Ecofeminism: what thinks the (bee)hive?(9 Posts)
Very interesting topic.
I agree with your points. It is restrictive to associate femininity with nature in an exclusive manner. However, I think that this is looking at it a bit simplisitically. It seems to me, there might be a different case to be made. The capitalist patriarchal system, which is detrimental to the environment, has dissociated us from nature. We see ourselves as apart from it, when really we are not and we depend on the natural world. Not because we are women, but because that is the nature of human beings.
I think that are two strands which I'll try and separate - an idea of what women are and an idea of what women currently do.
There is a historical association of women being natural/intuitive/animal and men being civilised/rational/human. Women and nature are then the thing studied that something is done to. I suspect Ecofeminism is an attempt to reclaim this, and has taken on a mystical association due to developing during the same time period as neo paganism.
Neo paganism developed in urban centres as people in the UK (and then other places) were moved from rural livelihoods into industrial work in cities. Neopaganism with strong themes around nature developed, and people developing mystical or fetishised responses to their own identity is common when groups have a dislocation from their past. Women in neopaganism then developed this in feminist ways with mother goddesses, role of women's fertility and so on, but it was always subject to gender roles and exploitation (Crowley and similar men).
That is a divide in feminism that Germaine Greer talked about, between feminists who take on masculine traits and feminists who go in for valuing femininty - hippie earth mother types. I think that is then carried on by Julia Serano in her idea of femme phobia and how feminine traits are transformed by a masculine lense into being about masculine people - feminine trait of universal compassion for the planet is reimagined as bring about concern for a man and his children, feminine trait of valuing aesthetics is reimagined as being decorating herself to attract male attention.
The second strand - what women do - see CEDAW start of article 14:
'1. States Parties shall take into account the particular problems faced by rural women and the significant roles which rural women play in the economic survival of their families, including their work in the non-monetized sectors of the economy, and shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the application of the provisions of the present Convention to women in rural areas.'
There are no natural wildernesses. Land has been modified by humans so that we can live on it. A very large part of that task is done by women. Society generally does not think it should have to pay for services provided by the ecosystem, for the task of maintaining land fertility, for the value of food (in terms of a fair exchange of hours of labour we exchange to acquire food with the hours it took to produce it), for women's reproductive labour of producing children. As these things are frequently unpaid and done by women, there is a link between women and the environment.
Resolution of environmental problems often relies on aid agencies supporting women as they are the people maintaining the environment and working with the environment to deliver one of the main things we need it for - food. But the people advising on the environment are frequently not the people who create and maintain ecosystems but (male) scientists.
So the reason that there is a connection between environmental activism and aid and women's rights is because globally the people who work closely with the environment and have first hand experience through which it can be understood and solutions developed are women.
I think we're more aware now than we were 20 years ago that the mystical association by groups with a rural past can be an appropriation and misconception (such as noble savage myths) of people with a rural present. And there is also the issue of assuming that people construct their concept of their culture based on their environment, when most research seems to demonstrate than people construct their concept of the environment based on their culture.
The only context I've heard of ecofeminism in is the Green Belt Movement established by Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. The idea was/is for women to combat desertification, environmental destruction and the concomitant food, fuel and job poverty by reclaiming and rejuvenating the land and learning the skills to do so.
I'm not sure how or if that squares with almondcakes' assessment of exploiting women's eco-labour as it is partly aid agencies supporting women to do the work; but it has also created jobs, helping women to generate their own incomes and protect their own home environments.
I'm not suggesting that aid agencies are exploiting women, or that women doing environmental work is in itself exploitative. Just that women's rights and environmental activism tend to be linked because many women were already doing the work closely connected to the state of the environment.
The same applies to other groups - the global poor, indigenous peoples, people living in slavery.
apologies if i'm just repeating what others ahve said, but there's also the issue that changes to the environment both globally (global warming etc) and locally (diverting water courses, deforestation, reduction in biodiversity etc) have the quickest and largest impact on the rural poor as they rely most heavily on their immediate ecosystem - as almondcakes discusses above this affects an enormous proportion of women
prompted by this thread i've just done some quick searches on women in agriculture and aid agencies, which is slightly off the topic of ecofeminism but related to women's labour and the lack of recognition. i know it's not entirely pertinent here but it is interesting. there's some interesting stuff here www.ifpri.org/gfpr/2012/women-agriculture about how women react when they are excluded from the benefits of aid agency support - the aid is directed at the men but without acknowledging how much of the work women are being expected to take on without being allowed any of the control or decision-making
My first thought when I see the word ecofeminism is that one of our lecturers told us it wasn't going to be a topic our finals, and then it was
So theoretically I can't contribute
But, on a practical note I'm actually finding it quite hard to mesh feminism and environmentalism together. We are TTC at the moment and a friend asked me about cloth nappies and it led onto a whole rambling discussion about how I think environmentalism often ends up being a massive chore for women (usually the SAHM).
Irl feminism and environmentalism do seem to overlap ie feminist women I know are more likely to be veggies, use reuseable nappies, bf, not drive etc
But so much 'Eco' living does generate so much more work for women!
I think it's pretty anti feminist to 'guilt' women into sacrificing themselves to be more 'eco'.
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