anarchismfeminismsymbol

There is no anarchism without feminism

I’d never been to bookfair before. I was very excited to be attending; had been looking forward to looking at books and collecting badges and I knew everyone I loved would be there. Not a lot of that happened though. I went home with two badges (the best two badges there in my opinion ‘my body is my business’ and ‘keep your rosaries of my ovaries’) and a stiff body and sore throat.

Within an hour of arriving we had to face the dreaded white man from down under. I’d heard there was some drama at last year’s bookfair but my memory isn’t the best so had forgotten the details apart from the fact that he was a misogynist and had upset some of our fem bloc. Well, it was clear to see and hear why this might have been. Stood on a bench he was spouting the usual Assange rape apologist bullshit about how there is “no rape without a charge” and that it simply didn’t happen. Of course we weren’t going to let that go. “Rape apologist” we shouted as his face screwed up into a grimace, a small crowd gathered round him. He started pointing at Stavvers, for some reason becoming utterly fixated with her red boots and sniping that she was an imperialist and he didn’t have to listen to her. So I stepped up and asked him what I was, surely he couldn’t excuse me in the same manner? I was wrong.

“Your culture,” he spat, “has invaded my culture for the last 800 years!” I must admit, I was a little confused by this. I might be British by birth but it certainly wasn’t my choice and my ancestors are traditionally those who have been raped and pillaged by imperialists so I couldn’t get my head around what he meant. “You’re a British imperialist!” He said this a few times but it didn’t make a difference in my comprehension. Here was this white man with an Australian accent and hefty mousey dreadlocks accusing me of racially controlling him and I wasn’t happy. This is where I got a bit sweary. I asked him what he meant by that as I made a point of looking at my skin and he replied “well, your accent is really English.” This person clearly hasn’t spent any time in this country or spoken to any people of colour living in Western societies otherwise he’d know that accents have very fucking little to do with a person’s roots. That and he’s a big fat racist. We called him that and we called him a rape apologist. A couple of his supporters really didn’t like that. One man, with his fuzzy mullet and flat cap brought his camcorder right into my face, his lips shaking, trying to intimidate me into silence. ANY anarchist worth their fucking politics knows you do not film comrades so with this in mind, we assumed he was a copper and called it as such. He didn’t like that. Dread man called us ‘hysterical’ and we all whooped. There were calls for making the most of it with a game of manarchist bingo as things went from ridiculous to brain numbingly tedious. He randomly accused two of our group of killing 11 people in Northern Ireland, accusing one of them of being Northern Irish.

The crowd around us got bigger, comrades very much on our side and the others, men who seemed utterly heartbroken (pissed off) that we were chanting “kill all men”. One well-meaning chap explained how his mum was a feminist and how he had support for women but he felt alienated by phrases such as the one we were using. Assuming he was an anarchist, I asked him if he’d ever said ‘ACAB’ or ‘eat the rich’ and then whether he said these in the absolute belief that there wasn’t a single good cop in the world or that he might actually munch on the upper classes because if he was saying it, then he obviously he meant it. There was a slight pause before he understood what I was saying but he persisted in advising that we were pushing the average man away.

Here’s the thing: we don’t give a shit about the average man. We’re not teachers, we’re not leaders, we’re not going to break it down for you in a language you understand. We are expressing ourselves, nothing more, nothing less. We say these extreme things because, powerless as we are, sometimes it is the only thing in our arsenal. Words are powerful, yes, and for those fleeting few seconds, we are in control and you can’t hurt us.

As the crowd dissipated we made our way to the foyer for the AnarchaFem conference but on the way in, we were confronted by fuzzy mullet man. His face started twitching again, he must have really been resisting the impulse to physically attack me, his whole demeanour was triggering of the men who have attacked me in the past. I felt eerily calm, pushing his finger down when he pointed it in my face and moving into his space to see how he liked it. “Do you believe in free speech?” He repeated this over and over. Comrades shouted “rape apologist cop!” at him but this didn’t change his stance. It was only when a male comrade physically put his body between us that this manz sloped off, the bulk of my male friend clearly too much of a challenge.

