The Golden Barley School

an anarchist, a communist & a feminist walk into a bar…


Casting Spells: on structural sexism in ‘the movement’

This is a speech from a panel discussion by by the Feminist Discussion Circle at the Sydney Anarchist Bookfair. The panel was called “Casting Spells: a feminist discussion of contemporary forms of exploitation” and had four presentations: austerity, women and revolt; current attacks on women’s services; the dangerous journey of a Middle Eastern feminist; and this one. An audio recording of the panel will be uploaded somewhere soon. [Trigger warning for mention of sexual violence.]

Ok, so my part of the panel is on structural sexism in “the movement”. As the opening speaker said, I’m not here to give The Answer but to ask some question, and maybe reframe some of the questions we already ask.

I don’t normally get too worried about public speaking, but I have to admit: this one has made me nervous. But I didn’t want for us to have a panel discussion that saw sexism only as abstract and political, as something that only comes from bad capitalists or, you know, college boys – as something that only happens outside this room.

One of the key tenets of feminism is that the personal is political. The political is personal. The nexus between our lives and broader politics is crucial, I think – but it’s also very difficult. We have an analysis of sexism as a broad social force, but it’s also something that happens in our lives: and, for those of us for whom political work is part of our lives, it’s an issue there too.

So, over and over, when I’m in anarcha-feminist meetings or feminist reading groups, or just with friends, we have these same conversations about specific incidents, about specific individuals, and about the patterns. Continue reading


LIES Journal – a review

A review from the forthcoming issue of Mutiny. LIES can be downloaded here (the LIES website is down at the moment)

LIES: A Journal of Materialist Feminism is a new feminist journal from North America. It’s the first contemporary political writing I’ve read for a long time that feels vital.

Misogyny is back. It never went away as a force, but it’s back as a topic of conversation, an issue that politcal groupings, from the major parties to the sects of the left, debate in order to differentiate themselves. Yet while anarchists and the far left generally say that they want to oppose sexism and any form of hierarchy, they often distance themselves from feminism. Feminism is caricatured as either anything-goes liberalism concerned with individual advancement or outdated puritanical essentialism. Either way, it’s dismissed as a marginal single-issue campaign with no analysis of, say, class or race.

Anarchist attempts to deal with sexism tend to either restate ‘it’s really all about class’, or see it simply as a matter of interpersonal bad behaviour that, whether it’s men talking over women in meetings or raping them, can be solved by essentially getting men to have better manners. I’m exaggerating, perhaps: things are said that are better than silence. But there’s a certain grinding weariness that comes when all our conversations seem to just repeat our complaints until they become boring even to us, with no sense that anything will ever change.

And to be fair, the loudest voices of contemporary professional feminism are often academically abstract, or tedious and superficial. But there’s a rich history of feminism as a complex movement and a heterogeneous body of thought trying to get to the root of things: How do the gendered divisions of power and safety and labour persist and reproduce? How does this work as part of racialised class society? And how it can be undone? LIES is part of that movement: deep and sharp and complicated. Continue reading

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A conversation on the recent “riot” in Sydney

Originally published in Mutiny zine.

What follows is a dialogue between two people commenting on the Sydney ‘riot’ – eds

Sourdough: My first response on seeing the Sydney ‘riot’ reported on the news was “wow!” – I hadn’t known anything was happening in town that day and suddenly there’s this rowdy demo fighting with cops. And it’s a crowd with a large proportion of young brown men , so it’s also pretty clear from the outset that they are necessarily resisting aggressive, racialised policing. And of course the liberal left line-up with an entire array of conservatives to denounce ‘violent protesters’. But it didn’t take long for a sinking feeling to hit, a feeling I’ve been trying to contemplate in the weeks since.

Princess Mob: I’m not being flippant when I say that ‘fuck the police’ is a pretty key political starting point.

What does it even mean to ‘take sides’ in this situation? We’re clearly not going to join with those who call for the police to make sure things don’t get out of control again, nor those who call on ‘moderate Muslims’ to distance themselves from ‘extremists’ (precisely because we don’t see the ‘extremists’ as representing anyone but themselves). Nor will we join with the explicit racists blathering on about deporting people, or the liberal racists saying ‘this is the kind of thing that makes people think that racists are right.’ Continue reading