As I explore what it means to be female, a scientist, and an American, the inevitable questions arises. Why is it that I have this intrinsic, instinctual, guttural need to protect the planet? What is it about me?
I’ve never studied philosophy, but a slight foray into the prejudice against fish compared to other animals introduced me to an interesting phenomenon: understanding how we talk about something is telling of a historical, cultural perspective that pervades our social consciousness, and can be damaging and dangerous if we are not aware of it.
Ecofeminism is a philosophical theory that links the exploitation of the planet with the subjugation of woman. The main argument is that in ancient times the planet was seen as a life giving, nurturing entity, and thus equated with the feminine. Damaging exploitation is linked to the Industrial Revolution and the rise of a male-dominant society, where females (including Earth) are considered inferior, and exploitable. Though I don’t agree with most of the theory, there are some things which cannot be refuted.
The most interesting aspect of the philosophical theory lies with the terminology and rhetoric. The terms shouldn’t surprise anybody, but if you consider the connotation, the implications become more troubling. We talk about Mother Earth probably as a way to describe the life giving nature of our planet. But virgin forests are being felled, fertile land is being left barren, and we are raping the planet.
If there is an intrinsic, historical, cultural, or social link between the way we treat woman and the way we treat the planet, what does it mean for us, today? Does one somehow foster the other. Do we validate our treatment of one based on the other? Does it have some bearing on the current environmental crisis?
I don’t know if there is a real answer, but thinking about it is interesting.
Read more about ecofeminism here