The Bikecast Episode #52: Race, Gender, and Anarchism

The status of women as 2nd (3rd? 9th?) class members of the societal hierarchy receives stunningly little attention from male libertarians and anarchists–the folks that claim the greatest desire to eliminate institutional hierarchies of all types and to live in a society of equals.

This incongruity fits a larger pattern. The most strikingly barbaric and absurd social norms are all but invisible to the majority of people and are certainly never spoken of except in the most trusted of conversations. Anarchists know this because barbaric state power is one such social norm. Shrieking rage-filled prophesies of doom fill the air (at least eventually) anytime the dissolution of government is discussed in a public forum, thus indicating that someone has begun to question things that should not be questioned.

Multiply the viciousness and sensitivity of this reaction by a few orders of magnitude and you’ll have arrived at the vitriol that is aimed at those who criticize society’s treatment of women. God forbid the critic is herself a woman.

Download this episode of the Bikecast

As with many bikecasts, the “show notes” and the audio sort of diverge and end up covering different facets of the topic. This is compounded by the double recording session in the podcast. I still think it has alot of value, but it ends up trying to cover alot of material perhaps a bit too thinly. I appreciate feedback :)

An Illustrative Example at the Gonzo Times

Case in point, an article by Gonzo Times journalist Punk Johnny Cash titled A Problem Of White Male Anarchism and Libertarianism We Must Confront.
It’s an excellent read that dares wonder why it is that liberation movements–anarchism and libertarianism specifically–are so radically devoid of non-white and non-male participants.

As interesting as the article, though–at least from the perspective of this post–are
the comments. They are very civil compared to what we’ll see further along in the post, and consist of two categories of response. The first is a thoughtful, interactive dialogue among a fairly diverse group of people, many of whom are (or seem to be, it is the internet after all) non-male/non-white/non-straight. Here are a couple examples:

  • I’ve talked to several other anarchist women who won’t participate in anarchist groups any more because of their general hostility and emphasis on destruction. So they work outside of explicitly anarchist venues.
  • I’ve had “libertarian” men post the nastiest comments to me when I point out the sexism in their commentaries. Part of the reason I’m selective about where I post, which people I e-associate with, etc., is because I’m sick of having misogynist slurs hurled at me,sick of the defensive crap that occurs whenever you ask someone to check their privilege
  • Maybe it’s not the beliefs, but the behavior of many of those who hold them. The libertarian movement could use a drastic reduction in assholery.
  • The online anarchist community has quite a few trolls and jerks, and after I connected with other anarchists I liked, I chose to spend less time online because it’s more fun and productive to spend time with people in person.
  • In my experience, however, some of the most anti-queer and gender-fascist remarks I’ve heard have come out of the mouths of straight white cis male anarchists

The second category of comment is entirely divorced from the thread of the first. It claims international fabian socialism, historically rooted cultural differences, and, believe it or not, the incredible benefits that women and minorities receive from the state as reasons for the dominance of white male voices in anarchist spaces[1] That’s not to say that this category of comment is devoid of any truth or value to the discussion, but nowhere are the clearly stated and repeated reasons given by the other commenters addressed.

Let me jump in here and add a note related to the podcast and the rest of this post. I ended up, because I’m riding my bike and babbling from the top of my head, inadvertently focusing on the issue of women. I will sort of mirror that here. The issues of race, gender identity, sexual preference, etc. have many clear parallels, but I don’t address them to the same degree.

In the last week, a facebook discussion took place with a slightly escalated tone. Again, voices speaking about being shut out, shouted down, and verbally attacked were ignored (or countered) with commenters claiming that race and gender weren’t issues that required their attention. The discussion was started by a woman and the first three to five dismissive posts were white men. Again, largely civil, though maybe slightly more agitated, and though there were reasonable points among the comments, the crux of the matter, again, was ignored.

