Check out this preview to Chapter 10 of “The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality”. Download or buy the full copy here!
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. Only by working through our individual emotional traumas can we heal and begin to create a freer world. This can be seen clearly in the division that has taken place over generations between the genders.
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 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 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,” (“Womans Suffrage”) she wrote.
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”.