Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Towards Day 13 (Wed, Oct. 24): Ecofeminism?

Anne Dalke's picture

I. coursekeeping
weather prediction: 68 degrees, 5 mph winds,
with 30% chance of rain

hira's chosing to be outside (bring jackets....)

Enviro Studies fall tea: 4:30-6:30, Thurs, Nov 1, CC 105

tomorrow by 5:
post another reflection about your "site sit"--
this will be your sixth visit to this site; it would be fine if you
want to change location, next week, for the remainder of the semester/
the next six weeks (go weekly to Harriton? or elsewhere off campus?
--this would be a way to give yourself a field trip/build it into your
weekly schedule)

by Sunday @ 5: either initiate or choose a "thread" to pursue on Serendip w/ your classmates: How might we revise the remainder of the semester to reflect our shared interests? How do you understand/what questions do you have about the intersection of gender and the environment? (Or: what questions did Spretnak's article on ecofeminism answer or raise for you?) And/or what further conversation would you like to have about our other recent, under-discussed readings (Pollan on weeds, White on working for a living, Carson on pesticide use)? What other ideas have arisen for you this week? (for example, see Sarah's invitation to dance for a possible new direction...). You're welcome to post stand-alone comments, but consider also writing in response to what a classmate has said....

what I heard on Monday: we're going to consider moving class around campus, taking one more field trip nearby (to Mill Creek or the Schyukill River?), and exploring the possibility of something further "afield" when the semester ends--as well as a final project that is less a formal paper than a demonstration/exploration/outreach/action/environmental activism aimed @ the larger community; what wasn't clear to me was how we want to balance direct textual analysis w/ more experiential work--I could use some guidance here (you'll see in a moment what I planned for today--trying to get @ the analysis through experience....)

on Monday,
I'll lead us on a campus-wide exploration of the geological structures that undergird our current linguistic and cultural explorations (modeled on what Maria Luisa Crawford will do w/ the frosh tomorrow); in preparation, read two short poems written by a McBride/geo major: Meta/phor and Sentiment Core

on Wednesday,
the bio majors amongst us will lead us on a similar exploration of our botanical companions on campus

you have little-to-no reading next week, to accomodate the research you need to be doing for the web event you have due on Friday, Nov. 2nd: 6-pp. (or equivalent); my original prompt was to expand your story of the bi-co in space and time, to get "beyond" what you can see in the present/what you saw on your Thoreauvian ramble; you might well want to do some more historical, botanical or geological research to write this: sara's interest in the Bryn Mawr maids; the bio majors could write up a course plan (and possible extensions?) for what they are doing on Wed; Max may want to design a field trip to a nearby site w/ water in it, explaining why/what this would add to the syllabus/ecological education; Sarah may want to lead a class in dance, for the reasons she explained in her post...I urge you to follow your own leadings, and to take the time and effort to pursue them seriously

Clare from ESem: "The thought that it is not necessary for the well being of the world that I say something at that moment."

II. today we move from "ecolinguistics" into "ecofeminism" --what does that mean?

Rachel Carson published Silent Spring in '62, and died of breast cancer in '64

she hid her cancer (to deflect attacks that she had a personal,
vested interest in attacking pesticides as carcinogenic);
her "spinsterness" was also a mark of dubiousness

w/ her apocalyptic title and dystopic opening chapter w/out birds,
she both brought focus to humans as agents of environmental destruction,
and optimistically (naively) argued that ethical behavior would follow this knowledge

she got a misogynist response:
was called amateur/scientific journalist/unpatriotic/communist (anti-business);
additional charges: spinster/hysterical/emotional-laden

template for attacks on women who challenge science
RNC 2012: “war on women is as fictitious as a war on caterpillars”
attacks on Carson revived today: “Rachel is Wrong” website,
blaming her for millions of malaria deaths

great accomplishments and disappointments of her work:
we have not become “the future generation unlikely to condone…
the lack of prudent concern for the integrity of the natural world that supports all life”

how to teach env’l studies w/out leading to despair?
what sustainable practice, for concerns that are so pressing?
how to shift from short term to long term thinking…?

