Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

Feminism as Pillar of Freedom


Quick shout-out to women (broadly/queerly defined) around the globe, typically struggling so much harder to survive the many assaults on their bodies, minds, and lives. But when push comes to shove, they typically struggle so much more empathetically and fiercely.

Here in Greece, now on the island of Crete (October 16-19), for the 10-day Mediterranean Anarchist Meetings, I’ve been re-inspired by feminist-oriented and anti-heteropatriarchical anarchists and antiauthoritarians. Not only in terms of how they resist, though. I’ve rediscovered how the lens they are socialized to see through can serve as better ethic for that resistance — a resistance that is at once about self-constructing better selves in a better culture/society for all who would be human and free.

Last night (Octobert 17), we heard from three anarchists from Turkey and Kurdistan, including a female lawyer, who spoke of feminism as a key pillar of Kobane and Rojava, equal to other pillars, such as antistatism and anticapitalism, not some footnote — or worse, “women’s work.” Over drinks after the talk, the woman told us about the imperfect path of actualizing feminism. Yet she also said that whereas in the past, sexual harassment and assault were common, not spoken about or defended against, now women in the autonomous territory stand up for themselves, and there are communal consequences to such harassment and assault — justice without state or police or prison. The mere fact that sex can be spoken of, this female lawyer told us, is itself a huge part of this transformation in self and society. Indeed, she spoke of how gender relations in general are shifting, not simply on the battlefield, but including, for instance, that within self-governance structures, all of which now have to include two people as the facilitators, conveners, etc. — one female and one male. The impulse to do that is part of this shift in mentality, which increasingly over time, as she noted, starts to impact how people treat each other more generally, acting more egalitarian in everyday life.

Earlier in the day, a Swedish woman told me how their anarchist group has been part of a yearly gathering of European anarchist groups, mostly in the north, around themes. This past year the theme was antifascism. She told me that mostly women and queers came to this gathering, and they decided to ask the question: “How can we completely get rid of Nazis?” Or to mirror the “strong communities make police obsolete” phrasing from the United States this past year, “How can we make fascism obsolete.” At their gathering, they discussed the “band-aid” of fighting Nazis, where big guys literally fight each other, physically, in battles between Antifa and fascists. Instead, they looked to ideas like working with 10- and 12-year-olds who are “flirting” with fascism, and speaking to them directly “from where they’re at” (anger toward society, feeling alienated, experiencing “no future” ahead, etc.) to offer alternatives. In her community, she said, it’s worked. Those kids turn away from fascism, and over time, start convincing their friends to do so too. “It’s about compassion,” she told me. “To try to understand why people would be attracted to fascism,” and from there, use that compassion as strategic lever for different tactics. She added that both the goal of “no fascists” and feminist-inflected strategies and tactics flowing from that were so much more varied, expansive, and following along the prefigurative path (to phrase in my language) that anarchism and anarchists should be all about.

Not to reify “women” as category. I’m a humanist. Rather, it’s about seeing “feminism” not secondary but key to transforming our selves and battling the way in which structures unevenly try to destroy us, such as, say, rape being militarized as weapon of war and “statist” power.

We shouldn’t be copying Rojava/Kobane; we can’t. But perhaps one of the most inspirational points to draw from that experiment in “the beauty of freedom” is not that women are carrying guns and fighting off ISIS and various state militaries — which is of course inspiring — but that the values of feminism are being woven, intentionally, into the body politic and social fabric as linchpin of this fragile autonomous space.

So yeah, big love for feminism and all the variety of women who are strong warriors, both because they have to be and because they know it’s the right thing to do for everyone.

* * *

Note: Please excuse typos; I’m writing a bit too quickly, so I can squeeze in more anarchist conversations at this remarkable gathering in Greece.

(Photo by Cindy Milstein, street art of feminist resistance, Athens, Greece, October 2015.)


One comment on “Feminism as Pillar of Freedom

  1. Pingback: Anarchism Doesn’t Fit in Promoting Their Ballot Boxes | Outside the Circle

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This entry was posted on October 21, 2015 by in Dispatches from Rebellious Spaces.
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