If we thought an AnarchaFem conference was going to leave us any more confident about the bookfair then those hopes were soon dashed. They had a safer spaces policy that I really got on board with but I couldn’t say that it made me feel any safer on the premises. I raised the point with the people facilitating the meeting. Whilst it felt safe-ish in the room, the journey to the room had left us afraid and feeling remarkably unsafe. They replied that they knew Ciaron O Reilly was back this year and were aware of the problems he had caused the previous year so we could meet at the end and discuss how we were going to tackle it. With this covered we moved on to the subject of self-defined women only safe spaces for the AnarchaFem conference. It turned out this wasn’t it but a strategy meeting for setting one up. Most of the discussion with other anarcha fems seemed progressive until one woman suggested we needed a safe space where we could “discuss divisive subjects like sex work and abortion”.  This is where the meeting went downhill. As was rightly pointed out by one of our irl comrades, we come to an anarcha fem space safe in the knowledge that if you are identifying as an anarchist you have rejected the system and discussions such as the one proposed are had by anarchists every day when combatting bigotry. This should not be the starting point; we should already have come to the conclusion that our feminism is inclusive. We might have our own feelings about sex work and abortion, heck, I have my own feelings about some Muslims but I’m not about to force my feelings on others because of the twisted experiences I have personally had. From outside the room we heard shrieking and through the small glass panel I saw some of dread man’s supporters heckling and pointing at us. When they were asked to leave, they said they didn’t follow rules cos anarchy. When advised they couldn’t drink outside a room where a safe space policy was in place, they jeered at us and said “are you gonna stop calling him a rape apologist?” We told them this was room focused on survivors and they had no business being on the landing and then another man from a meeting around the corner came to have a go but not at them, as though we were the troublemakers. On speaking to other comrades, many of the workshops had similar problems; one of them even had survivors and perpetrators in the same space with someone sat at the door to ensure people couldn’t leave. There were people crying and shaking. This is not my anarchism. This is patriarchy.

Leaving the meeting we quickly became aware that dread man was stirring trouble up again. The entrance to the building was crammed with people posturing towards a centre point. Assangites in Anon masks were taking pictures and filming people again. TELL ME, HOW IS THIS ANARCHIST? I rightly got very angry and tried to push the camera out of one of the women’s hands but she was really enjoying herself. Dread man was spouting some nonsense about ‘Branning’ and I remembered hearing somewhere many anon types were struggling with the fact that Chelsea Manning is who she is. I said her name was Chelsea Manning and it affected him for all of a split second before he went on a bizarre rant about the Clintons and Chelsea being Hilary’s daughter and imperialist conspiracies yadda yadda. We started chanting “her name is Chelsea Manning” and then he pointed at me, “America and that woman over there, she is the most dangerous woman in the world!” I won’t lie, this made me sorta happy. But seriously, me, 5 foot brownie with invisible disabilities is the biggest threat that man thinks the world has to face. I agree about America but how, HOW am I on a par with that rogue state there? Obviously he’s a completely ridiculous manz with an ego the size of Australia, just like Assange.

What can be done about Anarchism? This was my first experience of anarchists outside of my close knit activist group. I am hoping we are the majority and we can eliminate the patriarchal fucks intent on maintaining power and control structures otherwise I am seriously going to have to rethink my identity.

28 comments

  1. Hi, I was one of the few people who confronted this guy last year, most people prefer to ignore him. To be honest, I think there individuals attending the book fair who are a bigger threat to women and other genders. Rapists, domestic abusers, radfems, etc. There have been attempts to create safer spaces policies at the book fair before, but the organising collective is a small group of people over 40 years old who haven’t got the time or energy to take this on board and have concerns on how to enforce a policy at a big event like this. I think the best solution would be for people like yourself to join the collective, so that we can finally adress this type of behaviour. Unfortunately I was too busy this year to join, but hope to find some time in the future. I’m sure the collective will be welcoming.

