An interview with Keith Preston on Feminism, Anarchism, and National-Anarchism.
What is your opinion on feminism and how it has impacted American women?
Any discussion of feminism has to begin with the recognition that feminism contains within itself many different strands, as is the case with any ideological tradition, whether anarchism, socialism, or nationalism. Like any other ideology, the focus, emphasis, or definition of “feminism” has varied widely at different times. For instance, feminism today is identified or associated with the radical Left, but a pioneer feminist, Josephine Butler, was part of what would today be called the religious right and a number of leaders of the suffragist movement in England later became supporters of Oswald Mosley’s British fascist movement. Historians of feminism will generally divide Western feminism into three successive “waves”: the early women’s rights activists and the suffragettes of the late 19th/early 20th century, the “women’s lib” movement that came out of 1960s radicalism, and a newer trend called “third wave” that’s roughly twenty years old. As to what my opinion of feminism is, that would also vary widely depending on the time and topic being discussed. I generally have a positive view of the movement for women’s rights that came out of British and by extension American classical liberalism in the 19th century. This was a movement to gain legal and economic rights for women like the right to own property or engage in contracts, and to have greater rights to their children. Previously, women had chattel status within the context of families and marriage and were often regarded legally and culturally as the property of their fathers or husbands. It’s the same kind of arrangement that still more or less exists in other parts of the world today, with somewhere like Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan being an extreme example. I regard the relatively high status of women in Western cultures compared with other places to be one of the many great achievements of Western civilization.
As for the movement to grant voting rights to women, I have mixed feelings about it. I am skeptical of mass democracy in general, on anarchist as well as elitist grounds, and some of the early anarchist-feminists like Emma Goldman expressed reservations about suffrage, believing middle class liberal and socialist women would use the vote to expand the power of the state. For instance, the women’s vote had much to do with the passage of Prohibition, which was a ridiculous and disastrous policy. Women’s political groups have often been strong supporters of the nanny state, though I think that shows the limitations of the thinking of the times, whether past or present, and not any limitations that are inherent to women. I don’t think suffrage per se was the problem, as much as the fact that it was granted during the time of the growth of mass democracy and the modern leviathan state that we are still struggling with. Even with these criticisms, however, I generally regard first wave feminism as a positive thing, and of course I would certainly favor equal political and legal rights for all women within the context of a decentralized, tribal, anarchic, libertarian or communitarian system.
“Second wave” feminism of the kind that came out of the 60s and 70s I have a much more critical view of. On one hand, it raised a lot of valid and reasonable issues, like pervasive discrimination against women in things like employment and education. It also addressed some serious social issues like violent crimes such as rape and domestic assault perpetrated against women. But the so-called “women’s lib” movement of the time also adopted the Cultural Marxist outlook that regards sexual differentiation as oppression by definition, and considers men to be an oppressor class that hereby becomes defined as the enemy. The consequence of this is that the modern feminist movement has become a core component of the Cultural Marxist program to attack Western civilization as nothing more than a legacy of white male heterosexual oppression. Further, by defining men as an enemy class, feminists have sought to dramatically expand the power of the state ostensibly in the name of waging war against patriarchy in the economic and cultural sphere. Additionally, in those spheres where feminists have become institutionally powerful, a notorious example being the family court system, the Cultural Marxist framework has been used to implement abusively anti-male policies, including the virtual criminalization of fathers, comparable to the efforts by “anti-racists” to perpetrate racism against whites in other sectors.
Feminist tendencies associated with the “third wave” I have a cautiously sympathetic view of. Third wave emerged in part as a corrective to the excesses of the second wave, and it appears to be much less inclined towards misandry and less statist and authoritarian than its predecessor, but it’s a young movement so it’s difficult to guess where it will actually lead.
In terms of how feminism has impacted American women, on the positive side historic feminist movements have gained greater legal, political, and economic rights for women, and greater opportunities in the professions and education, and have raised serious issues that were sometimes ignored or overlooked in the past. The problem has not been feminism per se in every conceivable form, but the particular form that Western feminism has taken since at least the 1960s, perhaps earlier, where it has become aligned with Marxism, anti-Western and anti-European ethno-masochism, racism against whites, misandry, and its alliance with the state. Nowadays, we even see aggressive warfare being defended on feminist grounds like the case of Trotskyist-turned-neoconservative Christopher Hitchens’ professed desire to bomb the Afghans out of the Stone Age. That’s more or less the rationale the Soviets used for their own Afghan war.
