1. Men, Women, and Cross-Gender Solidarity
From time to time, bright ideas emerge that open new horizons of hope for better human relations. The work of Judith Hand on male-female biology, as it pertains to preventing violence and sustaining peace, may be one of those. She has lectured and written extensively on the criticality of cross-gender solidarity between men and women for peace and human development. The main focus of her work has thus far been on the need for male-female gender balance in social institutions, but it would seem to be applicable to fostering human solidarity across the entire gender continuum in both social and religious institutions.
A Future Without War is Judith Hand's website, where most of her writings can be readily accessed. The following are some links to material that should be of interest to readers of this journal:
- Women, Power, and the Biology of Peace, Judith L. Hand, Questpath Publishing, 2003.
Excerpt: "So long as men and women are estranged from each other, so long as they are unequal and one is considered subservient, so long as men continue to be estranged from satisfying, joy-giving, connections to their children, so long as humans are alienated from the natural world and instead consider themselves its masters and dominators, the need for deep connectedness will remain unmet." (page 129)
- Biological Differences Between Men and Women With Respect to Social Stability and Aggression, Judith L. Hand, 2006.
- The Secret Ingredient: The Pivotal Catalyst for Change and Long Term Stability, Judith L. Hand, 2006.
- Empower Women, Judith L. Hand, 2006.
- Spread Liberal Democracy, Judith L. Hand, 2006.
- Locked in the Embrace of Male Biology: A Barrier to Positive Paradigm Shift, Judith L. Hand, 2009.
- Shaping the Future: A Proposal to Hasten a Global Paradigm Shift for the Security and Well-being of All Children Everywhere, Judith L. Hand, 2011.
Violence (war in particular) is the greatest obstacle to sustainable human development. Judith Hand is making a significant contribution to peace by pointing the way to a culture of global solidarity and nonviolence. The reader is cordially invited to visit A Future Without War for more information on this important piece of work. For some key excerpts from several authors on the general theme of "men, women, and cross-gender solidarity," click here.
Some additional supporting references:
- Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism, Irena Diamong and Gloria Feman Orenstein, Editor, Sierra Club Books, 1990.
- Sex on the Brain: The Biological Differences Between Men and Women, Deborah Blum, Penguin, 1998.
- Mother Nature: A History of Mothers, Infants, and Natural Selection, Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Pantheon, 1999.
- Enlightened Power: How Women are Transforming the Practice of Leadership, Lin Coughlin et al. (Editors), Jossey-Bass, 2005.
- The End of Men, Hanna Rosin, The Atlantic Magazine, July-August 2010.
- Adam and Eve and the Gender Divide, John R. Coats, Huffington Post, 28 June 2010.
- Why should men and women be involved as allies in peacebuilding?, New Tactics in Human Rights, 7 February 2011.
- Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, Mara Hvistendahl, Public Affairs, June 2011.
- The Other Side of the Gender Equation: Gender Issues for Men in the Europe and Eurasia Region, Susan D. Somach, KDID Social Transitions, July 2011.
WORTH READING: Why Nations Fight, by Richard Ned Lebow (Author) & Christopher Coker (Reviewer), Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 25.3, Fall 2011. According to Lebow, four generic motives have historically led to war: fear, interest, status, and revenge--and all of them are still likely to lead to future conflict.
2. Wangari Matthai: Champion of Reforestation & Nobel Peace Prize
Wangari Maathai, c. 1984
Wangari Maathai passed away at the Nairobi Hospital on 26 September 2011, according to her family. Prof. Maathai had long been struggling with cancer.
Wangari Muta Maathai was born on 1 April 1940. She started the Green Belt Movement in 1977, working with women to improve their livelihoods by increasing their access to resources like firewood for cooking and clean water. She became a great advocate for better management of natural resources and for sustainability, equity, and justice, a work that put her at considerable risk during the authoritarian rule of President Moi. In 1984, she received the Right Livelihood Award "for converting the Kenyan ecological debate into mass action for reforestation". Twenty years later, in 2004, she received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Right Livelihood Award Executive Director Ole von Uexkull said: "The Right Livelihood Award Family has lost one of its most prominent members. Wangari Maathai was an inspiration to the whole world as well as to her co-Laureates. She always used the power of her commitment and her longstanding experience to strengthen others. Our thoughts are with her family. Wangari will live on in the memories of her colleagues ... and in the millions of trees she helped plant in Kenya."
Wangari Maathai's organisation, the Green Belt Movement, wrote: "Professor Maathai's departure is untimely and a very great loss to all who knew her - as a mother, relative, co-worker, colleague, role model, and heroine; or who admired her determination to make the world a more peaceful, healthier, and better place."
