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How do anarchists respond to the claim by some feminists that patriarchy is the root of all oppression?

+4 votes
According to this theory, patriarchy provided the model later followed in the institution of capitalism, destruction of the earth, racial oppression, etc. This is characteristic of the paradigm of "radical feminism".
asked Apr 25, 2010 by enkidu (6,690 points)
I agree with some of the comments that it's impossible to find a "true" origins of domination, but I think some of the anarchists posting here are also being a little disingenuous in suggesting that anarchism itself doesn't fall into this same kind of deterministic and reductionist thinking. Many anarchists accept a great deal of Marx's class-based reductionism. In fact, even while post-structuralist Marxists, such as Foucalt and Derrida, rejected this simplistic, overly economistic view of the history of domination and instead, focused on the origins of particular institutions and locations of domination, most anarchists have continued with an orthodox and dogmatic fixation with class. Most anarchists seem to have read very little of Marx's actual writings and are unaware of the degree to which Hegelian idealism influenced his views on history. And many anarchists seemed to have spent very little time reading Bakunin's analysis of Marx (Many anarchists believe that while Bakunin disagreed with Marx on the state, he agreed with most of Marx's economic analysis, which is inaccurate. In fact, both Bakunin and Kropotkin at different times, ridiculed Marx's dialectical-materialism as little more than psuedo-science). Unlike Marx, Bakunin never entirely placed the location of domination in the economic sphere, but believed that other institutions (the church, family and the state itself) also could be historical locations of domination. This is similar to the analysis of radical feminism.
I think we do need to look at radical feminism critically, but not reject some its insights out of hand. Just as we need to begin thinking more critically about the negative influence Marxist orthodoxy has add on anarchist theory.

3 Answers

+6 votes
Best answer
There are a couple possible motivations to finding the one oppression that is the root of all the rest:
1. simplifying the staggering totality of shit in the world into a singular identifiable system that can be more easily understood and dismantled, and/or
2. having more say in how oppression is going to be undone because the root of all oppression is the one that you're on the receiving end of, so you get to have some social capital and power of victimhood, and the ability to issue commands to the pathetic 'ally' figures from the 'privileged' group (and it is always the case that someone who claims the root of all oppression is the one who can claim that oppressed status).

But these sorts of claims by feminists (or similar ones by homonationalists, workerists, etc) can be met with a simple rebuttal. We see what you're trying to do there, and how it is in your interest. Anarchists, on the other hand, seek to end all oppression and identify these oppression pyramid schemes as obstacles to this end.

Beyond that, you could try reductio ad absurdum by arguing with a very sincere tone that the root of all oppression is the development of language, or fire, or domestication of animals, or tools, or some such Fall-of-Adam-esque explanation which could reveal to your opponent the absurdity of the whole process of trying to locate the precise moment when grace was lost and sin came into the world.
answered Aug 28, 2011 by anok (19,530 points)
+4 votes
A gender-based division of labor is present in many primal cultures, and it most likely predates a full-blown class-based division of labor. My response is so what?

There are many different variants of institutions of domination and other hierarchies that have unfortunate consequences for human cultures. It has been argued by our primitivist friends that the domestication of plants and animals (agriculture and husbandry) predates the domination of women by men and men by other men. My response is so what?

For me the search for the origins of all oppression is like the search for the unity of all anarchists. It's a nice hobby, but has little practical importance.

