate on feminism and antisexism, something unheard of in an AF congress, had the objective to reign us in, women who had talked too much, outside the rules laid out by the organisation. It was organised by women, who call themselves anarchafeminists but can also be against the feminisation of texts, who took part in the bullying mob on the federal list and refuse to see patriarchy within the AF, which has blatanty been around for many years.

During this discussion, we read out both our resignation letters. We were wearing pink t-shirts : ‘Hysterical for as long as necessary’ and had a banner ‘Hysterica-feminists for as long as necessary’, held by two male comrades, who also left the AF in solidarity.

For some people, our resignation is a failure, but to us it’s a victory. Because for once the men in attendance have had to remain seated for half an hour while women were standing up, mic in hand, to tell them what it is to be a woman within the Anarchist Federation.

We left the room after our resignation. Several people, men and women, also left the room in solidarity. Others remained to intervene in our favour. Out of a hundred people, it wasn’t many, but we hadn’t hoped for even that.

Later, a woman told us we were cowards, while we needed incredible bravery to dare come and read out these words.

We were publicly threatened with violence, we were told to fuck off, that we had no dignity, that we had soiled them. All these threats and sentences, they were pronounced by men who didn’t talk to us, but talked to the two male comrades who supported us. Some people refused to eat the evening meal prepared by the collective canteen because we were there, invited by the organisers.

Back home, our email inboxes had been hacked. One of the male comrades who supported us received phone calls, telling him he better « switch sidewalk » and that « that was a threat ».

We thank the people who supported us, who came to see us, who invited us to stay and who continue to show support. These people know they don’t have to be named individually, because they know who they are. These people also know who are the sexists, men’s rights’ activists and informal leaders of the AF against whom our texts are directed.

Because if one day anarchy exists, it would be a shame if it looked like the French Anarchist Federation.

hystericafeministes@riseup.net

Resignation of an anarchafeminist from the French AF (2013)

I joined the Anarchist Federation wth little illusion. I never believed in this great anarchist federation which would allow us to shape, intervene on or initiate struggles. I mainly saw it as a way to get propaganda material like posters, leaflets, stickers etc. I only went to a few meetings and I rarely read Le Monde Libertaire because I did not find this newspaper very interesting as a woman and as a feminist, I didn’t find it concerned me as it was all about class struggle and trade unions. But, after two years, I resign more than disappointed and disgusted. Everything I learnt about anarchafeminism, I never learnt it from the Anarchist Federation, but outside of it, with other groups, collectives, other people. All that the federation taught me was the opposite of this.
The greatest absence of reflexion about feminism in an anarchist organisation, I found it n the AF. The dirtiest most disgusting texts and pictures about women or homosexuality, I saw them on the federal list or in the newspapers of the AF. I found an organisation which has more books about Proudhon or Léo Férré (French misogynistic popular singer) than on anarchafeminism. An organisation which treated women’s struggles only through portraits of dead feminists or through the class struggle. I discovered an organisation which bans the means of feminist struggle like non mixed meetings and gender neutral texts. I found an organisation which used ad-sexism : who used women on their posters and stickers but had no poster or sticker about women. Yes, since the homophobes started marching against gay marriage, the organisation thought it good to publish a very radcal sticker: « Against Sexism and to Homophobia ». Good that they were there to push the lines of AF propaganda…
I discovered how an organisation could not tarnish its pretty feminist label, yet allow and defend sexist texts, ensure them a constant space in their ranks and repress any anarchafeminist initiative, lynch and try to throw out the feminists who wanted to change things. Patriarchy in the AF is imbricated in a centralised and bureaucratic mode of functioning.
The entire functioning of the organisation is supposed to repose on the yearly congress with people who attend. Everyone goes there, votes on motions, and goes back home to wait for next year. In between, there are no local union, no federal union no regional union to allow the militants and groups to see one another and talk, share, think collectively or start struggles. Everything is centralised in Paris (newspapers radio, bookshop, publishing house, propaganda material). One group in reality holds the monopoly of functioning but this group has no name. It is not defined, it is informal. The people in it are the oldest, they have been there the longest, they write most,they filled the most mandates, they react most on internal lists, they have the best networks and make the most spectacle. They are a network within the network which follows unspoken rules. A path already chosen measured which has to be followed.
To accept this way of functioning allows you to have a quiet assured space and at best to go up the informal hierarchy Within the network, you can make some criticisms, as long as they remain within the organisation. Dirty laundry must be washed within the family and never publicly. What matters is that nothing move, that the appearances be kept and that no structure be shaken. You can join the network by obeying the rules already established in the network. This is called anarchist bureaucracy. But this informal hierarchy also has another power it ceaselessly reproduces: patriarchy. Because this informal leadership is made of white, cis, straight and cisgender males. They are doubly dominating. They have powers that they absolutely refuse to question or challenge. On the contrary they spell out rules of functioning and thinking. They already have power in society, and they reproduce it within their organisation. They reproduce analyses and ways to organise only depending on their status as dominating men. All the organisation’s propaganda reflects their uniform patriarchal way of thinking.
There are women with them, they are their girlfriends, long-time friends, those who function like them. They are few but tolerated, accepted, because they follow the path already traced. They shout, but against institutionalised patriarchy of the state, the right, cops, bosses, judges, homophobes, priests. Never against anarchopatriarchy.
The others, who try to challenge the role of the dominant and their privileges within the organisation are quickly put back in their place and if they are too noisy, they are pushed out or forced out, as was the case during the whole history of the AF. Every attempt to make things progress, even simply putting “e” at the end of words is not without risks. Although it should be a necessary and unavoidable reflex, every little thing becomes a struggle and demands considerable efforts. And every effort is so strongly denounced, criticised, attacked, censored and disapproved of, that it seems impossible. All the anarchafeminist energy spent becomes so important that it morally, intellectually and psychologically drains you. Because what a feminist does is never considered as political work but as a will to shake an already existing patriarchal structure deeply rooted, and reduced to an attempt at feminist manipulation. If there are no people of colour, women, fags, dykes or trans people in the AF, it is because there is no place for them, their ideas, their ways of organising. No space is made available and no action, speech or act can be liberated. When, in March 2013, I read in the supplement to Le Monde Libertaire the article by Roger Dadoun justifying the rape by Strauss Kahn on ND and accusing the so called feminisation of society, I recalled the times I let a homophobic picture pass, every time I had let non-feminised texts pass, the times I renounced asking for posters and stickers about women’s struggles. I thought back on every time I closed my eyes. By cowardice, fear, solitude. I wrote an article which voluntarily attacked Roger Dadoun and his masculinist discourse but also the AF for letting it be published. Because it was not an error but the result of years and years of anti-feminist work.

