Book Review: Free Women of Spain

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Free Women of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women, Martha A. Ackelsberg, AK Press 


Who is the revolution for? So often, too often, we are all called to join the revolution, to risk all for the revolution, and the revolution turns out to be a cisgender dick swinging contest. I am not interested in dick swinging contests and neither were Mujeres Libres (Free Women), an anarchist organization founded officially in Spain in 1937, The women who founded it were for the most part members of anarchist-affiliated organizations active in Spain at the time. Those organizations might have expressed commitment to gender equality but many male members of those organizations did not take women seriously and failed to be as committed to that revolutionary goal of gender equality. Sexism does not live just among the right wing and the conservatives. The "comrades" must be held to task too. 

Men of the left are not sterling feminists. The idea that just because a man is an activist or a leftist makes him ipso facto a feminist is delusional and absurd. Over and over, too many forget. I am fed up of the dick swinging. A revolution that does not target patriarchy is a dick swinging contest. 

And so anarchist women across Spain founded Mujeres Libres - which published a magazine by the same name - to work alongside those other anarchist organizations but to devote themselves explicitly to ending what they called "the triple enslavement of women" as workers, as women, and to ignorance.

If ever there was a moment in history to which I could press go and return there it would be to anarchist Barcelona during the Spanish Revolution. This book is a vital reminder that there is no liberation without women's liberation. And also sexual liberation. Ackelsberg notes that "Spanish anarchists had devoted considerable attention to sexual liberation, for both women and men. They advocated increased information about sex and sexuality, greater sexual freedom, and the abolition of legal and religious marriage in favor of "free love," by which they mean voluntarily contracted relationships that could be terminated at the will of either partner...The revolution allowed for the implementation of new public policies in the arena of sexuality, particularly in Catalonia." 

Nonetheless, Ackelsberg also points out the double standard between what the compañeros and the compañeras could do, and notes the prudishness in the magazine that kept even anarchist women from being "explicit" or "radical" with regards to sexual liberation in 1930s Spain, even as all were fighting for the social revolution that would create the society they wanted.

The revolution anywhere, be it in Spain in the 1930s or Egypt in 2011, will fail unless women's emancipation is at its heart. Women are always told to wait. That is a mistake. I am an anarchist because I want to end all forms of hierarchies; to end the oppression that is a result of those hierarchies. I do not believe that ending capitalism and class structures will liberate us all. Capitalism and class structures are not the only forms of oppression we must end. I want to end the oppression also of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, ageism, and other forms of bigotry.  I am an anarchist feminist who fights for freedom for all. And there is no freedom without women's freedom and without sexual freedom. My revolution declares "I own my body." 

I have risked my life. I'll be fucking damned if I risk it again for a group of swinging dicks whose aim is to get more slices of a cake that am offered only crumbs from. How's that for mixing my metaphors?! Fuck your crumbs. Fuck your cake. Fuck your penis contests. I want to be free. I will be free.

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By becoming a patron, you'll instantly unlock access to 107 exclusive posts
192
Images
3
Links
2
Polls
7
Writings
17
Videos