3. Why Does Systemic Violence Persist Against Women?
Why Does Systemic Violence Persist Against Women?
Initially published in Socialist Alternative, 30 August 2011
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
This year, tens of thousands of women worldwide have marched and rallied against sexual assault. Ignited by a Toronto Police Officer's claim that the best way to avoid getting raped is to "avoid dressing like a slut," the Slutwalks movement is among the most successful feminist actions in the last 20 years, due to its global popularity and ongoing momentum.
One in six U.S. women will be raped in her lifetime, and 60% of them will never report it. Why, despite all the gains women have won, do epidemic levels of violence against women persist? Why are a majority of rapes never reported?
For the new movement against sexual violence to achieve change, it must move beyond surface level answers and squarely tackle the root of the problem.
Re-enforcing Rape Culture
The situation in colleges and universities provides a good case study. On paper, many have structural support for rape survivors in the form of rape crisis centers and periodic restrictions on fraternity parties. Yet one in four women experience sexual assault in her college years, and more than 95% of these rapes are not reported to the police.
Colleges and universities may have rape crisis centers, but these are overshadowed by a culture that relentlessly objectifies women while demanding impossible double standards of behavior.
Training law enforcement to be politically correct is clearly not enough. Violence against women, even rape, is normalized under capitalism. The corporate media sensationalizes rape trials, routinely investigating prior sexual activity of victims to paint them as "sluts" and therefore partially responsible for being raped. Meanwhile, the profit-driven advertisement industry promotes female sexuality to sell products, as television and film constantly portray sex and violence as natural counterparts.
The corporate media uses euphemisms instead of rape or sexual assault, refusing to acknowledge the reality of the rape epidemic, while excusing and watering it down. Recently, Oregon Representative, David Wu, announced his resignation, as the New York Times reported, "in the wake of allegations that he engaged in unwanted sexual activities with a teenage girl." Why is this powerful political figure accused of "unwanted sexual activities" rather than "rape" or "sexual assault"? (07/25/2011).
Legal equality for women has not erased structural inequality. In her lifetime, a woman still earns 59 cents for every dollar earned by a man, and she still performs 70-80% of unpaid labor in the home. Like all other forms of systemic violence, the constant threat of sexual violence functions to reinforce systemic exploitation and material inequalities. Right-wing moral code frequently blames poor single women for being irresponsible in order to justify cuts to social services, just as it blames them for irresponsibly being in the wrong place at the wrong time if they are sexually assaulted. Rape culture cannot be isolated from the other issues that women face in all aspects of their lives in order to oppress them.
The conditions are even worse for millions of undocumented women facing the threat of deportation if they call the police, women of color who are more likely to experience police brutality in their families, or LGBT couples who fear reinforcing the stigma around same-sex relationships. In this way, racism, homophobia, and other oppressive relations in society re-enforce a culture that tells women not to get raped, rather than developing institutional responses to end systemic sexual violence.
When the Toronto officer advised women to "avoid dressing like a slut" if they don't want to get raped, this was a perfect example of victim blaming and "slut shaming" and why a majority of women never report rape. Why would you report that you've been sexually assaulted when your neighborhood law enforcement believes that it was potentially your own fault for what you wore, where you were, or how you acted?
Together, victim blaming and slut shaming compose much of what is described as "rape culture," a set of sexist ideas deeply embedded in capitalist society that excuses and normalizes violence against women. Rape culture puts a false sense of responsibility on women to "not get raped" by setting up impossible standards of how to dress, behave, etc., rather than holding rapists fully responsible or tackling the underlying causes of systemic violence against women.
Despite the media's continual promotion of fear of strangers, women are three times more likely to be raped by someone they know than by a stranger, and are nine times more likely to be raped in a familiar location than the archetypal dark alley. The dominant image of innocent rape victims randomly attacked by monsters is a false caricature. Yet spouse and date rape are often stigmatized as somehow less legitimate. The reality is, rape is rape.
But rape is not an inevitable part of women's lives under all systems. Class society generates the oppression of women and the misogyny of rapists. And it is capitalism that continues to divide us and maintain varying levels of inequality, to subordinate based on race, class, immigrant status, gender identity, sexuality, disability, etc. Without confronting these inequalities, the working class will remain incapable of organizing serious resistance to capitalism's divide and conquer strategy.
Ending the culture that allows rape to be systematically unreported and widely accepted as inevitable is not imaginable without ending capitalism, the system which breeds these attitudes. This does not, however, mean standing aside from fights to expose and reform sexist institutions. While the Slutwalks lack a working class perspective, the movement has brought tens of thousands of women into the streets against oppression. Mass demonstrations, placing demands on political and legal institutions, on colleges and on employers, are crucial tactics for building women's collective power and educating the wider movements of working people to fully integrate a women's rights agenda into our struggle.
