For anarcha-feminists, the struggle against patriarchy is an inherent part of the struggle to abolish the state and abolish capitalism, since the state itself is a patriarchal structure.
Although there is a rich, global history of people of color and/or feminist anarchist movements, within the U.S., it’s not uncommon for anarchist spaces to suffer major blind spots when it comes to race and gender. Given that anarchism, even more than socialism and communism, explicitly denounces any form of hierarchy in political organizing, it is especially ironic when white male anarchists fail to recognize the ways in which they replicate hierarchy by participating in racist and patriarchal forms of domination against their comrades.
So here is a brief introduction to anarcha-feminism—loosely defined as a political philosophy and movement whose goal is not only to abolish the capitalist state, but also all forms of patriarchal domination as well. Anarcha-feminists do not see the goals of feminism as distinct from anarchism—rather, they see feminism (in its true form) as a kind of anarchism, and vice versa. For anarcha-feminists, the struggle against patriarchy is an inherent part of the struggle to abolish the state and abolish capitalism, since the state itself is a patriarchal structure.
In a manifesto titled “Anarcho-Feminism: Two Statements,” the authors note: “We believe that a Woman’s Revolutionary Movement must not mimic, but destroy, all vestiges of the male-dominated power structure, the State itself — with its whole ancient and dismal apparatus of jails, armies, and armed robbery (taxation); with all its murder; with all of its grotesque and repressive legislation and military attempts, internal and external, to interfere with people’s private lives and freely-chosen co-operative ventures.”
Below are a list of anarcha-feminists and anarcha-feminist groups, both historic and present, to get you started:
Emma Goldman (1869-1940):
Often referred to as the mother of the modern anarchist movement, Emma Goldman was born into a Jewish family in contemporary Lithuania (then part of the Russian empire) in 1869, and subsequently emigrated to the United States. Unlike her contemporaries, Goldman was not a supporter of the suffragist movement, as she thought it only served the capitalist interests of a few bourgeois, middle class white women. She was a strong advocate of women’s autonomy over their own bodies, and was repeatedly jailed for illegally distributing birth control.
He Zhen (1884-1920):
何震 (a penname meaning “thunderclap”) was a Chinese anarchist feminist who wrote manifestos and essays on the exploitation of women’s labor and the necessity of overturning the system of patriarchy as well as capitalism. She became politicized in Tokyo around the turn of the century, where many young Chinese anarchists were gathering and publishing their ideas. Her essay “On The Question Of Women’s Liberation,” (1907) opens by declaring that “for thousands of years, the world has been dominated by the rule of man. This rule is marked by class distinctions over which men—and men only—exert proprietary rights. To rectify the wrongs, we must first abolish the rule of men and introduce equality among human beings, which means that the world must belong equally to men and women.”
Suga Kanno (1881-1911):
管野須賀子 A Japanese feminist anarchist, Suga Kanno was a journalist by trade and wrote numerous articles on the oppression of women in Japan and elsewhere around the turn of the century. In the face of a growing fascist and imperialist government in Japan which enacted increasingly repressive measures against anarchist and socialist factions, Suga came to the conclusion that tactical violence and eventually violent revolution was an unavoidable necessity. She was eventually sentenced to death in 1911 after the Tokyo police discovered that she and several other anarchists were plotting to assassinate the emperor of Japan.
Lucy (Gonzalez) Parsons (1853-1942):
A woman of Black, Native American, and Mexican ancestry who was born into slavery (likely in present-day Texas) in the late 19th century, Parsons was a highly effective anarchist labor organizer who helped found the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), an international labor union based in Chicago, Illinois which continues to fight for the rights of workers today. Her work centered on revolutionary action on behalf of political prisoners, people of color, women, and the homeless. She also worked tirelessly to defend the rights of labor activists and African-Americans who had been unjustly accused by the legal system, e.g. the Scottsboro Five.
Luisa Capetillo (1879-1922):
A famous labor organizer in Puerto Rico, Luisa Capetillo was a writer and anarchist of Spanish and Italian descent whose work primarily concentrated on organizing factory workers in the tobacco industry in Puerto Rico, and then in New York City, where she helped organize Puerto Rican and Cuban immigrant tobacco workers. She also advocated for the rights of Puerto Rican women to vote, and helped pass a minimum wage law in the Puerto Rican government assembly. She was jailed in 1919 for being the first woman to wear “masculine clothing” in public.
Founded in 1992 by two openly lesbian Bolivian women, Mujeres Creando (“Women Believing”) is a contemporary Bolivian anarcha-feminist collective that participates in direct action, street theatre, and propaganda production through an anti-poverty lens. The founders of the group began conceiving of the project during the late 1980’s in response to what they perceived to be a totalitarian, anti-feminist, homophobic left wing culture in Bolivia. In 2001 the group gained worldwide attention when they assisted in the occupation of the Bolivian Banking Supervisory Agenc—a financial agency committing usury and extortion by tricking people into signing onto debt whose stipulations they could not read or understand. The anarchists occupied the building with dynamite and molotov cocktails, demanding total debt forgiveness for the debtors.
Audrey Tang (1981–Present):
唐鳳 Currently serving as an official member of the Taiwanese cabinet, Audrey Tang is a self described anarchist and feminist, and the first trans woman to ever serve in a top executive cabinet in the Taiwanese government. Tang’s work revolves around creating open and free access to software programs, and has translated several books on the “open source” movement into Chinese. She is also working on digitizing information published by the Taiwanese government in order to make it more readily accessible to the public.