The following is a portion of “Chapter 10 -Balancing the Feminine and the Masculine”, of “The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy and Spirituality” by Derrick Broze and John Vibes.
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 the 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 unAnarchistic 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 theBugi 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 absolute and should not be used as a barometer for socially acceptable behavior by either sex.
We believe a conversation on balancing the Feminine and Masculine incomplete without discussing Gender Roles as possible tools for oppression of the freedom of expression and the freedom to love 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 sex organs that do not correspond to the gender role they associate with. Culturally reinforced ideas on the types of relationships that are have also caused harm to human relationships.