Rose: My politics have always come from what I experience rather than theory.

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.
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Key Words: anarchism, anarchafeminism, feminism, gender, politics, women’s liberation, 1970s

Notes  →

My politics have always come from what I experience rather than theory.

The majority of people active in [the Claimant’s Union*] were unsupported mothers. Actions like sit-ins in Social Security offices for extra money for heating — well, it certainly achieved something materially for individuals. Part of the ideology was to show people that they could be equally strong, that everyone came to find out how to do it and then went out and helped others — it was taking power into your own hands instead of someone doing it for you. Also collectivity – learning about working together. …

[In Denmark ] I was starting to relate sexually to women … getting shouted at and hissed for walking hand-in-hand with a woman in the street — the aggression was an eye-opener. I do feel very oppressed as a woman — I felt it most on a day-to-day hassle level. Also economically — having a child and being considered dependent on the man I was living with, and I wasn’t prepared to be …

I always felt very intimidated by [men], particularly politically and intellectually. I joined Troops Out [*] and tried to work in that for a long time, but I couldn’t take the hierarchical structure. Now … I don’t feel intimidated, but more alienated by their way of discussing politics and their theory. I haven’t got a theoretical background — my politics have always come from what I experience rather than theory. I think that the personal being political is the basis of feminism … some of the other important feminist principles to me are also the destruction of power structures — that’s why I identify as an anarchist — that anarchy is about everyone having power rather than one group taking power …

[Children] … I think it’s inevitable that there is a power relationship — [my child is] legally and financially dependent on me, and there’s a physical power difference — but taking all that into account, I try to do the most I can to minimise it and try not to use it. My main feeling is that they should be as independent as soon as possible. That’s what impressed me about anarchist writing, that they think about kids as people and not lesser beings and there’s been quite a lot of energy and thought in trying to give them back power and freedom.

I was impressed by anarchist groups in Denmark using drama as a way of taking politics into the streets — for instance one theatre group dressed up as Father Christmas at Christmas-time and went into big stores and started giving away all the goods to the people in the shop. Meanwhile other people in the streets were giving out leaflets and explaining their actions … I think demonstration-type politics are so predictable and don’t raise anybody’s consciousness. I’d like to see unusual and unexpected actions that make a point … what’s disillusioned me most about politics is the endless discussions and the same old clichés and it seems like discussing a scab on your knee while your whole body is putrefying.

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* Notes
[Claimants Unions were founded in Britain in the late 1960s to unite unemployed workers and others organising for welfare entitlements.

Troops Out, founded in 1973,  campaigned for the withdrawal of British troops from Northern Ireland.]