Those are the political problems. In the cultural realm, the problem with the way feminism has evolved is that by seeking to eliminate sexual differentiation it has not only sought to defy basic biological science, but to devalue social and cultural roles traditionally occupied by women. For instance, one of the classic works of second wave feminism is Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique which argues that women who devote themselves to tasks like child-rearing are living unfulfilling lives. When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s I used to hear housewives and stay-at-home moms referred to as “non-persons” by feminists, as if childcare and home maintenance are somehow unimportant or insignificant activities. In academic feminist circles today, you will hear talk about supposed “gender segregation by occupation” in the economic world, meaning that men and women tend to be disproportionately concentrated in different kinds of professions and occupations. Implicit in this is the idea that women can find happiness only by becoming carbon copies of men. There’s no room for feminine identity of any kind, not only in the biological sense of reproductive roles, but in the cultural and social realm as well. Feminists will complain that these kinds of differentiation exist not only in relatively traditional or conservative societies like Japan but even in uber-liberal ones like the Scandinavian countries. But what that indicates is that there are indeed innate differences between males and females that cannot be repealed by legal degree or ideological fantasy. I think a consequence of this is that while women may have advanced in certain areas, they’ve lost out in others. For instance, traditionally males were expected to be able to care for their wives and children, and the characteristics women looked for in males were things like personal responsibility, reliability, dependability, a work ethic, and so forth. Nowadays, it’s more or less expected that women will have to make their own way when it comes to making a living and raising children. I think that’s lowered the standards considerably concerning what women will accept in spouses, lovers, and relationship partners. For instance, I’ve always been amazed at the number of attractive, intelligent, seemingly competent, reasonably successful or self-sufficient women who hook up with guys who are total losers or scumbags, and I think the reason for this often amounts to a lack of expecting anything better.
How has it impacted the American populace overall? Do you have an opinion on how it has affected Western Civilization?
Some people have argued that feminism has contributed to the breakdown of the stability of the family and has contributed to resulting social pathologies in the process. I think there’s some partial truth in that. When I was in elementary school in the early 70s, most families I knew were ones where the father made a living and the mother raised the children. Maybe the mom had a part time job as well. There was a minority of families where both parents were full time working people or were divorced or where the kids were being raised by a single parent, and the kids spent most of their time in daycare or being farmed out to relatives. The interesting thing is that it always seemed to be those kids who were screwed up, got in fights, stole, set fires, engaged in petty mischief, and all that. Nowadays, most kids grow up among divorces, single parenthood, or are raised in large part by babysitters and day care professionals. So I suspect it’s true that less stable families have produced more pathological children. I don’t think the blame for this can be laid solely at the feet of feminists, however. There have also been significant changes in the economy that require most households to have two incomes, for instance. The nature of the economy has also eradicated traditional communities, and people have become a lot less rooted. Nowadays, people change jobs or relocate every few years or even every few months. They don’t even know who their neighbors are, and that doesn’t contribute much stability to a child’s life.
What changes would you like to see in regards to feminism’s effect on American society?
I’d like to see an end to misandry on the part of feminists, and recognition of the legitimacy of differentiation among the sexes. Misandry is not the solution to misogyny anymore than ethno-masochism or anti-white racism is the solution to more traditional forms of racism. I’d like to see an end to feminism’s alliance with the state and with Cultural Marxism.
What other options are available for American women who do not like their current situation?
That would depend on what their situation is. The starting point answer I would give is the same I would give to a male who does not like his current situation: “What can you do to help yourself? Whom else can you seek out who can help you when you can’t help yourself?”
In what way can National-Anarchism provide solutions? How do tribes and autonomous communities benefit women?
In the broader ideological sense, National-Anarchism opposes both the state and Cultural Marxism, which puts it at odds with a great deal of feminism as feminism is presently constituted. I think that may well change over time. Some of the younger feminists associated with things like the third wave or post-feminism have rejected at least some of the excesses of their predecessors. Also, Cultural Marxism will lose a lot of its sympathizers the more it reveals its fangs and the more imminent dramatic demographic change in the West becomes. I think a lot of former liberals and leftists will eventually decide that Western civilization and white people aren’t so bad after all given the alternatives, and I think many of them will find National-Anarchism as a preferable alternative to the reactionary, theocratic, or fascist variations of the Right.
