Ambivalent Sexism Theory, developed by social psychologists Peter Glick and Susan Fiske, posits two underlying forms of sexism. Hostile sexism is the overt belief that women are inferior to men (and perhaps should have fewer political rights because of this) and get special favors in life. This is the most recognizable and condemned form of misogyny, and though plentiful on the fringes of the internet, it rarely presents itself in the life of a wealthy Westernite. Benevolent sexism is the upholding of traditional gender roles, including male protection/paternalism, subordination, female domesticity, and ideas that men and women are innately better at different tasks without considering individual interests and abilities. Benevolent sexism is often forgotten and ignored as a societal issue, with men frequently calling feminism no longer necessary because the hostile sexism they’d recognize is rare.
Anarchism’s core principal is that any authority must be justified by itself and be fluid, or else must be dismantled. This includes social, corporate, and governmental hierarchies of power. A doctor has claim to practice medicine because of expertise, while my level of medical expertise and certification stops past first aid and CPR. However, I have the ability to become a doctor through an equal amount of training as any other doctor. Many people are born without the privilege to become a doctor, and would need to work hard for years and struggle with student loans and scholarships to gain an ability I was born with. This happens to be highly connected to race in the United States, with the median white household having a net worth 13x that of the median black household. The only difference between white babies and black babies is the amount of melanin they have, yet on average they’re born into vastly different circumstances. These are illegitimate hierarchies.
Feminism is the rejection of patriarchal gender roles that coerce men to masculine expectations and women to feminine ones. Sure, some people feel fulfilled by their set gender roles, but that doesn’t justify imposing a financial, political, and cultural power structure in mass. In our present system, women are discouraged from doing certain things thought of as part of the masculine gender identity, and vice versa. The traits and actions that are part of the masculine gender identity are often much more lucrative than the feminine ones within our capitalist economy.
Anarchists view a social worker or teacher being less rich and powerful than software developer as another illegitimate hierarchy spawned from market demand, not importance to society or difficulty of work. As long as people are exploited by the capitalist ruling class, the unjustified power and inequality that anarchism and feminism fight against remains. Capitalism and the need to maximize profits is inherently advantageous to the privileged and hurts the marginalized. The fact that a small amount of unprivileged people can work their way up the class ladder is not something to be proud of.
If you don’t reject the hierarchies of race, sex, gender, and capitalism and their inherently oppressive nature, you cannot call yourself an anarchist. Anarcho-Capitalism, a movement that’s co-opted the term libertarian, is not true anarchism because it only rejects governmental hierarchies, letting the other unmerited power structures continue their rampancy over people’s lives. Feminism strives for equality, which cannot be had in a capitalist system that functions solely from inequality. A corporation that most greatly profits shareholders (with their sole credential for being an insider at the company of “having spare money”) and executives, not the workforce, is by definition unequal.
How do you dismantle an entirely cultural authority?
We’re born and conditioned into it, with a positive correlation between religion and benevolent sexism. Burris and Jackson (1999) showed that religious individuals in Canada felt empathy for an abuse victim only when they conformed to traditional values, giving the criminal a more liberal judgement when the victim acted outside of such norms (e.g., being gay, wearing “risqué” clothing, having premarital sex, etc). In Ambivalent Sexism and Religion: Connected Through Values, authors Małgorzata Mikołajczak and Janina Pietrzak conclude:
While the negative effects of hostile sexism are undisputed, there is less social acknowledgement of the negative consequences of benevolent sexism. These effects are documented in research, but remain obscured, to their perpetrators and targets alike, by the fact of their indirect influence. Thus, questions remain concerning the mechanisms of perpetuation of benevolent sexism—and the mechanisms required for its elimination. If churches and other trusted and powerful social institutions are unwittingly fostering discrimination, as indicated in our study, we can hardly expect imminent societal change. The simple conclusion from our study is that one indirect effect of promoting tradition, stability, and security is the perpetuation of an unequal status quo. The complicated follow-up: how do we respect our history and maintain social harmony while changing the world?
It’s not easy, but feminism and anarchism are two deeply connected movements that can hopefully make life better for everyone by acknowledging and dismantling our unequal status quo.
Featured image: Emma Goldman seated (left), Earth from NASA (center back), We All Can Do It! (right), anarcha-feminism flag (transparent mask), anarcha-feminisim symbol (center front). Compiled under Fair Use by Tyler Simpson. Creative Commons license, use freely, ideally sending a link here if it makes sense for the use case.