III. the ecofeminists have some thoughts about this....
(we'll cycle back to the question of whether Rachel C is one....)

large sheets in the center of the circle
"When I think of feminism, I think of...."

[discuss: liberal, vs. radical....?]

"When I think of environmentalism, I think of...."

"When I think of ecofeminism, the overlap looks like..."

Spretnak's essay is old (1987), dated, and downright cheesy
("roots, flowering, nutrient-rich compost...")
andbut it offers some significant insights:

*3 paths:
political theory (Marxism revised from class to gender)
nature-based religion (Divine as immanent)
* interlinked dynamics:
terror of nature and of the female
* willingness to deepen our experience of communion w/ nature
(we are "tourists in the natural world," "backward in our direct knowledge of nature")

de Beauvoir situates women firmly in the familiar nature-culture binary. Women represent the chaotic ambivalence of nature, both idolized fertility and reviled uncontrolled sexuality, both life-bringer and destroyer: "She is all that man desires and all that he does not attain." Women represent the immanence
of the flesh, both maternal and sexual.

radical feminism = "big-picture feminism":
examines deepest assumptions, values, fears that inform patriarchal structures
debate w/ the deep ecologists: not anthromophic but androcentric
(not human-based, but placing masculine point of view/experience
at the center of one's world view, thus denigrating all others)

smacholdt, racher on deep ecology of Arne Naess?

"well being and flourishing of nonhuman life on Earth has value in itself;
humans have no right to reduce the richness and diversity of life forms,
except to satisfy vital human needs"...

how much of our concept of 'vital needs" is shaped by patriarchal values?

"To care empathetically about...the universe is the framework
ecofeminists use to address the issues of our times" (ex: population control);
refusal to banish feelings of interrelatedness and caring from theory/practice

This document answers some of our questions about teaching environmental studies w/out giving into despair--andbut raises another whole series of questions about the realtionship of gender and the environment, inviting us to think about interconnected oppressions; it's an early emergence of the environmental justice movement, which views the environment as encompassing "where we live, work, and play," and seeks to redress inequitable distributions of environmental burdens (pollution, industrial facilities, and crime....).

IV. Bruce's addendum to our conversation @ Harriton:
I also meant to mention that the dairy operation c. 1908-1929 was operated for the family by a woman - Mary Vaux.  It was in fact quite common for women to operate successful commercial enterprises such as this--- examples of eco-feminism?   The operations were very much a nurturing endeavor and a responsible relationship with or the use of "resources"  ... very much a reaction or response to  a growing and impure factory food supply (sound familiar?).... It wasn't just the meat packing industry - it was nearly the entire urban food supply including the dairy industry -- and the effects of impure or adulterated dairy products were even more immediate.  The major urban fluid milk suppliers in the second half of the 19th century weren't the pastoral bucolic farms of our dreams; rather, they were the urban breweries and malt houses with thousands of gallons of malt waste to dispose. Cattle ate it in places which would make the worst slums look good, and the maltsters made a second profit! Growing reactions to practices such as this, coupled with the growing acceptance of the work of Louis Pasteur, sanitary fairs, the development of the "milk jar" or bottle, the temperance movement (believe it or not!), and dying babies (back to your grieving mothers),  led the way to a response of purity which resulted in a hearty dairy industry in SE PA in our case (pure white fat-rich milk), and white eggs instead of brown, white doctor's smocks, cute white nurses caps for more than half a century, white barber's aprons, white butcher's aprons etc etc etc. The distaff side played a major role in all of this by way of acceptance perhaps as much as demand.  In dairy alone, I can think of four examples of women running the operations within 2000 feet of Bryn Mawr College alone, and off the top of my head a major woman breeder nearby in New Jersey.

--are these ecofeminists?
--was Rachel Carson?
--(why) does it matter?