At the broadest level, National-Anarchism benefits women because National-Anarchism seeks to preserve and maintain Western civilization where women have achieved higher status than anywhere else. On a more immediate level, the ideas of tribe and community serve as a corrective for the uprooting of traditional communities that has occurred at the hands of the state, capitalism, and other characteristics of modern life like technology and high mobility. The formation of National-Anarchist tribes serves as a means of at least partially restoring the traditional communities that have been lost, or at least providing a viable substitute. Also, I think that tribes and communities are potential sources of support for women on a wide range of matters that are currently provided for by the state or by capitalist institutions. Kevin Carson, Sean Gabb, Kirk Sale, myself and others who theorize about what sorts of economic arrangements might arise in the absence of the state or plutocratic institutions propped up by the state have suggested that workers bargaining power would increase dramatically and that the number and variety of economic enterprises would likewise experience profound expansion. This would provide more options for everyone, including women, as to how to go about making a living, and allow for more personal independence and self-sufficiency and more stable communities and families. Kevin Carson, for instance, has also written about the kinds of mutual aid societies that existed before the rise of the welfare state. These may be a proto-type for the provision of such services by communities and tribes following the future demise of the state.
What roles and functions do you see women playing within the National-Anarchist scene?
A revolutionary movement should be a proto-type for what a future society would look like. The characteristics of a revolutionary movement are an indication of what kind of future social system it will establish. I’m in favor of an aristocracy of merit where everyone rises according to their efforts and abilities, including women, of course. I’d be very much in favor of a National-Anarchist movement where women were heavily represented among its leadership and public figures.
Some years ago I used to do a live call-in talk show on public access television. Over time, I noticed that if I was discussing topics like government, law, economics, war, or foreign policy, then ninety percent of the callers would be male. But when the topics of discussion switched to health or health care, education, children, psychology, interpersonal relationships, religion, crime, the environment, matters of social or cultural relations like race, or comparable issues, the callers were divided about fifty percent between men and women, with women occasionally becoming dominant among the callers depending on the topic. The lesson I took from that experience is that women are geared, whether through socialization or innate qualities or both, to be able to better relate to certain parts of the human experience where men relate more easily to other parts. This would seem to be an important part of the differentiation that does indeed exist between the sexes.
I don’t see women as playing either a subordinate role or as rivals to men in the National-Anarchist scene. Rather, I see males and females as partners in common projects and common objectives. That doesn’t mean there can’t be differences of focus at times. For instance, over a lengthy period of time I would like to see National-Anarchists and allied movements develop their own network of social institutions that would ultimately serve to replace the role of the welfare state in society at large. I would like to see our movements create our own schools, health clinics, child care systems, systems of relief for the poor, elderly, disabled, or homeless, efforts to assist battered women or abused children, victims of rape and other violent crimes, assistance to young girls who become pregnant, aid for runaway or throwaway kids, assistance to drug addicts and alcoholics, and other comparable activities. My guess based on past observation and experience is that women are naturally more drawn to helping professions and charitable activities than men, probably because their reproductive roles bring with them a greater genetic inclination to engage in nurturing activities. I don’t view such activities as secondary to the “important stuff” like politics, business, and war, but as an essential foundation of any decent kind of society.
At the same time, I think the ability of women to contribute to traditionally “male-dominated” areas of human life is often grossly underestimated. For instance, in the mainstream of American society there is a debate about the role of women in the military. While I honor those who join the military with honest or honorable motivations, I don’t really think anyone should join the military at present, because it serves to wage war on behalf of a corrupt, tyrannical, and destructive regime. That said, having done a great deal of research on armed insurgent movements in places like Asia, Latin America, or the Middle East, I think there’s little doubt that women can often perform so-called “man’s work” like soldiering with a great deal of skill and talent.
What functions do female members fulfill in your organization/tribe?
What I try to do is gather around myself a collection of superior individuals who can become the foundation of a future revolutionary movement inspired by the ideas of National-Anarchism and overlapping or allied tendencies or movements. I don’t approach this is a gender-specific way. I favor an aristocracy based on individual merit that is gender-neutral. The people who have come into my circle have been overwhelmingly male thus far. I think a lot of that has to do with the particular stage of development our groups and movements are at right now. I think more women will come in over time as we are able to expand our range of activities and the issues we address. But the women in my political orbit tend to be extraordinarily impressive individuals, and I think we will likewise attract many more such women over time.