Gender equality and voluntary disempowerment for anarchist men.

I read this recently and plan to spend some time thinking about it. I wanted to run it past you all:

If we agree, as anarchist men, that patriarchy exists and therefore that unequal gender-based class relationship exists between men and women, we ought to admit that we are in a privileged position relative to the women in our lives (despite wide spread homophobia, even homosexual and queer men usually benefit from most of those advantages relative to women.). We should then undertake a process of disempowerment for ourselves and all men. Disempowerment does not mean reducing one’s capacity to act as a human being. Rather, it involved reducing the power we exert as men over women as individuals and as a group, and reducing the power that we draw from our alliances with other men in relation to women.

From Francis Dupuis-Déri, “What About Patriarchy? Some thoughts of a heterosexual anarcho-male” in Social Anarchism, No. 43, 2009: 60.

The article ends with this provocative statement:

“Anarchist men who are serious about upholding their magnificent principles must consent to be the targets of feminist militants.”

I’m taking this out of context, and stripping it of 20 pages of argument and examples, but what do you all think?


  1. That final statement would seem to be at odds with the idea put forth in the first, but as I tried to figure out why, I found myself stumped. I fear I may be retreating back into wanting to protect my position as a male in order to protect myself from militant feminist attacks, if that makes any kind of sense at all.

    Perhaps a better way of putting it would be this… I’m all for eliminating the gap between the sexes, but does becoming a victim move that idea forward.

    Looks like I need to spend some time thinking about it too.

  2. I’m not entirely certain how the last quote relates to the first one. Having certain militant feminist tendencies, I’m not sure I would target men like that.

    While I appreciate how openly he acknowledges the power advantages he has over women, I’m skeptical about using disempowerment to indicate a stepping away from that privilege. Would abdicating be better?

    I worry about victimization as well. How would they disempower themselves, abdicate their privilege, whatever, without being trampled in turn?

    I realize that’s beyond the scope of the quotes you posted here, but those are the questions that come to my mind right off.

  3. David Kammerzelt

    I’m not an anarchist, so I can’t quite know what arguments this article is taking as given, but I think that, absent those twenty pages, it is difficult to put this claim into context.

    What powers are the article claiming that “we [men] exert as men over women as individuals and as a group?” If you ask me to relinquish the power of physical violence against women, traditionally held as being a cherished and sacred masculine prerogative, then sure. I accept. Just as I would prefer to be on the receiving end of violence as infrequently as possible, I am going to assume that women would have the same preference, and give up that power, which I do not much want. But to voluntarily disempower myself in other ways–how?

  4. I was with him until that final statement. I don’t like that. It sounds like he’s saying that men should withdraw their power not only down to the level of women, but below it, and I can’t get behind that at all. I hate that “women are so much better than men” shit just as much as its opposite.

    Really, that statement just doesn’t meld very well with the section above it. There must be some context missing in the rest of the 20 pages.

  5. John

    Chandelle, unfortunately, I found this in a print pub, and I can’t find any online versions. I may try to summarize the entire article later.

  6. Erin G

    Well, I can pretend I’m equal all I want, but when I’m on the subway and it’s night and a couple looking-for-trouble types get on my car? What I want more than anything is to be sitting next to a man who has very big balls. I don’t want any men to step back from their power. I want the good ones to step up, take the indecent ones by the shoulders, give ’em a good shake and say “No! You cannot behave like this. We won’t allow it to go on.” That is probably going to sound young….? I don’t know how else to say it. I live in a big city and I am faced daily with the fact that most men could physically take me down. No, I’m not equal in that way. That’s my reality.

  7. Erin, equality doesn’t mean physiologically equivalent. That men are physically bigger and stronger (generally) and women give birth and breastfeed does not mean that equality is impossible. When I’m talking about equality, I mean equal treatment, equal responsibility, and equal opportunities – not physical interchangeability.

  8. Also, when you say “power” in relation to a man’s ability to protect you, I hear physical strength combined with the desire to keep someone safe. That’s a certain kind of power, but not necessarily the kind that is possessive, regressive, and oppressive.

  9. Chandelle, I heart your last comment. I think it’s awesome that you pointed out the nuance between the protective power and possessive, regressive and oppressive power.

  10. Thanks. The quote is mysterious to me. I’ve been thinking about it a lot and I’m still not sure at which angle to approach it. Does anyone else feel that way?

  11. have been mulling over this post all day… still not sure about my contribution to the convo, but want to get the “notify me of followup comments” thing so…

  12. Regina

    Thanks John! for the affirmations, acknowledgement of equallity (as far as mutaul respect). Of course, there are obvious physical differences between male and female, but I’m beginning to believe that we are really not that different at all, in that we all want mutual respect and love.


  13. Richard KeslerWest

    If it would hurt me as a human being to exert privileged control over a woman or women (which I believe it does, as in power corrupting) what good would it do a woman to simply turn the tables and exert the same control over me? This would just play into the old “war of the sexes” stereotype. Dupuis-Déri sounds very principled but I think he ignores the human factor. On the other hand, I expect to get (and have gotten) grief from women with feminist anger – it’s part of dealing with all this shit – but I don’t see that as a goal. But I agree with Dupuis-Déri (I think) in that I should not exert male (or white, or American) privilege and I should find ways to dismantle that privilege where I can.

    I’m with Lessie – “abdicate” is better. “Reducing one’s capacity to act as a human being” is an excellent definition of “disempowerment,” so it’s hard to see that word in any other way.

  14. SUNNofaB.C.Rich

    It sounds like an unnatural attempt to create an artificial state of gender equality and the only logical response I could expect from true believers of gender of equality (feminist type) would be “We don’t need your charity, Francis Dupuis-Deri”

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