The Environment and the Feminine

Climate Change and Gender Inequality: Can We Fight for the Environment Without also Fighting for the Feminine?

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The issues of gender relations and climate change (for me climate change includes environmental destruction in general) are debated almost daily in the media, and little progress has been made with either. The thing is, these two issues are so closely related but so few of us seem aware of that. 



I t is interesting that with such worldwide and intense concern about the environment, with many public figures stating that climate change is our most pressing issue, the issue of giving equal value to both sexes has lost a bit of its status as a significant public concern.

Naturally women’s groups and individual women are still fighting for paid maternity (and paternity) leave, equal pay, and adequate child care, and there is dialogue in the media about how society is sexualising pre-teen girls, about marriage equality, and the rights of both men and women to participate in family life as well as work outside the home, but there appears to be little insight from our leaders, activists and commentators about the connection between these issues.

Environmental abuse stems from disregard for nature and its cycles, and the promotion of unbridled competition and economic expansion.

The environment – nature – is something human beings from all cultures regard as the feminine expression of life/psyche whereas industry and ‘building’ are seen as an expression of masculinity.

Both women and men have masculine and feminine attributes yet in our modern world masculine qualities are valued more highly than feminine qualities.

Thus we have had such inequality between the sexes, because obviously most women are identified more with the feminine aspects of human nature and men more with the masculine. But we have seen in the examples of female leaders and athletes and ordinary women going about their daily lives that women can quite easily express their masculine side, and also men can express their feminine side.

The health of our environment is directly related to and affected by the health of our psyches – when our individual and collective psyches are not in balance, when we validate only a part of who we are and disown and dismiss any opposites (the ‘other’), then we are not able to act in the world, or even to percieve the world, from the point of view of all sides.

And so while many of us, and many of our governments and institutions, continue to value masculinity over and above femininity (this applies for women and men), we will continue to act in the world from the position of that value system.

Until we are able to see ourselves and our fellow sisters and brothers as multi-faceted beings, with both masculine and feminine attributes, until we are able to see our families and communities as multi-faceted organisations, with each facet requiring attention, validation and resources provided for it in order for it to be able to participate effectively and to thrive – thus benefitting the whole, we will continue to repress those parts that we do not find of value from the limited perspective of whichever part of human nature we have come to identify with.

We are all at some stage independent and dependent, workers and carers, teachers and students, parents and infants, rational and emotional, giving and needy, active and passive, strong and weak, hard and soft.

For any major change to take place, we need to stop seeing ourselves as self-sufficient and disconnected individuals in competition with each other for resources but instead as sufficient individuals who are a part of a community, with each one of us contributing to our community in different ways, and differently at different times of our lives.

We are all at some stage independent and dependent, workers and carers, teachers and students, parents and infants, rational and emotional, giving and needy, active and passive, strong and weak, hard and soft.

At present our environment, our Mother Earth, is given about as much respect and care as is given to our mothers.

We expect the earth to just be there for us, continually giving, with no care or ‘payment’ or appreciation in return, just as we expect mothers to just be there for children, continually giving, unpaid, unnappreciated.

Many individual families realise how vital all the individual member’s roles are, but still mothers are seen by society as being parasitic.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I have been asked ‘When are you going back to work?’ as if as a mother (and also a writer and publisher) I do no work! Until such a time when a mother or father can be a nurturer and carer for the next generation (or for an older generation) and that role is valued and supported fully by our society, I doubt we will be able to fully care for the earth.

So can we fight for the environment and expect any positive results without also fighting for the feminine?

By sidelining or marginalising women’s issues and continuing the devaluation of feminine qualities, exactly what kind of vision for the health of the environment do we have?

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