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    1. Hi. I mean this respectfully (not in the way people usually say ‘all due respect’), but having a small group of organisers is not an excuse for not having a safe space policy.

      There are loads of examples from other groups online that could be easily adapted into one that was appropriate. I’m involved in a feminist group with four main organisers, we have a safe space policy, it took hardly any time. Enforcing is always harder, but you can do it by having an organiser in each session who’s informed about the policy, and by stressing in publicity that this is how events are run.

      However, I agree that the more people who get involved in collectives that they see problems with, the more likely it is that things will change.

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      1. Yes it is. Half a dozen people physically can’t police a gathering attended by thousands while also running it – big events usually need teams of dozens of people to do so.

        Logistics alone suggest that the solution to the problem is not to say “the bookfair organisers are all shit” (what, for putting on the biggest event in the anarchist calendar when no-one else can be bothered and not being able to do absolutely everything?) but to volunteer or find some people willing to volunteer so they can get the support they need and organise a proper stewarding system.

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  2. Reblogged this on The Peripheries of Anarchy and commented:
    I feel this is worthy of a re-blog. As a side note, I had been invited to co-facilitate the consent workshop mentioned. I was not able to attend but was meant to send along an updated version of my workshop zine, unfortunately I never did. The zine has a list of guidlines including not blocking the way out. Wish I’d sent it now, but I guess not blocking the way out is obvious. I believe the intention was acctually to stop peole coming in (a problem I experinece in the workshop I facilitated) but I think a “No Entry” notice on the door would have done that rather than someone in the way of people wantying to leave. After I did my workshop I benefited form constructive criticism. I hope to speak to the facilitators of the London wokshop and use thier feedback and that of others who attended to improve on the structure and learn form mistakes so a better job can be done next time.

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  3. Reblogged this on Wessex Solidarity and commented:
    We must put our house in order, we have always welcomed eccentrics and dissidents of all kinds but some people have latched onto the anarchist movement in recent years who haven’t the faintest idea what it’s all about, these people are not anarchists, they are closer to the far right.

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    1. Damn right. Many of the Anons are obsessed with far-right conspiracy theories and only know the dictionary definition of anarchism. Unless you reject and oppose – both in theory and practice – all hierarchy, the state, capitalism and patriarchy – you are not an anarchist. It’s all or nothing.

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  4. While I enjoyed your entire post, what struck me the most was the last line, “I am hoping we are the majority and we can eliminate the patriarchal fucks intent on maintaining power and control structures otherwise I am seriously going to have to rethink my identity.”

    In my humble opinion, if we are not constantly rethinking our identity, we are going to always remain as we are, and as we are is really never where we are supposed to be. Life is a journey, and while I will always make fighting for women’s equality (and simply human equality and understanding) I also understand that the fight starts with MY attitudes and MY visions of my life and self.

    A a lesbian, I have been taunted, and have had several men use the “One night with me…” instead of arguing with these draconian individuals, I simply live my life in ways that make them look crazy without ever having to say a word.

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  5. This is so fucked up, I heard the said dreaded man at the front of the bookfair he sounded a bit conspiracy nutter-ish, but didn’t realize he was abusing women I would of joined you in confronting him if i would have known.

    A lot of dodgy views from all leftist’s have come out around Assange, the 100% denial that he could have done any of the acused things makes the left no alternative to the present where women are disbelieved from the starting point.

    I think you’re small important ‘action’ has to go along at the heart of all Anarchist events. All anarchist ideas are about leveling hierarchy. And any ‘version’ that doesn’t include respect for women doesn’t believe in the absolute core point of anarchism, so is bullshit. I don’t think the majority of anarchists would have backed this bloke against you. This all seems like such common sense and sad that it has to be discussed at all.

    I think youre views are spot on, and people that share these ideas are why i call myself the a word at all.

    Solid.
    A Bristolian Anarchist.

