Developing an effective response to the worldwide crisis of male violence
Strategic Feminism is a framework for collective action against patriarchal violence. It's strategic because it’s outcome-oriented and focused on sustaining a movement that addresses the material conditions affecting women, and builds toward collective, decisive action.
Sustaining a movement: Feminism in collapse
How can we create a movement in a time of crisis? How do we come
together as a force for change when individuals burn out, groups fall
apart, and coalitions fracture? When feminists are fighting each other
on questions of gender, motherhood, sexuality, and class?
And how to do we take these steps now, when every day brings more signs of cultural, economic, and environmental disaster? How do we adapt our strategies to a world order that is reeling from one crisis to the next? This is our challenge.
As radical women, we must pledge to protect each other and the places we love, just as women have done since the time they burned us as witches.
Keep the spirit
At the core of this movement, there is an unstoppable life force. It’s an attitude, a mindset, a determination that
compels us to push back against oppression. It’s the warrior mindset,
the stand-and-fight stance of someone defending her home and the ones
Many burn with righteous anger. This is useful – anger lets us know when people are hurting us and the ones we love. It’s part of the process of healing from trauma. Anger can rouse us from depression and move us past denial and bargaining. It is a step toward acceptance and taking action.
Rewriting the trauma script includes asserting our truth and lived experiences, and naming abuses instead of glossing over them. It includes discovering (and rediscovering) that we can rely on each other instead of on men. It’s mustering the courage to confront male violence. But it’s not going to be easy.
Acknowledge and #NameTheProblem
We can’t fight an enemy we can’t identify, especially when it is
deliberately obscured. It’s not surprising that naming the problem has
become a political act. And the problem is male violence against women.
We shouldn’t have to say “she was raped” when we know that “men raped
Reclaim what was taken from us
- Learning (and re-learning and reminding each other) that our bodies and spirits belong to us, we deserve to be safe, and we have the capacity to defend ourselves
- Fighting isolation and connecting with other women who have a similar fighting spirit
- Creating a culture of resistance to male domination
Strategies are the paths to the goal. Tactics are the means to
implement strategies. Part of a strategy for sustaining a movement is
networks of peer support, mutual aid, and solidarity. We start by coming
together with our peers, women who share the same goals and principles.
Goal: Develop a thriving network capable of effective action
Strategy: Find women allies and start a group
- Start with a small circle: each one invite one.
- When you get an invitation, go!
- Use a petition or sign-on letter to gather potential recruits.
- Screen and interview volunteers.
- Discuss and write up a basis of unity
- Hold meetings, discussions, films, work parties, and benefit shows.
- Keep a signup sheet and a list of participants.
- Retain volunteers through appreciation and peer support.
- Raise money for projects and community campaigns.
Strategy: Start with an existing group
- Entryism – add members until your crew has a majority
- Headhunting – join in order to recruit members to your group
- Affinity group – organize an action team within the group
- Symbiosis – utilize the group’s resources and membership for your project
Strategy: Build a coalition
- Circulate a sign-on letter
- Organize against a common political enemy
- Host an event: A symposium, press conference, rally, or direct action
- Pledge to support and not publicly denounce each other
- Collaborate together on an ongoing project
Strategy: Keep each other safe and supported
- Use a nom de guerre or a group name for public events.
- Have designated safe houses and emergency plans
- Set up a legal defence fund and legal team before they’re needed
- Create a mutual aid network so women activists can support each other
- Make and distribute an activist safety/security plan to stop online hackers and physical attackers
- Make it a priority to give peer support and peer counseling, both formal and informal.
- Keep a “not wanted” list to weed out known disruptors
- Host group self-defense and security awareness trainings
Choosing our battles
How do we decide on a particular project, campaign, action or strategy? We can ask:
- Is it effective? What will it achieve?
- What are our goals (immediate and long-term )? How does this action lead there?
- Who is working with us?
- Do we have community support? From which communities?
- What decision-makers are we targeting?
- What are our strategies and tactics? (Legal, confrontational, revolutionary?)
- Do we have the resources? (People power, funds, vehicle?)
- How can we get the resources? (Recruiting, crowdfunding, direct appeals?)
- What are the possible negative outcomes? How can we mitigate the negatives?
Some actions and projects aren’t intended for concrete results
– they are symbolic but useful for boosting morale,
getting media attention, and recruiting volunteers.
Remember to regroup
Every campaign, project, and group stalls eventually. We
reach the point when it seems our efforts are going nowhere
and our adversaries are dragging us down. This is when we must re-group
and re-commit ourselves or fail. Every goal worth fighting for is going
to face a serious backlash from those in power. Perseverance is required.
In spite of all our planning, our groups and coalitions fall apart due to lack of unity, loss of commitment, burnout, and the dividing lines of racism, classism, misogyny, and disruption from outsiders. Overall, things are not going to get better on their own. In the endgame of capitalism, the situation for women as a class worldwide is deteriorating at a fearsome rate. It’s up to us to prepare for the worst.
In the short term, this anti-feminist backlash is intensifying. Planning now is crucial. Some readers may not see the immediate need for this laundry list of tactics and strategies. But the day is coming when the need for community networks of trust will be urgent, because so much of what we rely on now has collapsed.