So…I was required to define “woman” for my gender studies class, this past spring. I had a very difficult time with this definition. Maybe I’ll post it for you, later. Anyway. I have a difficult time defining “woman,” and an even more difficult time with tenets of thought that promote gender essentialism.
Enter ecofeminism, stage left.
I took a literature by women class (can I tell you how infuriating it is to have to take a class like this, because studying literature written by women is not common practice elsewhere?!!?!) during this past spring semester. Woot. We had a unit on ecofeminism, which is a branch? of feminism that I have a difficult time with. I dislike the notion that I am somehow more connected to the earth because I have a uterus. I read a book entitled Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams last fall. She’s an ecofeminist who, in her book, illustrated the ties between her dying mother and local weather phenomena/local treatment of the land. It was a moving narrative. Nevertheless, I still don’t think I’m more in touch with the “natural world” because I have a uterus. (Will I stop being in touch with said world if I get a hysterectomy? Is a woman without a uterus no longer a woman?)
However, I’ve become more inclined to agree with ecofeminists on a few things, over the past few months.
Intersectionality. The idea that systems of oppression cross over and affect people in certain “categories” more than others. For example: while a white heterosexual cisgendered upper class able bodied woman is going to experience oppression for being a woman, her experience is with one particular system. Conversely, a person of color who is queer, a transwoman, impoverished, and differently abled experiences multiple systems of oppression at once. The idea of intersectionality is that the second individual cannot be free from oppression merely by championing the causes of feminism. Rather, all of the systems of oppression must be eradicated in order for freedom to be possible. Different systems of oppression rely on one another. Thus, feminism should be concerned not just about the plight of women, but the plight of queer people, non-cisgendered people, people of color, poor people, differently-abled people, and so on.
Ecofeminism argues that the way we treat the environment intersects with how we treat other people. And until we learn to treat our world with respect, and to not act as though we dominate non-human lifeforms, as though our wants are superior to the needs of other organisms–until we learn to rectify the way in which we interact with the world around us, we cannot fully be free of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, povery, ableism, and other institutions of oppression. I’m starting to agree.
I think the same culture that teaches little boys that they have dominion over women teaches them that they have dominion over the world around them. The same culture that teaches men that it is okay to ignore a sex partner when they aren’t consenting and go ahead because their satisfaction is the most important also teaches them that it is acceptable to raze the land and build shopping malls or suburbs. And the same culture that teaches men to solve their problems with aggression and physical violence because it’s “manly” also teaches them to kill for sport.
*cogs in the brain clicking into place*