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  6. “…men who seemed utterly heartbroken (pissed off) that we were chanting “kill all men”. One well-meaning chap explained how his mum was a feminist and how he had support for women but he felt alienated by phrases such as the one we were using. Assuming he was an anarchist, I asked him if he’d ever said ‘ACAB’ or ‘eat the rich’ and then whether he said these in the absolute belief that there wasn’t a single good cop in the world or that he might actually munch on the upper classes because if he was saying it, then he obviously he meant it. There was a slight pause before he understood what I was saying but he persisted in advising that we were pushing the average man away.”

    OK, fair enough, except all cops are bastards is different to ‘murder all men’ and it’s different also to ‘murder all cops’. One is a call to physical violence. The other is calling them names. Further, men are biological accidents; you could just as easily have been a man as a woman. Cops choose to be cops and even if they are not aware of the nature of the work at the beginning before too much time they will become aware and they choose, nonetheless, to continue being cops. The same essentially goes for being rich. You may be born rich but you can distribute your wealth if you find it to be morally abhorrent in its origins. So, ACAB and eat the rich are different to ‘kill all men.’ Also, my understanding, eat the rich is a shortening of a longer quote, which features words to the effect of ‘when the poor have nothing left to eat, they will eat the rich.’ Which, again, is pretty different to ‘kill rich people.’ Which, there’s much better case for that then ‘kill all men.’

    “Here’s the thing: we don’t give a shit about the average man. We’re not teachers, we’re not leaders, we’re not going to break it down for you in a language you understand. We are expressing ourselves, nothing more, nothing less. We say these extreme things because, powerless as we are, sometimes it is the only thing in our arsenal. Words are powerful, yes, and for those fleeting few seconds, we are in control and you can’t hurt us.”

    You say you don’t give a shit about the average man, that’s fine. And that you are just expressing yourself that’s cool too. But if you’re expressing yourself don’t you want this expression to be comprehensible to others? I suppose, what I mean is, why not engage in a dialogue? You and your friends and whoever else joined ‘on your side’ (so to speak) obviously thought you had a point, so why not put that case to Dread Lock Guy in more length, rather than chanting kill all men? And also, you didn’t like this guy for his beliefs, I get that, and a lot of people feel the same, but does he deserve to be actually put to death? I guess your point is something like, we’re not literally saying kill all men, we’re using something shocking to make a strong point. But… I dunno, you’re still kind of saying kill all men. Maybe I could even get on board with that sentiment if I was pretty well convinced say, 90% of men were complete scumbags but that seems pretty unlikely to me and rather unrepresentative of my experiences.

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    1. As someone who worked with women experiencing domestic and sexual violence and has spoken candidly with all the women I have ever met about whether they have experienced oppression or power and control at the hands of men, let me tell you, I say ‘kill all men’ cos I am frankly sick to death with patriarchy. It upsets men because they think it is an actual thing that could actually happen because they think we think like them, in that we are violent and we can oppress them in the ways in which we have been oppressed. Don’t be silly, mate. ‘Kill all men’ upsets you more than the fact that 70% of women worldwide are being hurt for the basic fact that they are not men and society has made it so it easy to subjugate us in many way; at home with domestic abuse, on the streets with harassment and the ever present threat of rape and at work, where we are paid less and have to put up with sexual harassment lest we lose our jobs. One little phrase hurts you so much? How about you spend the time arguing this point tackling mankind and changing the fucking horrible world we live in?

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  7. People say “all cops are bastards” without meaning it? ;)

    Sounds like a horrible situation, glad you had comrades around, hope some sort of solution happens before next one of these. There’s may be grey areas around different shades of ideology within anarchism but going around harrassing survivors and filming people at an anarchist event is fucked up beyond any ordinary code of conduct and “I don’t follow rules” doesn’t cut it. If anarchism meant total lack of responsibility (including responsibility to act according to principles of mutual aid and not oppressing each other) we could declare the financial industry anarchist in principle and give up tomorrow.

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  8. Fair play

    London scene is particularly bad for these kinds of arseholes in my experiance. Too often people dont want to get heavy and so let this mischief thrive. Im not at all interested in sharing an organising space with misogynists and pissheads. Kick them out!