Because Roger Dadoun was not a first-time offender, and had already justified the rape by Roman Polanski on Samantha Gailey, and the one by DSK on ND several times, in the Monde Libertaire.

Because Men’s Rights or sexist articles don’t only find an echo within the AF, but they are given an important space in an organisation which calls itself anarchist. Because every time it destroys a feminist initiative, it opens the door wider to Men’s Rights Activism. And because, as an anarchafeminist, I had closed my eyes on way too many « mistakes » which broke everything that feminist struggle had won.

My article would never find any place within the AF and had a wider range, so I published it on Indymedia, and it was picked up by other sites. There. That’s done. A woman, a feminist, had taken the unbelievable liberty not only to have a feminist critique of an article published by Le Monde Libertaire, but also to accuse the AF of a blatant access of anarchopatriarchy.

Because this article is the first Men’s Rights Activist text published in an anarchist newspapers. Thanks to the AF for innovating with this type of discourse.

Reactions on the federal email list quickly started. While every smallest precedent feminist effort was punished, trying to move a mountain led to collective harrassment.

From the moment when I published my text on Roger Dadoun I was afraid every time I opened my email box. It’s silly to be afraid of an email box. But I knew that to publish my text on Indymedia was like planting a bomb. I didn’t know how much damage it was going to make, I only knew that it was necessary to denounce rape apologism and men’s rights activism.

I was worried about it, but it is only now, after dropping that bomb, that I realise that the only thing it destroyed was myself. Because every mail received on the federal list was to receive more shrapnel which damaged me even more.

Because I was the only one reading these shitty mails, these mails which did not say that an anarchafeminist had written a text against a mens rights activist attack, but that a woman had not respected the limits imposed by the organisation. It was the fact that it was an act outside the organisation that mattered, not patriarchy, or sexism, or machismo, or masculinisation, or men’s rights activism.

There were these emails which said that I should apologise, or write a more pedagogical text.

These texts that said that when we don’t understand something, we shouldn’t comment on it.

These emails which said that I was making the militants’ jobs harder and more complicated by publicly criticising my organisation, that it was not easy for them, that because of me people attacked the AF and that I had provoked them with my article.