Punk Johnny Cash followed up this week with another good gonzotimes piece
This time, for some reason, the comments start with

Feminism is essentially Big Brother with a vagina.

proceed to

What the hell is so wrong with patriarchy, anyway? People assume that dominance is wrong, but if you like being dominated, why shouldn’t you be able to cede control?

and end up with

The “issues” of race and gender are really non-issues. . . except from a statist or wannabe-statist point of view.
“Abuse” is a statist creation, brought about mostly by economic meddling which forces a man to work overtime or take a second (or even third) job to support his family.Add to this, women who can’t keep their mouths shut, who use their words as surrogate baseball bats to bludgeon their man into submission; or women who stand in doorways to prevent the man from leaving the room/house so as to DE-escalate (caused mainly by the rise of “Feminism,” another statist invention). . . they kind of deserve what they get.
Stress someone enough, and eventually they’ll break.

And other than a heroic effort from PJC and Scott F (another gonzotimes journalist) to bring some semblance of sanity to the comments, there are no other voices present.

And yet even this is unicorns and rainbows compared with much of the shit directed at women on the internetz.

A Brief Reexamination of the the Historical Relationship between the Sexes

As a brief interlude, let’s reexamine the history of the sexes[2]. For something between 10,000 and a few hundred thousand years, women were property. They were bought, sold, traded, captured raped, killed, and otherwise disposed of without consequence[3].

It’s only been in the last 100 years, something less than 1% of human history,that any women at all were anything but man’s possession. I, having a finite life, can only grasp the enormity of this fact in the abstract, but we move around in a reality saturated by this history. And just as would happen if one’s car or microwave oven gained sentience and started making demands for equality, when one-time property began attempting to assert independence, men went (and most are still going) apeshit.

Perhaps the freshest modern example of this development in the middle east where women are routinely beaten, sexually assaulted and killed for having the temerity to learn to read, travel without escort, drive a car, or leave the house at all without complete physical cover. This isn’t some distant and bizarre alien culture. These conditions prevailed throughout the west until the last hundred years or so (minus the cars).

In the west, when conditions of near anonymity prevail, men will let their bigotry flag fly high, as we’ve already seen. When we move out of the realm of internet forums based around the premises of non-aggression and human equality, shit gets ugly(er) real goddamn fast.

Obviously this is just scratching the very privileged internet surface of the all encompassing poisonous atmosphere that is bigotry against women. From rape apologia to physical and sexual assault to just about any topic or by any metric conceivable, it fucking sucks to be a woman society.

At the root of it is the physical, violent domination that is a constant threat and pervasive reality for every woman. That this isn’t constantly acknowledged and constantly opposed by the folks who want a hierarchy, dominance-free, stateless society shows just how far we have to go.

Oh yeah, and it’s even worse for children.

I made mention in the podcast, for those who justdon’tbelieve this shit exists–by the metric shit-ton–that I’d post some good starting points on the blog. If you’re a woman, I gently recommend not visiting them. They are certainly triggering in any case.

While looking around, I found that someone is actually cataloging this stuff as a blog. Rather than link directly to the shit, I’ll just point to a couple pages where the analysis might take some of the edge off”>

In my last minute audio edits, I realize that I specifically talked about citing examples of women being attacked for “stepping out of line” in forums and advocating for themselves. I’ll try to get back to digging some of that particular type of gross up and adding it to the post, but I don’t want to delay publishing. Sorry for the shoddy quality of the research around here.

  1. [1] I’m treading a thin line here, but I want to contrast the simple claim that women benefit from the state with the more nuanced claim that women, as the societally constructed care providing gender, are “stuck with” the state.
  2. [2] Again, there are clear and strong parallels with other oppressed populations.
  3. [3] Although in some of the more enlightened cultures, if a rapist was caught, he had to marry his victim–so that’s a big win (Deuteronomy 22:28-29 NLT).
  1. Great podcast. I’m glad you have taken up the topic. Hopefully more will hear this….

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