Trigger warning: Some of the content in this rant may be triggering if you have experienced gender violence or abuse.
I can’t even count on my fingers the number of male anarchists who have abusive misogynist patterns of behaviour anymore. I can’t even count on my fingers on the number of womyn I know who are survivors of male violence. How many womyn have to be beaten or sexually assaulted for the whole anarchist/leftist community to give a fuck about gender violence? To take feminist practices seriously? To hold perpetrators accountable for abuse? To wholeheartedly support the survivors of abuse instead of blaming them?
What is it about the sexism in western societies that so often condones sexualised violence or partner abuse? It’s not even that people don’t know about it, or that it’s a particularly taboo topic. It’s a wilful silence by most men in the anarchist/left movement. I don’t understand why there is such an unwillingness to take a strong stand against gender violence and partner abuse, is it because it’s seen as a secondary issue to more important “public” Political issues? Is it because relationship abuse it still considered as being part of the ‘private sphere’ where it’s none of our business what goes on in somebody’s personal relationships or in their homes?
These attitudes seriously set the goals of feminist/womanist movements back decades. It just goes to show the continued disrespect so many male anarchists have for womyn’s liberation, and that this culture of violence is not taken seriously amongst people I thought were comrades.
Some fucked up comments I’ve heard from male anarchists/anti-feminists in response to gender violence perpetrated by their peers:
“But she’s crazy”
As if womyn with mental illnesses deserve to be beaten, or that’s she somehow asked for it and it is her fault she was assaulted. This isn’t just a misogynist comment, it also stigmatises women with mental health problems and doesn’t take into consideration the relationship between ‘craziness’ and long-term psychological abuse. But also, it's easier to dismiss the survivor as insane than have to confront the abusive actions of your friend/comrade.
“I don’t know what to believe, he’s my friend. And it’s just “he said, she said”, you did a BA degree, you know that there’s no real truth in anything.”
This was probably one of the most ridiculous attempts to use intellectual analysis to avoid confronting the issue. Firstly, it’s “he said, THEY said” although it shouldn’t matter if it’s just one womyn saying it or multiple, she should be believed. Why do these people turn up to anti-war or Middle East democracy solidarity demonstrations if ‘there’s no real truth in anything’? Isn’t it just “they said, they said”? The dictators and occupiers have their side of the story too. Why take a political stand on anything? Complicity perpetuates violence and injustice. Neutrality encourages the oppressor.
Learn to connect the dots, it’s not that hard. It’s about power relations, that makes a difference to who’s stories you listen to, especially if you call yourself an anarchist.
“I’ve talked to him, he’s alright now, he’s been to that anti-violence course and he’s done everything he needs to do.”
Don’t you love it when male anarchists decide that a perpetrator has done everything he could so he should be allowed back into the community? Isn’t it just so empowering for womyn and survivor of the abuse for them to make that decision for us?
“He’s not going to assault anyone at the party”
Whether or not an abuser is going to pose a physical threat to womyn in a social setting or not doesn’t address their history of abuse. It completely misses the point that the effects of abusive behaviour are long-term for the survivors and if you’re going to include someone in a space, it is going to make people who care about survivor support feel uncomfortable.
“It was a mutually abusive relationship”
This is often said after a break-up caused by a male activist assaulting his partner. It has become such a common excuse for abusers so they can minimise the abuse and shift the blame to their partner. People who say this often do in a context where they actually blaming the womyn for what happened to her.
“Do I sense a hint of misandry?”
Organising a community response to a male abuser must equate to man-hating right? That statement also an underlying assumption that all men are abusive, isn’t that in itself misandry?
“You’re being divisive”
Yeah, I’m being divisive, not the misogyny or sexism or the violence against womyn that’s divisive. Yeah, it’s the people trying to challenge sexist oppression in our communities that’s being divisive. Makes total sense. Perhaps what is dividing the left is the difference in analyses of gender violence and patriarchy. One side condones it, one side doesn’t or rather one side is complicit, one side isn’t. The division is caused by ideologically opposing standpoints, so how can there be unity?
Minimising, blaming, denying, ignoring
That pretty much sums up anti-feminist activists’ response to gender violence in the ‘community’, which is a continuation of the emotional abuse already inflicted by the partner/perpetrator.
Understanding abuse: POWER AND CONTROL/”MANTROL*”
Intimate Partner Abuse is a political issue, it’s about power and control within a wider context of (hetero)sexist gender expectations and male privilege. Abuse is not just physical assault, it’s not just sexual assault; it’s the matrix of emotional abuse/manipulation, verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, intimidation, isolation and using political rhetoric to control someone. These are components of an unequal power relationship of domination and subordination. This is a cyclical pattern of behaviour. This is the product of a society that privileges white heterosexual cis-men. This is political. Yet this is not a core priority for so many anarchist men to fight against. It becomes secondary to class, or state political violence (if it is even on the agenda at all).
Misogyny is out of control and the responses from other activists just seem to get worse with each new incident. What might’ve began as outrage to gender violence a couple of years ago (perhaps due to a stronger anarcha-feminist contingency in Auckland) is now complacency and survivor-blaming mentalities. Some people even deliberately excluded survivors at social events so the perpetrators of intimate partner violence can go with their new girlfriends. This can’t keep happening! Enough. Is. Enough.
- Support survivors
- Challenge misogyny, ok maybe understand what that actually means and the different ways misogyny manifests in your behaviour, your speech, body language, perceptions, in group dynamics etc.
- Shoot the manarchist in your head
- Critically analyse your privileges
- Learn to not dominate, abuse, manipulate other people
- Make it a serious priority
*If you haven't seen those TV ads and billboards, "Mantrol" is a term that's been used in advertisements to stop drunk driving, targeted at men. There's been a huge increase in man-focused ads lately, this just one of the bunch. You can watch it on youtube, it is pretty ridiculous.