These mails said that the only problem with the text by Roger Dadoun was that it was unclear and unreadable, but not its content.

These mails said that there was nothing wrong with Roger Dadoun’s article, that it was a constatation of men’s weaknesses, of men’s cowardice, that it was a good joke, that it didn’t matter, that the masculinisation of hysteria was the strong point of his argumentation.

Which said that I had wild ideas about rape apologism, that it was a most peculiar accusation.

Which said that they, the real anarchafeminists of the AF, were disappointed and worried by my behaviour, that they thought I was antifederal, that I had written with bias, that Le Monde Libertaire had made a mistake in publishing the article, but that I had made an even bigger mistake.

But they, the real anarchafeminists of the AF, have been supported and approved, because they were following the party line, that they were brandishing the anarchafeminist label, but emptied of any feminist process. Because they walked the line, because they isolated this incident and made it a sparkle of dust, because they did not support a woman who was being attacked because she had dared react.

These emails which called me a Stalinist, which said that my article was based on feelings, prejudice, dishonest process, that it was manipulative, disgusting and perverse.

Which said that, no, I was just young, passionate, angry, that maybe intimate trauma could explain my reaction.

That, okay, Roger Dadoun’s text was neither good nor in good taste, but that we now needed to look at it dispassionately and psychologically.

And in the end I had done a bad bad thing, that there would always be many readings of a text and that’s all.

And then, this email on April Fools’ Day saying there will be an AF liaison on feminism…

Because the Women’s Caucus did not react, not on the email list, nor publicly, and it never expressed solidarity to a woman who was being lynched within the organisation.

Because people prefered to criticize and humiliate an anarchafeminist and preserve their organisation at all cost.

Because a single woman expressed her complete solidarity and she was an immense support.

As an anarchist, what I’m interested in is to think about power relations in order to build a society or at least some spaces which would be free, self-managed, supportive, feminist, egalitarian and empowering.

As a feminist, what I’m interested in is to think about the power relations generated by the heteropatriarchy. It is one of the most revolutionary struggles, because it does not only demand to go and demonstrate and wave some black flags and gesticulate during meetings, but also to deconstruct gender and oppressive relations in all spaces and time, public and private, of our own lives.

As an antispeciesist, what I am interested in is to think about oppressions, exploitations and murders perpetrated by humans on animals, in the name of culture, habit, gluttony, gastronomy or under the pretense of diference. But none of this is possible within the AF, since this organisation is nor a federation, nor anarchist. The AF has a single purpose : to be the AF and be self-sufficient, to keep up appearances and a shopfront, by exploiting an anarchist history which would be ashamed of it.

Don’t want to be an anarchist just for the time of a demonstration.

I don’t want a label devoid of meaning.

I want anarchy to be a transformation of society and of ourselves, in order to abolish oppressions that I am subjected to and from which I benefit.

Because when we choose to stay in an organisation which is in reality authoritarian, bureaucratic, antifederal, antifeminist, homophobic, sexist and speciesist, we are not making things progress, we are complicit in oppression.

I do not want to caution and be complicit of an organisation which perpetuates anarchopatriarchy. I resign from the AF because if one day anarchy exists, it would be a shame if t looked like the French Anarchist Federation.

Je vous emmerde et vive l’anarchie !

Incoherent thoughts on being an anarchist woman today

I have been reading a number of biographies of Marx, to get acquainted with the context of his works. What struck me as un-anarchist in Marx’s elaboration of theory was obviously the subservience of everyone to his needs. Marx’s great quest to develop theory justified endless sacrifices from his wife, family and friends. Marxist political economy was not a collaborative work, but a highly specialised task, in which Marx did not have all the power (in particular, he was dependent on people taking care of him and funding him) but had all the intellectual and ‘moral’ power (his task was his alone and somehow invaluable to all workers). The “shoulders of giants” he stood on were not only the economists that had come before him, but the friends and family he was crushing much less figuratively. At the same time, I was wondering about anarchism’s relative failure to have theoretical output of quality, and how the refusal of such ways of getting things done could explain part of it (you know, the gentle way you kick out the “comrades” who periodically decide that what they are writing or doing is of greater importance to the cause than what you might ever accomplish, and that therefore they are entitled to living on your sofa, getting fed by you and generally using your energy and resources). Thinking about this, I stumbled (dialectically, one could say) on a larger issue: a fraction dividing anarchism today, which I think hinders its development and needs to be addressed.

