Alicia studies Film Studies
L. Susan Brown is a Canadian writer, theoretician, anarchist, and communist. She expressed in her writings that “anarchism is a political philosophy opposed to any relationship of power, it is intrinsically feminist”
But in that case, what is Anarch-Feminism? Well, it’s simple definition is that it’s an antiauthoritarian, anti-capitalist, anti-oppressive philosophy, intending to create an “equal ground” between all genders. Anarch-Feminism suggests women’s social freedom and liberty without needing dependence upon other groups or parties. When I read over papers on anarchism and its relationship to feminism I believed it was an extreme that I didn’t fully agree with, and didn’t see for myself as a feminist. But through diving deeper into what it means for the feminist group in Bolivia Mujeres Creando I got to see an entirely new perspective on the word and its definition. This movement appeared at the end of the 19th century and was inspired by writers like Emma Goldman, Lucy Parsons, and Voltairine de Cleyre. The first ever publication of an Anarch-Feminist journal was in 1896 by Virginia Bolten, an Argentinian writer, and activist. It was called La Voz de la Mujer (the voice of the woman) and the epigraph of her writing was “Ni Dios, ni Patron, ni Marido” (no God, no Boss, no Husband). These were the first women to deconstruct the ideas that were, and still can be seen imposed on women – that our core meaning in life is love, marriage, and childbirth.
Mujeres Creando is a group that was founded in 1992 by Julieta Paredes, María Galindo et Mónica Mendoza, and many other women including the only 2 openly lesbians in Bolivia at the time. It is composed of women of different cultural, social, and ethnic origins, and explores creativity as an instrument of resistance and social participation. The ways of expression of Mujeres Creando are graffiti, creativity, ongoing public debates, and “acciones”, along with a constant presence in the streets to reclaim a voice. The group encourages dialogue and participates in many projects against poverty and racism through propaganda, street theatre, and TV appearances. They are active on Instagram and Facebook and have a website and YouTube channel where they share their message. Most of the women in the group live in an open house and try to help as many women on the streets and women searching for shelter from domestic abuse.
To give an example of their non-violent activism, I will be talking about one of their “acciones”. To give political context, at the time Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada was President. He is a Bolivian businessman and politician who served as the 61st president of Bolivia from 1993 to 1997 and from 2002 to 2003. A member of the Revolutionary Nationalist Movement (MNR), he previously served as Minister of Planning and Coordination under Víctor Paz Estenssoro and succeeded him as the MNR’s national chief in 1990. Elected to a second term in 2002, he struggled with protests and events in October 2003 related to the Bolivian gas conflict. This conflict was a social confrontation in Bolivia, centering on the exploitation of the country’s vast natural gas reserves. There had also recently been the Cochabamba Water War, a series of protests that took place in Cochabamba, Bolivia’s fourth largest city, between December 1999 and April 2000 in response to the privatisation of the city’s municipal water supply company SEMANA. Unfortunately due to that privatisation, the poorer communities of Bolivia and Indigenous communities found it a lot harder to access water, a primary necessity. All these issues caused a lot of riots and according to official reports, fifty nine protestors, ten soldiers and sixteen policemen died in confrontations. As a result of the violent clashes, Sánchez de Lozada resigned and went into exile in the United States. In March 2006, he resigned from the leadership of the MNR. María Galindo, one of the founders of Mujeres Creando, spoke out about this in her text The Color of Blood is Red: “We have all rebelled, we repudiate and condemn the government, we defend gas, and although the two clearest consensuses are the resignation of Sánchez de Lozada and the repeal of the hydrocarbons law that legitimises the expropriation of gas for the benefit of the transnationals, although these consensuses are solid and are everywhere, the day after this one-sided war.”
But on Wednesday, October 15, 2003, on the square in front of the “Casa de la Cultura”, in La Paz, Bolivia, they began a hunger strike. I have linked below a video documentation of the protest that they shared on their website. Using a blood-coloured liquid and the presence of young women, Mujeres Creando invites the passers-by to reflect upon the lives lost in the constant struggle for political power and reminds them that women are one of the main victims of a political system that allows institutional gendered violence. Questioning the functionality of the President as a representative of the Bolivian people, this “acción” suggests that repression is not exclusive to dictatorships and that democracy also exerts oppression through unequal gender politics. The intervention of the police to stop the “acción” illustrates how Mujeres Creando’s work brings together performance and activism. In The Color of Blood is Red, Galindo expresses her deep sadness for the violence toward people trying to spread their truth and fight for their rights. “The entire city of El Alto is a wake that can only be contained by the streets because there is no hall, no church, no place where all the pain and mourning can fit, that is why the sky itself has changed its blue colour to a bloody red for all those who bled to death without being able to be transferred to the very few hospitals in the poorest city in Latin America.”
She particularly speaks about how women (mostly indigenous women) are primary victims of these acts of violence and are silenced: “Women are massively present in all the places one can imagine, except at the microphones, there is not a single woman with the right to raise her voice from the popular resistance and this exclusion is not accidental but rather is part of the vertical and profoundly macho people within our political parties. We organised a women’s hunger strike from a 3 diverse composition that highlights the unusual and subversive alliance with which we have always acted, an alliance that no patriarch supports, an alliance of Indians, whores, and lesbians against all forms of racism and authoritarianism”.
(Translated from Spanish by me)
This movement is nonviolent and asks women to speak their minds and fight for their rights. Thankfully they are not the only ones. We are all empowered women all over the world fighting for equality and questioning social constructs that have been embedded for years. There is no reason to be scared of the words anarchist and feminism. These women have empowered me and have made me educate myself about a form of feminism I was ignorant to. And although I don’t always agree with everything they have done, there are some truly beautiful acts of humanity and sorority in this Bolivian movement!
Link to a video of the protest: https://hdl.handle.net/2333.1/s1rn8rcb