Preface to Ecofeminism
"Wonder at the courage and mighty strength of a woman, what a contest she is waging with the undaunted [mind],...having a heart superior to toil."
- Ancient Greek poet Pindar (Odes to Pindar)
There has been frequent talk about the importance of changing the course of women's history because, far too long, far too many women had been tossed about the vicissitudes of the times and left to weep over cruel and bitter fates.
Violence against women is as old as patriarchy. Traditional patriarchy has structured our worldviews and mindsets, our social and cultural worlds based on domination over women and nature and her resources, and the denial of their full humanity and existence with CHOICE. For example, the words or language that has been used since centuries, like ‘his’story (as a depiction of past, which is dominated by the stories of men, and patriarchy and masculine) or manforce (instead of workforce) or man (instead of human), chairman (instead of chairperson), and endlessly more are reinforcing these norms and have been prevalent.
Could there be a connection between the growth of violent, undemocratically imposed, unjust and unfair economic policies and the intensification in the brutality of crimes against women? Is there a connection between increasing war crimes and rapes of women? Do we think that there is an interconnection between destruction of nature and spread of pandemics and aromatizing the participation of women in contribution to GDP? Is there also a connection between lost traditions and cultures and introduction of the term “matriarch?”
Rape, patriarchal economic and political structures, destruction of nature, female foeticide, non-inclusivity of domestic work in economic growth, privatization and commodification of every imaginable thing possible including women, promotion of synthetic plus unnatural “biology” to establish control over even phenomenon like childbirth, promoting of men as the savior of nature than co-creators and co-producers, creation of atomic bombs and then the celebration of destruction with names like “fat man” and “little boy” with big and small explosions respectively are just a few ways of depicting ways of oppression emerging in the 21st century.
These are injected into the current systems via structures such as economic, social, political principles including measurement units like GDP, the ways family units are structured, from religious ownership to texts to their implementation, political participation, media visuals and resources, virtual game killing, Genetic Reproductive technology (innovations in reductionist science), societal taboos and many more ways that constitutes our daily life.
Here women, nature, children are the affected beings of the society who have been oppressed directly and indirectly by the structures on a physical, mental and social level. Their beliefs and consciousness formed as part of their experiences in the development of the world which is even more oppressing.
Today, this interconnection between the increased violence against nature having a direct effect on women and vice versa has been beautifully captured by an emerging movement called Ecofeminism.
Ecofeminism, or ecological feminism is branch of feminism that examines the connections between women and nature. Ecofeminism is an ideology and movement that forms the connections between climate change, gender equality, and social injustice more broadly as intrinsically related issues, all tied to masculine dominance in society.
Ecofeminism also calls attention to the fact that women are disproportionately affected by environmental issues.
French author and feminist Olympus de Gouges (1748-93) declared:
"As long as nothing is done to elevate the minds of women, as long as women themselves fail to make an effort to become more useful, more significant, as long as men lack the courage to deal seriously with the woman's true glory, the state cannot prosper."
Ecofeminism asserts that masculine dominance has led to a disconnect between nature and culture, which has adversely affected marginalized groups as well as nature itself.
Women such as Vandana Shiva, founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology, and Carolyn Merchant, author of Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution, are just two prominent names within this movement since its inception. Some other names of note include Val Plumwood, Greta Gard, and Susan Griffin, just to name a few.
These women and many other women including tribal, housewives, home-preneurs, mothers have risen to the challenge via actions, movements, writings, lectures and raising the consciousness of fellow comrades who have been influenced by the complex system of patriarchy woven into our culture in very subtle ways.
For example, quoting from the book to show how so-called “development” and increasing gender gaps is connected, “Modern Science is projected as a universal, value-free system of knowledge, which by the logic of its method claims to arrive at objective conclusions about life, the universe and almost everything. This dominant stream of modern science, the reductionist or mechanical paradigm, is a specific projection of western man that originated during the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries as a much-acclaimed scientific revolution. Recently, however, male-oriented and patriarchal projection which necessarily entailed the subjugation of both nature and women of oppression has been on screen.”
To resuscitate, a collective effort of all humankind is needed.
Not being the mere passengers on this beautiful planet by destroying it through our social, economic, cultural and political activities, rather connecting back to our origin and realizing that we are fundamentally one. Destroying the natural resources for our luxury today will destroy the entire human kind tomorrow.
Afterall, the question remains, who are we doing it for? Who is this development for?
So, what could be the alternative, what is the new paradigm, a new vision? The new world will not come about with a ‘Big Bang’ or a ‘Great Revolution’. It will come when people begin to sow new seeds of this new world while still living in the old one.
Farida Akhter from Bangladesh talks about this process in her book, Seeds of Movements: Women’s Issues in Bangladesh. She shows that mainly women will be the sowers of these seeds because they and their children have suffered most in the old world of the ‘Fathers of Destruction.’ i.e. women who are the oppressed will and can bring the change as the result of the power gained from being silenced till date, undergoing extreme suffering and from denial of their humanity.
The Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and the theory of ecofeminism converge to form a combination of both action and reflection on part of the oppressed by creating the vision of a new and more equitable society.
In this, the oppressed unveil the world of oppression and through the praxis commit themselves to its transformation, with dialogue, reflection and complete ownership of their situation.
And this is exactly the way the new ecofeminism movements like the Chipko Movement have been working - recognition of the need to be fully human, observing and demanding the rights they deserve, constantly observing the institutional and systemic structures and their changes outside and hence restoring dignity and ensuring social justice to every last person.
Let's relook at our current methods to pursue development, which has apparently become our purpose to live on this planet in today's time. Let's live, laugh, and love sustainably.