A review of Quiet Rumours: An Anarcha-Feminist Reader, by the Dark Star Collective

When I received this book, I was quite excited, as it is something that was missing in my library. An international anarcha-feminist congress is planned for 2014, and to make it happen and make it as good as it can be, we need to publish and read this kind of anthologies. The texts chosen are of varying relevance and quality, to be honest, and I get the impression that, in the successive reeditions of this book, members of the Collective were more inclined to add to it than maybe drop or replace articles, the politics of which can be sometimes slightly cringe-worthy: Peggy Kornegger’s “Anarchism: The Feminist Connection” presents a vision of Spain 36 and France 68 that fails to show any criticism (even about talking about the maintenance of wages and money) which belongs more to enthusiastic propaganda than to anarchist theory. She also writes gems like:

“As women, we are particularly well-suited for participation in this process. Underground for ages, we have learnt to be covert, subtle, sly, silent, tenacious, acutely sensitive, and expert at communication skills.”

I must have missed that memo about the women’s underground training-sessions, because I must say I lack some of these qualities. And uniting feminism and anarchism is a necessary undertaking, but one which can also lead to statements about “structure (in the old male up/down sense of the word)” if not careful. Fortunately, human groups, even males, even in olden days, have been able to think up and establish horizontal social relationships. This article does present some interesting points, but maybe would require a more hands-on approach to editing, with some disclaimer/introduction, so that people do not associate anarcha-feminism with these rather anecdotic quotes which stand out from the article by their sheer weirdness. However, I also understand the point of view that people who would pick on this to strawman anarcha-feminism as a whole are probably not the kind of people we should be spending much time and effort into taking on board to develop any kind of theory. However, when you compare it to Queering Anarchism, which has a lot in parallel to this anthology, it is hard not to feel underwhelmed by such discordant ‘details’ (but then I would say that I found the first half of Queering Anarchism suspiciously homogeneous, so you can’t win with me…)

It is not a matter of ‘dropping the old texts’ at all, as some of the oldest contributions are among the best, in my humble opinion. Emma Goldmann got many things right (as a side note, for fans of Emma Goldmann, she makes an appearance in J. Edgar, an otherwise quite boring movie).