As we have noted, many of the world’s problems are physical manifestations of a lack of internal healing. State institutions have no trouble manipulating large portions of the population that are too lost in their own emotional muck to pay attention to the oppression happening all around them. This can be seen clearly in the division that has taken place over generations between the genders. Only by working through our individual emotional traumas can we heal and begin to create a freer world.
For millennia the human species has been pitted against each other. When brute strength was the only requirement to rule over another life, Men would kill and enslave each other and often take Women as slaves, using force to meet their every need. This imbalanced state, combined with the disconnect from Nature we have discussed, created a world full of inequality and pain. Historically, governments and the prevailing attitudes of the populace promoted the idea that women were inferior. This is evident in Fathers owning their wives and daughters and the fact that Women were not allowed to own property or make any choices of their own.
Anthropological evidence indicates that societies operated in a much more Egalitarian fashion before the innovation of agriculture and domestication of communities. In “The Origins of Fatherhood: An Ancient Family Process” Sebastian Kraemer writes that the Patriarchal mindset came about around 6,000 years ago with the growing concept of fatherhood. Even the great philosopher Aristotle believed women were inferior to Men in intellect, morality and physical ability. Regardless of how it began, we can clearly see an imbalance in the way Women have been treated for thousands of years. To be fair, most people on this planet, of either gender, have been subject to enslavement by whatever authority ruled over their particular landmass, but even amongst other Male slaves throughout history, the pervading attitude was that Women deserved no rights.
However, there have been exceptions to this point of view. Greek historian Herodotus wrote about the differences between Egyptian and Greek women, specifically Egyptian women who maintained employment in a variety of trades. He noted that Egyptian women were often found in positions of power, able to inherit property and able to secure loans– privileges unheard of for women in Greece in Herodotus’ time.
There is a rich history of Goddess and femininity worship. There are thousands of female statues dating back 5,000 years before the Current Era, found in the Mehrgarh area of Pakistan, as well as a Mother Goddess statue in India that has been carbon-dated to 20,000 years before the Current Era. These seem to indicate a certain respect if not worship of the feminine form. Examples of Female Deities can be found all over the world.
The Pueblo and Hopi peoples of the American Southwest speak of a Great Mother who helped create the stars and the sky. In Inca mythology there is Pachamama, a fertility goddess who watches over the Earth and harvests.
There is also Shaktism, a branch of Hinduism that focuses devotional efforts on Shakti or Devi, the Hindu Divine Mother. In ancient Greece, Gaia was the name of the mother of all life, the great Greek Mother Goddess who gave birth to the Earth and the Universe. More recently we have Goddess movements such as Dianicc Wicca and terms like “Sacred” or “Divine” Feminine, a New Age spin on the Hindu Shakti teachings.
Despite isolated historical examples of equality, the dominant mentality has been one of Male supremacy. Rejection of this system and pursuit of equality is known as Feminism. At various points in history Women and Men have sought to empower Women and establish practices of equality. Although there have been discussions of equal rights since the 14th century, there is no agreed upon beginning of the Feminist philosophy. Most scholars agree that American Feminism has had three waves, each concerned with different aspects of freedom for Women. The first wave of Feminism came in the 18th and 19th centuries and focused on Women’s Suffrage, the right of Women to vote and hold political office. In America, the Women’s Suffrage movement began gaining ground in the 18th Century as Women began pursuing the right to vote. Second-Wave feminism came about during the 1960’s until the 1980’s and broadened its focus to examine gender roles and culturally ingrained inequalities. The Third-Wave, and current phase, of Feminism includes a wide range of philosophies, including rejections of past schools of feminist thought as well as evolutions of First and Second-Wave feminism.
Out of the struggles of Second-Wave of feminism emerged Radical Feminism. Radical Feminism focused on dismantling Patriarchy through opposition of gender roles. It considered how social class, race, sexual preference and socioeconomic status play into the treatment of Women and Men. Many Radical Feminists had prior experience in the Civil Rights battles of the 1960’s. These movements were focused on direct action and did not necessarily push for political solutions to the inequalities they opposed.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, American Feminism merged with the principles of Anarchy to form what some call Anarcha-Feminism. Prominent Anarchist thinker Emma Goldman is seen as a founder of Anarcha-Feminism. For Goldman, the opposition to male supremacy was essential in the struggle against State power. She was also a huge advocate of reproductive rights and education and access to contraception. Before many other radicals accepted homosexuality, Goldman was publicly defending the rights of gay men and lesbian women to love as they pleased.
Goldman criticized voting as a legitimate form of fighting the State. She believed it foolish to assume that giving Women the right to vote would halt the crimes of the State.
“To assume, therefore, that she would succeed in purifying something which is not susceptible of purification, is to credit her with supernatural powers,”
she wrote in “Womans Suffrage”.
Another prominent figure in American Anarcha-Feminism was Voltairine de Cleyre. De Cleyre was critical of traditional beauty ideals, gender roles and the marriage laws that allowed men to rape their wives without fear of legal consequence. She wrote for Benjamin Tucker’s classic newsletter Liberty. In addition to being a Feminist, Voltairine was an advocate of Anarchism without adjectives. In her 1901 essay, Anarchism, she writes of the need for Anarchists of all economic schools to work together in free experimentation. She concludes,
“There is nothing un-Anarchistic about any of them until the element of compulsion enters and obliges unwilling persons to remain in a community whose economic arrangements they do not agree to.”
