My goal is to get through this review without receiving hate mail. Having said that, here we go. Quiet Rumours is a collection of anarcha-feminist texts, from Emma Goldman to contemporary writers like Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. The book is really well laid-out with lots of great wood-cut style art.
Since the book is a compilation, there is some range of ideas and opinions. After reading the first few sections and underlining paragraph after paragraph and writing the word “No!” in the margin, I started to wonder, “Maybe I should just never say that I am a socialist with anarchist tendencies. Maybe I should drop the whole anarchy thing altogether.”
Here are some quotes so you get an idea of what I’m talking about. “Observing and evaluating life routines must be the occupation of the comparatively idle, those with less responsibilities, i.e., men.” (Note: What about class? Is a man who works sixty hours a week at McDonald’s and Burger King idle? Even “comparatively” so? I doubt it.) Or how about, “Women are suspicious of logic and its rituals the same way the poor are suspicious of our legal labyrinths. Veiled in mystification both institutions function against their interests.” (Note: Are all women suspicious of logic? I doubt it. Hasn’t the idea that women are illogical and irrational been at the root of a great deal of sexism over the years? At any rate, wouldn’t it make more sense to say “Humans are suspicious of logic.” Now THAT’S probably more accurate!)
And then there are statements from the overly optimistic. Like this one: “Anarchistic preparation is not non-existent in this country. It exists in the minds and actions of women readying themselves (often unknowingly) for a revolution whose forms will shatter historical inevitability and the very process of history itself.” (Note: Um, what women are you hanging out with?)
And then there’s the old “women are the true progressives” argument, contained in statements like, “Feminist capitalism is a contradiction in terms.” (Note: Why? It seems to me that women are perfectly capable and willing to use their liberation to make a lot of money and buy fun and stupid crap with it.)
These are just some of the general complaints I have with a lot of feminism. Fortunately, there were also some great articles in this book. “The Tyranny of Structurelessness” by Jo Freeman alone is worth buying this book. She discusses how “structureless” movements, meetings, and organizations really do have structure. She argues that the structure in these organizations is even harder to overcome because it is based on personalities and friendships. She writes, “For everyone to have the opportunity to be involved in a given group and to participate in its activities the structure must be explicit, not implicit. The rules of decision-making must be open and available to everyone, and this can happen only if they are formalized.” Her attack on elitism and insider-ism in progressive movements should be recommended reading for all leftists.
The book also includes two articles by Emma Goldman, both of which have the affect of making a number of the more contemporary contributors look silly. Goldman’s appeal to all women, especially working class women, is absent from a number of the other contributors, some of whom seem to think that existing in small, isolated, ideological organizations is the best way to recruit average women to the movement.
Let’s face it. Most women have reasonable demands: equal wages, an end to a culture of rape and sexual abuse, support for taking care of their children, and the right to do whatever men can do. Yes, the National Organization of Women has failed working class women horribly; but I am skeptical that militant (in some cases terrorist) organizations will be much better.
Still, I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in contemporary left-wing feminism and to progressives in general. There are some great articles in here mixed in with the bad and the ridiculous. -Maddy (AK Press, 674A 23 St., Oakland, CA94612)