4. Gender Equality for Adaptation to Climate Change
"As a rights-based organisation, CARE's climate change strategy is geared towards the empowerment of poor and marginalised people. CARE is deeply concerned about constraints that the inequitable distribution of rights, resources and power – as well as repressive cultural rules and norms – place on people's ability to take action on climate change. We believe that a wide range of development goals are achievable only if decision makers at all levels recognise the unique risks faced by poor and marginalised people and their essential roles in planning, implementing and evaluating action on climate change.
"The majority of the world's poorest people today are women and girls. Climate change is making it even more difficult for them to realise their basic rights, and it is exacerbating inequalities since they are more vulnerable to its impacts than men.
"Moreover, many women are denied access to new information about climate change and participation in important decision-making processes despite having unique skills and knowledge – about low risk farming, sustainable water management, family health and community mobilisation, for example – vital to effective adaptation.
"For all these reasons, and because women are central to the food and livelihood security of their families, we place a special emphasis on gender equality and women's empowerment."
For more, including links to other CARE resources, click here.
KEY LINKS TO ADAPTATION & GENDER
- People-Centred Climate Change Adaptation: Integrating Gender Issues, FAO, 2007.
- Gender and Climate Change, UNDP, 2007.
- Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change, UN WomenWatch, 2009.
- Women are powerful agents of change, CARE International Climate Change Information Centre, 2011.
- Adaptation, gender and women's empowerment, CARE International Climate Change Brief, October 2010. Also available in Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
- Climate Adaptation Challenges from a Gender Perspective, Boell Foundation, 4 April 2011.
- Bringing gender into climate change adaptation, CCAFS, CGIAR, 12 July 2011.
COLLABORATION BETWEEN INDIA AND SIERRA LEONE
One specific case worthy of study in Women Bringing Solar Power to Sierra Leone, The Guardian, 15 September 2011. The following summary is excerpted from YaleGlobal, 16 September 2011.
"Developing renewables to meet the growing demand for energy is a top priority in the 21st century. So is enhancing collaboration among developing countries. By training semi-literate women from rural Sierra Leone in solar-energy techniques, Barefoot College in western India works towards achieving both these goals. Twelve women attended and then returned to villages in Sierra Leone to assemble 1,500 household solar units at a new branch of Barefoot College in Konta Line, where the training will continue, reports a blog for the Guardian. The governments of both countries have played their part; Sierra Leone invested $820,000 in the project, and India provided equipment. The vast majority of households in Sierra Leone go without power. Following its decades-long civil war, electricity is Sierra Leone's "most daunting infrastructural challenge," notes a World Bank report. Lighting extends education and socializing into the evening hours, and the women are planning on manufacturing solar units to spread the new power."
5. Symbiosis between Gender Equality and Democracy
Senior United Nations officials today stressed the need to promote the participation of women in decision-making, noting that democracy and gender equality are interlinked and mutually reinforcing.
Women's participation crucial
UN News Centre, 4 May 2011
"While women's political participation improves democracy, the reverse is also true: democracy is an incubator for gender equality," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his remarks at a roundtable held at UN Headquarters on gender equality and democracy.
"It provides public space for discussion of human rights and women's empowerment. It enables women's groups to mobilize. It makes it easier for women to realize their political, civil, economic and social rights."
He told participants at the event, which included representatives from various UN departments and entities, as well as the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, that one need look no further than the daily headlines to see the timeliness of today's gathering.
"Women were among those who marched in Côte d'Ivoire to uphold the democratic will of the people – with several of them killed for making that stand,"said Mr. Ban. "In Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere, women have been among those in the vanguard demanding change, rights, dignity, and opportunity."
Noting gender inequality in decision-making remains a great impediment to democracy, the Secretary-General said more must be done to address the gender gap in democratic participation.
"Certainly there has been important progress. More women, in more countries, are taking their place in parliament,"he stated.
"Yet fewer than 10 per cent of countries have female heads of State or government. Fewer than 30 countries have reached the target of 30 per cent women in national parliaments."
He also cited the need to treat gender equality as an explicit goal of democracy-building, not as an "add-on,"stating that experience shows that democratic ideals of inclusiveness, accountability and transparency cannot be achieved without laws, policies, measures and practices that address inequalities.
The UN is more involved in democracy-building than ever before, Mr. Ban pointed out. Many UN departments, funds and programmes have expanded their democracy programming, and the establishment of UN Women has added "another strong actor"to the arena.
"Across the constellations of entities and activity, we need a stronger gender perspective going forward. Our responsibility is to ensure that our democracy assistance is gender responsive."