One of the more contentious areas that Feminists have explored is the question of whether gender roles are a valid concept or simply a social construct. Western cultures tend to accept two genders, male or female, while cultures around the world, throughout history have accepted three or more genders. These include the mahu of the Kanaka Maoli indigenous. The mahu were seen as sacred educators of ancient traditions and could be either male or female with a gender somewhere in between or sharing traits both masculine and feminine. Among the Bugi people of the Sulawesi island of Indonesia, five genders are recognized. The Bugi support the idea of men, women, calabai, calalai, and bissu. Calabai are biological males who take on the role of a heterosexual female. Their dress and gender expression are feminine. Calalai are biological females who identify with a male gender. Bissu are healers or medium who “transcend” gender and encompass aspects of all five in order to form a whole. Several American Indian tribes also have similar concepts. The Lakota word Winyanktehca can be translated as “two-souls-person”, or “to be as a woman”. The term is applied to biological males who are transgender. The “winkte” are an important part of the spiritual community. The Navajo also have a similar concept in the Nádleehí, which could be translated as “one who constantly transforms”.
Roles are imposed on each gender according to certain qualities that are deemed acceptable and those that are not. Queer theory proposes a deconstruction of gender-identity to get to the roots of oppression.
Psychologist Cordelia Fine believes there are inherent biological differences between the minds of men and women. However, she also believes that cultural traditions are responsible for shaping these apparent differences between the sexes. Professor Dianne Halpern writes that social and biological factors are equally responsible and cannot be separated. In Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities, Halpern writes that cultural traditions and biology both play a role in determining gender identity. She discusses how the influence of testosterone on a male brain gives men a slight advantage in tasks such as building with blocks. This could lead a male to seek opportunities to exercise similar skills, such as sports. Over time these activities are labeled as male specific and become ingrained into the culture itself. However, these culturally accepted norms are not absolute and should not be used as a barometer for socially accepted behavior by either sex.
We believe a conversation on balancing the Feminine and Masculine is incomplete without discussing Gender Roles as possible tools for oppression of the freedom of expression and the freedom to love. The idea that all men are supposed to be tough, brave, fearless and unemotional has caused untold harm to the human race. Just as dangerous is the idea that all women are to be emotionally open, compassionate, easily scared, delicate and passive. These concepts reinforce division among the masses and allow the authorities to pit Men and Women against each other. Rather than seeing each other as equals capable of great things, we are taught to buy into and support false versions of the Male-Female dynamic. We also support Transgendered individuals who may have been born with sex organs that do not correspond to the gender role they associate with. Culturally reinforced ideas on the types of relationships that are acceptable have also caused harm to human relationships.
Not only have our roles in society been predetermined by those in positions of authority, but our private relationships with one another have also been heavily controlled. For centuries church and state have dictated what human relationships should look like based on their own political interests. In the past this control was more apparent with arranged marriages and laws against certain types of partnerships. Even today remnants of these traditions still exist. For example, marriage licenses still prevent people of the same gender from being legally recognized as a couple in 13 states (with 37 states allowing legal same sex marriage), just as those same licenses prevented interracial marriage until 1967. The societal norms regarding relationships are still heavily rooted in traditions that were created by figures of authority many ages ago.
One of the most obvious examples of an ancient tradition controlling modern relationships is that of monogamy, the idea that a male-female partnership requires each person to abstain from all other sexual activity. This is something that many people prefer, which is great for them, but this is a path that should be freely chosen by each participant in the relationship, instead of an assumed prerequisite. When entering relationships, the vast majority of people simply go through the motions and do what society expects of them, without ever stopping to discuss or even consider that they have the freedom to decide what their relationship will look like, as long as each person is on the same page. When given the option, some people would choose monogamy, while others may choose polyamory, a philosophy that allows for multiple sexual partners. It does not matter which path is chosen– what matters is that each person in the relationship was able to freely choose the framework of their partnership.
For all of its merits and successes in the last hundred years, some would argue that Feminism in the Internet age has become divisive. Modern American Feminists have been criticized for promoting Female Supremacy rather than equality. While some Feminists may lobby for government granted privileges in the name of Feminism, AnarchaFeminists truly seek equality. Other criticisms include accusations of First World Feminists forgetting about their struggling counterparts in Third World nations who are also dealing with oppressive, Patriarchal regimes.
There is also the tendency for Feminists to use the State to enforce equality. An Anarchist view of Feminism recognizes that the State does more harm than good by reinforcing traditional gender roles. The State pushes the idea that a liberated woman is a woman who has joined the workforce, pays taxes and votes for her master. Governments love to declare that liberation has been achieved by incorporating women into their tax farm. We work towards acceptance of all individual choices, not declarations of equality enforced by governments. One reason Women may be inclined to trust and seek assistance from Government support systems is a seeming lack of private alternatives. This is why building and creating alternative institutions that recognize the value of all life, regardless of sexual orientation, gender or race, is of the utmost importance. Efforts to use the government as a tool for equality have often resulted in “state feminism”, which uses the force of government to grant rights and outlaw discrimination based on gender, yet may also lead to other forms of control, including limiting the free speech of important feminist leaders who are critical of government policies.
Men and Women have been divided throughout our history on this planet. We have also experienced periods of great unity. The human species will benefit immensely from promotion of free expression of love and acceptance of all individual’s right to live their lives to their contentment.
To achieve this goal we must eradicate institutionalized oppression, including Patriarchy. However, the answer to millennia of abuse towards Women is not shaming and condemning Men. Once again we stress the importance of balance. We support individual accountability, education and expulsion of bigots of all types. If we are to truly move past these divisive and harmful ideas, we must begin to accept the role each of us plays in allowing the oppression of the opposite sex. Only as welladjusted, emotionally-balanced individuals can we create a truly free and compassionate society that respects all life.