Anarchist thought can be seen as a spectrum going from two extreme positions that are mainly strawmen that almost no-one actually defends: from the grossest workerism and devotion to class struggle politics to the most liberal identity politics. Along this spectrum, anarchists balance a vision of capitalism as it exists, largely based on Marx, and an understanding of systems of oppression. Although, in their theoretical intellectual framework both of these coincide quite happily, when you get to the material level and see how individual anarchists spend their time and energy, something starts to appear: people are specialised. Even though they read Marx and are very much interested in explaining capitalism as a system, women tend to spend most of their intellectual energy (discussions, debates, reading, writing) being concerned with feminism as well as intersectional politics. Discussions about Marx and explanations of the economic crisis are overall led and directed by men. With the notable exception of Rosa Luxemburg (and yes, there have been more recent examples), developers of Marxist and revolutionary political economic theory are men. Marxist feminism has long been the diversion for female Marxist scholars, the input of which is not negligible, just as intersectional politics today are an essential component of anarchism.

On the one hand, we have “heavyweight” “theory” which is commonly seen as dusty, old-fashioned, intellectually legitimate but too complicated for most people, useless, solely axed on class politics. On the other hand “liberal” “identity politics” which is new, fun, inclusive, post-modern, intellectually illegitimate, class-collaborationist. A lot of pointless conflict goes to show that one of these two caricature is good, and the other one evil and a lot of affect and emotion is invested in these supposed “sides” by anarchist, despite the fact that it is obvious that neither sides are anything close to anarchism. Our own gender construction pushes anarchist women to spend their intellectual energy on intersectional issues. Our comrades’ reinforcement also edges us that way: positive feedback on anarchafeminist articles, little or no feedback on contributions to discussions on capital. There is a perverse way in which men feel they are not “legitimate” to spend energy on feminism. That is, that they end up feeling more legitimate (than women), spending more energy on discussing capital. Also, as much as it is nice to feel that your input on a discussion on feminism is being valued, the contrast when you start talking about the economy is all the more striking and feels all the more violent.

In the privacy of my own intellectual musings, I am much more confident discussing Marx than discussing feminism. I completely share what men describe as their own fears about feminism and intersectional politics (fear of saying something stupid, not being legitimate, being oppressive without meaning to). Ironically, these are the fears that made me want to address those issues, to become a much better person, and although I was starting pretty low, I think it did a bit of good. But getting so much pressure to stick to this, and contrasting how people accept any unsubstantiated claim I make about something to do with women or minorities to the usual terribly oppressive “who are you to even dare speak of Marx” attitude I was brought up with, and accustomed to, makes me dizzy.

There is no doubt that Marx’s love of polemics, ad hominems and vicious fighting has been tolerated among Marxists for way too long. There is no doubt that organising talks like “in room A: a man will explain to you current theories on the economic crisis, while in room B: a woman will talk to you about intersectionality” has nothing feminist about it. We need to challenged the oppression of women has it materially takes place, every time a woman is cut short, humiliated or not given credit in our discussions of capital. Not by giving in in exchange for some spaces of peace and quiet where we can be listened to and valued, but never trespass on “real” politics. Anarchism has made some tremendous efforts in its inclusion of women, but the economy (as a system, not as it impacts on people’s everyday lives), capital and Marx are the last bastion of the dominant male discourse. Only by going against the flow and our own internalised misogyny, our judgement that some things are ‘too complicated’ or ‘too theoretical’ for us can we challenge that. As for men: many have learned to shut up and listen when oppressed people talk about their oppression. This socialisation as shy, unconfident, etc. is even worse when a woman talks about Great Things. But men’s effort to listen and shut up is much lesser (because of the discussion not being about the oppression of women, therefore men not having any feeling of lack of legitimacy). A lot of men, even great comrades that I value immensely, have two debating styles with me: on the issue of feminism, despite sometimes the weakness of my arguments, they are polite and engaging, on the issue of capital, despite sometimes (okay, rarely) the strength of my argument, they are dismissive and condescending. This will not do.

[This was written before I checked the 2013 Anarchist Bookfair programme, so no ill-intent was meant by “There is no doubt that organising talks like “in room A: a man will explain to you current theories on the economic crisis, while in room B: a woman will talk to you about intersectionality” has nothing feminist about it.” However, yes, there is a problem when you systematically “balance” one Marx meeting with an anarchafem meeting, namely: “class struggle and class consciousness” vs. “anarchafem conference”; “anarchism and marxism” vs. “stuff your sexist comrade”; “Marx and Harvey” vs. another “Anarchafeminism”]