Feminism & Anarchism

Introductary talk by Patricia McCarthy to the WSM weekend meeting, Wexford, October 1992

Feminism & Anarchism, comrades might wonder why we have chosen this subject for discussion. Due mainly to our involvement in the Repeal the 8th Amendment Campaign we have had to deal with the feminists organised in the 'Womens Coalition' and to adopt a position in relation to their structure and interventions. This involves dealing with the ideology of feminism. Feminism as a philosophy locates the unequal position of women in society in gender terms. Patriarchy - male power and domination over women in every aspect of their lives - is identified as the enemy, the obstacle to womens liberation. Womens oppression is not differentiated in class terms - feminists see all women as oppressed by all men.

Feminism as a campaigning philosophy has been successful in not only winning specific gains for women but also has been successful in raising awareness among women and men on the issues of sexism, sexual harassment, equal responsibility for child rearing and a whole range of other issues.

Anarchists both here and in Britain have worked with and supported the feminist movement. There have been anarcho-feminist groups and strands in various feminist movements worldwide.

Structurally some anarchists and feminists have argued that structureless groups without formal positions, leaders or procedures are the 'natural' form of organisation for both feminists and anarchists. Structureless organisations however give rise to informal elites who are not democratically accountable. In practice, this means that the less articulate and those not in favour with the elite, who are in fact controlling the group, are excluded from any real participation.

We in the Workers Solidarity Movement recognise that womens oppression is essentially a class issue. Working class women are far more effected by the unequal position of women in society than middle class or upper class women. Feminism is an all-class alliance which sees all women as equally oppressed. This leads into all kinds of confused demands for more women managers and more women in the Dáil.

Organisationally feminism promotes women-only groups and campaigns. We in the W.S.M. recognise that women have the right to organise separately as all interest groups have. However we take the position that campaigning separately is a mistake. Campaigns such as the abortion rights campaign should be open to both men and women, both to maximise the forces in the campaign and because we believe that issues such as this one are essentially class issues and not just womens issues.

Basically we view feminism as a progressive movement but one which is capable of taking up confused and sometimes reactionary demands because it fails to locate the cause of womens oppression in the class nature of capitalist society.


To a page of WSM article on anarchism and womens liberation