Those who propose that patriarchy -- or any other kind of institutionalized oppression -- is the first or oldest form of oppression are implying that their preferred ogre is therefore worse than all the others. The path toward anarchy should not be a competition among proponents of First/Worst Oppressions. They all have to go, and each of us should dig away at them wherever we find their weaknesses. Being older doesn't make them less susceptible to what we hope are our withering attacks.
answered Apr 26, 2010 by lawrence (18,030 points)
Patriarchy was the first system of society-wide oppression. Before patriarchy there was only individual or groep oppression which all were subject to the weakness that those methods of suppression needed energy from external agents to keep the process ongoing.
The oppression which came in through patriarchy was NOT the primary goal of patriarchy. The oppression was in fact an unintended consequence of patriarchy and the realisation of this fact only came about in the 1930's. The important thing about this is that the oppression was for the first time in human life 'self oppression'. EVEN MORE IMPORTANT IS the fact that when a human being starts to self oppress s/he is blocking his own natural actions and THAT PROVIDES AN UNLIMITED ENERGY SOURCE TO KEEP THE PROCESS OF SELF OPPRESSION GOING for ten thousand years.
THE reason WHY  patriarchy was invented was to start the system of KAPITALISM. In matriachy everyone was a natural anarchist. All children inherited everything from their mothers and it was a bunch of perverted men who decide to hijack the natural order of things in order to ensure that the 'right people' inherited the goods. With matriarchy it is not possible for the 'wrong people' to inherit WHEREAS IN PATRIARHY THE SYSTEM OF INHERITANCE ONLY WORKS IF YOU HAVE SEXUAL SUPPRESSION. IF THE WRONG PEOPLE FUCK THE GOODS END UP IN THE WRONG HANDS.
This self oppression works on a subconcious level and combined with the enormous taboo on talking honestly and openly about sexuality it is what makes it so dificult to break through the blocks that we all have within ourselves about this subject. All other forms of mass oppression/suppression which came later are built on the foundation as laid out above. If a method could be concieved to destroy that foundation the whole lot would come tumbling down AND WE WOULD BE LEFT WITH LOADS OF WELLBALANCED HUMAN BEINGS WHO WOULD ALL BE NATURAL ANARCHISTS WHO WOULD BE WARY OF ANY 'SYSTEM'. They would be truly alive and caring individuals with a natural morality instead of a 'compulsive morality'. UNTIL WE GET TO GRIPS WITH THE SEXUAL NATURE OF THE PROBLEM WE WILL NOT YET BE ABLE TO CUT OFF THAT UNLIMITED ENERGY SOURCE WHICH IS POWERING ALL THE BULLSHIT WE SEE AROUND US.
Ther is one solution which could work; TODAY, yes, TODAY , start bringing up groups (large or small) who DO NOT 'CATCH' this EMOTIONAL PLAGUE'. Simple and very cheap. In 20 years we could have the first well balanced human beings on the planet in thousands of years who could show us idiots how to live in harmony with the cosmos.
My motivation for writing this explanation came when I read "My response is so what". It seemed to me that your motivation for so responding could possibly be your ignorance of the above facts. We all need to understand that we are subconciously providing the ENERGY to oppress ourselves and that energy is natural biological sexual energy and when our natural sexual impulses are blocked and that energy is deflected to suppress ourselves and others we fuck up EVERYTHING including our love-lives.
Many people consider kapitalism to be a symptom of how fucked up we are; I see it as the cause, but kapitalism would not get off the ground WITHOUT THAT ENERGY SUPPLY.
–1 vote
there is a rather simple answer, but you don't see it much from either the identity politicians of the left, or the blind-to-oppression "post-left" scene; any way here it is:

The first moment of patriarchy in human societies marks the defining of certain bodies as being a thing from which value is extracted, and the social conditions and conditioning which facilitates such an extraction of value.

Sound familiar at all? Its also a description of the first moment that "classes" of people occur as a phenomenon in human relations; the those-who-work, and those-who-own. Between those who are managed and those who manage the others.

in the case of patriarchy, the subjugated class is marked as "women" which is to say not-male; and thus marked has foisted upon it the task of reproduction of humanity- what previously occurred by accident, or just as any other event in life, likely under the self-regulation of whatever herbology is known to the region, has been given a metaphysical quality of a duty, of work, of a job- but in its first instance its more like slavery. Naturally to humans, the class of women does not accept its subjugation to this commandment to be the factory of more humans, so the rullership of the male is put into place, as the controller of the reproductive class of women-- gender norms and heteronormativity flow from this, facilitating patriarchies control. Humans new born are entered into a system of social control directing some towards active enguagement, and others to mere use-value.

however, the first moment when bodies can be marked as those that are managed as value producers, is also the first moment of class- and it seems unthinkable to me that patriarchy and class were not co-evolutionary, as they flow from the same logic: Capital.
answered Feb 26, 2011 by bellum (860 points)
"the blind-to-oppression "post-left" scene"

Can you explain what this means? You're casually tossing it out there with no explanation, no citation, no nothing. As a (however reluctant) post-left @, I have no idea where such a characterization comes from. If post-left @s are not sensitive to the particular kind of oppression you're trying to sell, that doesn't make us "blind" to it. It makes us skeptical. The difference is significant.
My words need only meet those who can hear them- anyone who has been around the varying anarchist fractions and considers themselves against all leftism will find themselves on one side or another of the "question" of oppression. If you need a citation, either live more or your blind to the fraction in which you've already taken a side.
right, the scene that has developed around the post-left is dominated by people who lack any ability to recognize power structures~ making them worse than useless. This is not to say anti- or post- leftism implies this, rather that, in the same way that FNB or critical mass attracts anarcho-liberals who think they can wish the state away with no self-risk, the post-left has attracted people defensive of the ways one power structure or another benefits them; incorrectly locating the problem of the left with the harm it would do to them. Its a peculiar manifestation of what Nietzsche termed ressentiment.
Its typical of a petit bourgeois strain in anti-capitalist thought, which will be negated along with the rest of this world.