    I would add that Alcohol is just plain fucked up drug, its a tool to oppress the working class and too many so called anarchists are committed to having it for breakfast. Alcoholism is pretty much a part of the culture and this needs to get addressed as well.

    Respect

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  9. Out of interest Sam, and obv no pressure to answer this, what do you think could be done better at future (A) bookfairs to stop shit like this happening again – is it a safer spaces policy, with a team of volunteers to enact it? is it a more militant/aggressive approach with actively aggressors (e.g. rape-denyers)?

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    1. Both, if I’m honest. Apparently organisations have approached the organisers of bookfair before to implement a safer spaces policy but they didn’t want more work and suggested we tackle the issues ourselves. We can do that but we need everyone on board.

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  10. Hi Sam,

    I was the facilitator of the consent workshop (as well as one of the anarchafem conference facilitators) and I can confirm that we did have a problem with the door. There was a signup sheet on the door all day but more people came in than were on the sheet and people seemed unwilling to leave, so there were chairs all around the periphery in a circle and people would have had to ask others to move over in order to leave at least for part of the workshop (about halfway through we all moved our chairs into small groups and from then on I think it would have been easy). People kept trying to burst into the workshop after we had started, and our safer spaces volunteer was sitting in front of the door behind the chairs in the circle telling people trying to get in that it was full – she then put a sign on the door. I should definitely have recognized this problem and it is important feedback to hear. No one was crying during the consent workshop though, I think that has maybe been confused with a different meeting earlier in the day in that room in which a sexual abuser was named and three people left upset.

    In terms of survivors and perpetrators being in the same space, I think we can be pretty sure that that description would unfortunately fit most of the meetings that day, even potentially women-identified-only ones. There are two sexual assaulters we know of whom we would not have let into any of the AF meetings. There was a trigger warning on the door of the room the consent workshop was in all day and there were no activities that involved touching other people or practicing saying no (some consent workshop zines propose activities like this and I’ve been in workshops that used them but I didn’t think that would be a good idea with strangers in an unusually large workshop), although the room was pretty small for about 34 people. The blurb I wrote to send to the bookfair said “Numbers may be capped on the day” but I don’t think that phrase made it into the program.

    Please let your friend know that we would be grateful for any feedback about the consent workshop – it was my first time facilitating and I was pretty nervous (we got started late because my comrade with the computer was I think speaking to you and a few others about the Assange jackasses and came late). I’ve read one facebook post that a comrade reblogged from someone who was at the workshop and had a bad experience, maybe the same person? (http://radicalgraffiti.tumblr.com/post/64608549240/manarchism-is-liberal) It sounds like the crowdedness of the room was a pretty big mistake. I’ve messaged them on fb to apologise.

    Thank you for your comments and ideas, and for your participation in the Anarchafeminist Conference meeting as well. If you want to get in touch you can contact me at contact (at) saferspacesedinburgh.noflag.org.uk and it would be good to hear more from you.

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  11. The Anon who claims “I can do what I want becos anarchy means ‘no rules’” needs to be put straight that it means “no rulers” not “no rules”, and if he doesn’t respect that or accept it, what justification has he for being part of the free association that is within an anarchist space? An anarchist community has got to have a few rules of conduct and free association also means disassociation when applicable. I wrote a piece about conspiraloons recently: http://forestunity.wordpress.com/the-truth-is-out-there-conspiracy-theories-and-the-far-right/

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  12. The Anonymous lot, Ciaron O’Reilly, and all his cronies with their patriarchal bile, can fuck right off. They aren’t anarchists, they’re a bunch of liberal conspiracy nutjobs originating from the depths of internet hellholes like 4Chan and reddit. I was there when you guys were chanting at him, and he was totally in the wrong. From what I noticed, most people were actively on the side of the people chanting, not O’Reilly, but didn’t want to get involved as it was looking to become a bit violent. I actually saw one of O’Reilly’s mates hit a woman who was sitting down. Solidarity from Exeter, and I hope this hasn’t alienated you from future activism.

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