Dal Gender and Women's Studies Collective

Feminism or Death

No, this is not a threat. It is a prediction:

The current state of affairs is self-destructive.

What is it about  the  world today that is unsustainable? Why is it likely to bring about our end? And what can we do to prevent our self-demise? In order to answer these questions I will briefly introduce Ecofeminism, an analytical toolkit that will allow us to describe the problem, and possibly design a solution. But before  I do that I would like to characterize the problem in an easily accessible way.

Back when I was a philosophy student, I encountered Richard Dawkins’ concept of the meme. The meme, briefly,  is akin to a gene in that is is a basic unit of life. The meme  inhabits human minds. A meme can be as simple as a whistled tune that you just cannot get out of your head, or alternately a meme is a popular shirt or dress pattern. At the complex end of memes are things like  the Catholic Church.  Memes sometimes replicate like viruses. Now on to the problem that has brought us together today.

Nearly all people alive  today are infected with a meme that is pernicious, promotes unsustainable  behaviour, and is likely to bring about the end of us all sooner or later. The name of that meme is Patriarchy, and it inhabits people like a ghost from the past. One of the worst things about this meme is that people are completely unaware that they are infected with something that is essentially a mental virus. And it has infected nearly everyone on this planet.

Now talk like this is evocative; it allows us to quickly grasp the concept, it even suggests that the condition is reversible. But  it does not get us very far down the pathway to a solution.

Ecofeminism can provide us with a toolkit that will give us the means to deconstruct Patriarchy. What is Ecofeminism? It is an association of Feminisms. Not all Feminisms are the the same, some are even conflicting, but they all share in common the need to put an end to domination and oppression. Brought together under the umbrella of Ecofeminism, they fit like patches in a patch-work quilt.  The analytical tools that are thus provided can serve us in our struggle against Patriarchy. What Ecofeminism does is it brings together Feminism with Ecological Philosophy. The connections between Feminism and Ecology are characterized by the twin dominations of Women, and of Nature.

There were 8 of these connections in the source material I read. The first one is the Historical-Causal Connection. What this signifies is that historical data often serves as a causal link between past phenomena and later circumstances. For instance, In ancient Mesopotamia there is evidence that indicates that early agricultural communities operated with shared power and lacking the features of Patriarchy. Then invaders brought their gods of war, and rule by men to all the communities they conquered. But saying this does not tell us now how we are supposed to deal with the Patriarchy problem that exists today. Or again The Scientific Revolution heralded a host of social and scientific changes. Although patriarchy did not begin during this period, the radical changes to the lives of people from the poorest, to the wealthiest and most powerful reinforced, and intensified the hierarchical division between the classes. Power struggles were frequent, and often violent. It was during this time that peoples connection with the world was cut by Rene Descartes. The argument that contained his famous “I think, therefore I am” had as its aim the doubting of all sensory data; only one’s thoughts were not subject to doubt. This was the argument that divided people from the numinous connection they had to the stars, the plants, and rocks and waters of their surroundings. Into the vacuum left by this act came the pursuit of wealth for its own sake, and all the attendant power relationships. Businesses took work away from homes and forever changed the structure of families. The effects of these changes are much closer to our time and its consequences have been tracked in substantial detail.

Without going into the specifics of that detail, this brings us to connection number two, the Conceptual connection. This one I will treat briefly now, but I will return to the points made here after treating the remainder of the eight connections. Conceptual structures with a causal dimension attached to the links between the elements are used to support Patriarchy. One type of such a structure is value dualisms, another is value hierarchies. Historically these have been used in concert to support the hierarchical differentiation of men and women. Men were seen as having reason, mind, and representative of human in general. Woman on the other hand was seen as being ruled by emotion, and by her body, and representative of nature. These points raise a common goal of Feminism: its aim is to dismantle these dualisms, and the core philosophical notions. But one thing is clear, that is, that there is a real sex-gender differentiation because women’s reproductive, childbearing capability, and care produces in her a different  consciousness than that experienced by men.

The third connection is the Empirical and Experiential. This one brings home the fact that women and the environment are tied together by noting that the damage done to the environment often correlates with health problems experienced by women and children in the locale of the environmental destruction. This is a much talked about connection in the field of ecofeminism.

The fourth connection is the Epistemological. This one cuts to the heart of philosophy; it is a challenge to main stream views of reason, rationality, knowledge, and the nature of the knower. But this is not the place to get into hard core philosophy.

Connection number 5 concerns the Symbolic representation of the domination issue. It is well and fully represented in art, and in literature, in religion, and in theology. It is so ingrained in our culture that it is even in the language we use. Consider the different words used to denote women: bitch, beaver, cunt, and witch… we could all get together and create a very long list. So too with nature; our fields are fertile or they are barren. But this little list hardly scratches the surface.

Connection number 6 concerns the Ethical dimension. We need an analysis that is free of male biases. Here is an activity for philosophers

Number 7 like the previous one What we really need is a new analysis of traditional and non-traditional ethics. But this is, again, the domain of philosophers. We here on the street want to know what we can do, what actions can we take.

And that call to action brings us to connection number 8: the Political. This is the area of praxis. Praxis, briefly, is the wedding of theory, and of practice.


more to follow soon.


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