In the 1970s, I was very active in the feminist movement in Boston, Massachusetts, where I participated in various women’s groups, including the editorial collective of Second Wave magazine. During that time, I wrote an article for Second Wave called “Anarchism: The Feminist Connection,” which subsequently was reprinted in booklet form in New York City, London, England, and Milan, Italy, among other places. It was also included in the anthology Reinventing Anarchy and has been read in Feminist Studies classes at the college and university level for many years. A student at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania recently contacted me for an interview because she was writing her senior thesis on anarcha-feminism in the 1970s and 1980s. While I was speaking with her, it struck me how much interest there still is in these ideas. Then, after Trump was elected, a couple of friends of mine suggested that now might be a good time to reprint the article, with an update. So this is the update, and a link to a newly edited version of “Anarchism: The Feminist Connection” appears at the end of this post.
In the original article, I defined anarchism as encompassing three basic principles: elimination of authority and hierarchy, balance between individuality and collectivity, and balance between spontaneity and organization. I also tried to dispel two pervasive myths about anarchists: the bomb-throwing assassin and the impractical idealist. The anarchists I have known are committed to nonviolence (the means create the ends) and are very much involved in the day-to-day practicalities of developing alternatives to the top-heavy status quo. I further described the hidden history of anarchists in France and Spain who effectively lived and implemented the principles mentioned above in their countries (during the French student/worker strikes in 1968 and the Spanish Revolution in 1936–1939).
The connection I made between anarchism and feminism was that radical feminist theory names patriarchy as the key source of hierarchy in our current social and political structures, as well as in our thinking. From the beginning, feminists seemed to embody a kind of intuitive anarchism in their collective and circular group structures (non-hierarchical). The spontaneous arising of consciousness-raising groups, which became the backbone of the women’s movement, was a very anarchist creation, similar to the affinity groups that had developed historically in unions in Spain and France. My feeling at the time was that the coming together of anarchism and feminism and the conscious recognition of that connection would jump-start women into a truly transformative vision of revolutionary change. One in which there would no longer be leaders and followers, but just human beings coming together to live lives in cooperation and freedom.
Both anarchism and feminism are alive and well today, though their forms are somewhat different than they were when I first wrote “Anarchism: The Feminist Connection.” In recent years, strategies that appear in practice to be much like anarchism have informed many protest movements: for example, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and Standing Rock. Direct actions and ongoing “occupations” have often been consciously leaderless and non-hierarchically organized. Probably the most powerful example of the coming together of anarchism and feminism in a new way was the global Women’s March this past January, the day after the Trump inauguration.
Initially organized in the United States as a reaction to Trump’s offensive “pussy” comments about women, the Women’s March on Washington took on a life of its own with over five million women and men spontaneously marching in cities all over the world. I myself marched in Boston with 175,000 others. Chants of “This is what democracy looks like” filled the air. It was exhilarating and inspiring—energetically very different from any other march I had participated in over the years. The difference was an overall expansive and inclusive feeling of both diversity and unity. People of all ages, races, nationalities, sexes, and sexual identities were represented. And I experienced nothing but cohesiveness and harmony all day. No divisiveness between different groups or between women and men. Both men and women carried signs that read: “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights.” The collective focus and intent was clearly visible in signs like that—human rights.
In the early days of the feminist movement, the marches and events were often “women only,” either from lack of interest (or hostility) on the part of men or from a deliberate decision by women. The misunderstandings, anger, and disagreements of those years seem to have evolved now into something that more closely approximates openness, mutual appreciation, and solidarity of intent. The 2017 Women’s March was the closest I have come to experiencing unity consciousness and oneness outside a specifically spiritual gathering. Perhaps the fact that many of us, myself included, have explored various spiritual paths in the intervening years has leant itself to this energetic shift. So many people are holding a broader vision of our evolution as a human species now. We are transforming on so many levels. As peaceful, nonviolent human beings, we came together, with loving-kindness in our hearts, to speak out for the rights of women, targeted groups like Muslims, and all people.
Ultimately, it is in the heart where unity and oneness come into being, where love triumphs over fear. That was the feeling of the Women’s March. Heart-centered. Power together, not power over. Organized locally and emerging globally, overlapping circles of empowerment and mutual love united the planet. I cried when I came home and saw the photographs of millions of people throughout the world, including Antarctica, who had marched together to support human rights and freedom. It gave me hope, in spite of everything else that is occurring in Washington and elsewhere in the country these days. It takes a determined, vocal critical mass to stand up to authority (and the worst aspects of patriarchy that we are now seeing) and live the alternative to domination and hatred right now. We know the humane, inclusive, love-centered world we want to live in. We can choose it every single day in all that we say and do, just as those individuals did at the Women’s March (and continue to do in their actions going forward).
Generations before us—some among them anarchists, some feminists—have left us beginning blueprints of how to live our lives in a continual movement toward freedom, equality, and global transformation (see link below). We know in our cells how to do this. It is no longer cognitive; it is vibrational. When we change ourselves and our own lives, everything around us changes. The dominant paradigm shifts, and everything begins to rebalance itself. That is what has been happening, and that is why we are stepping into such a vortex of accelerated energy now. The greater shift from the mind to the heart, from selfishness to compassion, from fear to love, is steadily expanding. In this present moment, all possibilities live within us. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Let us continue to engage in courageous and compassionate actions as one people, united in consciousness and spirit. Our open hearts will open the heart of the world.