Women activists in the UK discuss anarchism, feminism and the relationship between the personal and the political in extracts from interviews carried out by myself and Lynn Alderson in 1977. The whereabouts of the original tapes, or longer transcripts, is unknown, though we still have hopes of recovering them. For now, these partial transcripts are all there is. See Anarchism and Feminism: Voices from the Seventies for the other interviews and further information.
Note on Text: In line with the original intention that the interviewees would remain anonymous, I have given them pseudonyms, and made one or two minor alterations. Editorial amendments are indicated in square brackets [1977 edits] or square brackets and italics [2014 edits]. Ellipses appear in the original transcriptions, indicating cuts. In a couple of instances I have made additional small cuts, indicated with […], to remove repetition or obscurity.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Key Words: anarchism, anarchafeminism, feminism, gender, politics, women’s liberation, 1970s
Acting non-hierarchically affects every part of our lives.
[Had been in various Left reading groups]
I thought I was a radical feminist but that was more a personal response to my experience than a decision based on worked-out theory.
The strength of the Left is that it appears to touch more on what is going on, e.g. Grunwick’s [*]. We [feminists] suffer from a lack of confirmation in a public way — the media doesn’t recognise nursery campaigns and abortion marches in the same way — after a period of time, it’s hard to go on working, having no apparent impact … We need to see ourselves as being part of something that is having an effect — that’s a weakness of radical feminism. Most actions now are more of a consciousness-raising nature, presenting a different image of women. If we’re talking about social change, then there’s no discussion about such issues as using violence.
In the period I joined the [Women’s Liberation] Movement, sisterhood was really powerful — it was exciting at first, then there was a consideration of what the movement was really based on … then there were all these things like the economic system working against us. It was like chasing a myth of pure feminism. The Left has appropriated the real issues — e.g. work. Women have never had a chance to work out in our own terms how we thought about that. Like when some women were discussing how to support Grunwick’s, but not in the same way as the Left groups. It was exciting, good to start working out a feminist approach to that. But it got taken over by women already committed to Left points of view. I think radical feminism is lacking because we don’t sit down and discuss how feminist ideology could deal with something like that. …
I would hate to think that anything women can achieve would be based on other people’s fear.
Lynn: Would you agree with the anarchist principle of the destruction of power rather than transferral?
Angela: Yes — though I wouldn’t call myself an anarchist-feminist, concepts of non-hierarchical power relationships and structures always related back to anarchist principles. The Women’s Liberation Movement is not to do with transferring power from men to women, but more with equalising. I personally feel the situation now is such that it doesn’t mean you work with men to do that — it has to come from men themselves. It is for us to change ourselves and if that affects them, okay — otherwise we’ll be in the position of telling them what to do. Putting energy into men’s problems seems ludicrous when we have enough of our own. …
The whole concept of acting non-hierarchically does affect every part of our lives.
Hierarchies actually affect personal relationships and just because it’s a woman you’re relating to, you can still be dealing with that as a power relationship. Why aren’t there more radical celibates? …
Another weakness is not taking ourselves seriously enough. We’ve lost what we had, we didn’t build on those theories which were there, just constantly reiterated them.