Helen Clark, the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), told the gathering that democratic governance cannot be fully achieved without the full participation and inclusion of women.
"Without the full participation of women in decision-making processes and debates about policy priorities and options, issues of great importance to women will either be neglected, or the way in which they are addressed will be sub-optimal and uninformed by women's perspectives,"she stated.
Helping countries to strengthen their democratic institutions is an important aspect of the work of UNDP, which is the UN system's lead provider of technical assistance to elections. From 2008 to 2010 alone, it provided electoral assistance to 64 countries and territories, and it is currently working with more than 120 countries on public administration reform and/or strengthening governance.
"To be judged successful, all this work must contribute to empowering women and pursuing gender equality," said Miss Clark. "We need to see more women elected, voting, involved in participatory processes generally, and well represented in public administrations."
She noted that there are a number of proven ways to increase women's voice and participation in decision-making, including implementing quotas or reserved seat systems, and ensuring that women know how election processes work and about campaign methods and financing.
Some 50 countries have now legislated for quotas in electoral and political party laws, and hundreds of political parties have adopted quotas as a voluntary measure.
"Quotas are the single, most effective, and quickest measure for increasing the numbers of women in elected office," the UN development chief stated.
6. The Male Privilege Checklist
The Male Privilege Checklist
Barry Deutsch, Alas! A Blog, 15 September 2004
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
This list is based on the memorable article, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, by American feminist and anti-racist activist Peggy McIntosh. These are but a few examples of the privilege which male people have.
On a daily basis as a male person…
1. My odds of being hired for a job, when competing against female applicants,
are probably skewed in my favor. The more prestigious the job, the larger the
odds are skewed.
2. If I fail in my job or career, I can feel sure this won't be seen as a black mark
against my entire sex's capabilities.
3. I am far less likely to face sexual harassment at work than my female co-
4. If I do the same task as a woman, and if the measurement is at all subjective,
chances are people will think I did a better job.
5. If I choose not to have children, my masculinity will not be called into question.
6. If I have children and a career, no one will think I'm selfish for not staying at
7. My elected representatives are mostly people of my own sex. The more
prestigious and powerful the elected position, the more this is true.
8. When I ask to see "the person in charge," odds are I will face a person of my
own sex. The higher-up in the organization the person is, the surer I can be.
9. As a child, chances are I was encouraged to be more active and outgoing than
10. As a child, chances are I got more teacher attention than girls who raised
their hands just as often.
11. If I'm careless with my financial affairs it won't be attributed to my sex.
12. If I'm careless with my driving it won't be attributed to my sex.
13. Even if I sleep with a lot of women, there is no chance that I will be seriously
labeled a "slut," nor is there any male counterpart to "slut-bashing."
14. I do not have to worry about the message my wardrobe sends about my
sexual availability or my gender conformity.
15. My clothing is typically less expensive and better-constructed than women's
clothing for the same social status. While I have fewer options, my clothes will
probably fit better than a woman's without tailoring.
16. The grooming regimen expected of me is relatively cheap and consumes little
17. If I'm not conventionally attractive, the disadvantages are relatively small and
easy to ignore.
18. I can be loud with no fear of being called a shrew. I can be aggressive with
no fear of being called a bitch.
19. I can be confident that the ordinary language of day-to-day existence will
always include my sex. "All men are created equal," mailman, chairman,
20. My ability to make important decisions and my capability in general will never
be questioned depending on what time of the month it is.
21. I will never be expected to change my name upon marriage or questioned if I
don't change my name.
22. The decision to hire me will never be based on assumptions about whether or
not I might choose to have a family sometime soon.
23. If I have a wife or live-in girlfriend, chances are we'll divide up household
chores so that she does most of the labor, and in particular the most repetitive
and unrewarding tasks.
24. If I have children with a wife or girlfriend, chances are she'll do most of the
childrearing, and in particular the most dirty, repetitive and unrewarding parts of
25. If I have children with a wife or girlfriend, and it turns out that one of us needs
to make career sacrifices to raise the kids, chances are we'll both assume the
career sacrificed should be hers.
26. Magazines, billboards, television, movies, pornography, and virtually all of
media are filled with images of scantily-clad women intended to appeal to me
sexually. Such images of men exist, but are rarer.
27. In general, I am under much less pressure to be thin than my female
counterparts are. If I am fat, I probably suffer fewer social and economic
consequences for being fat than fat women do.
28. On average, I am not interrupted by women as often as women are
interrupted by men.
29. I have the privilege of being unaware of my male privilege.
7. The Changing Face of Masculinity
Men for Gender Equality|
Special Issue of New Internationalist, 1 July 2011
Gender has always been understood to be about women. But increasing numbers of men are now challenging traditional views of masculinity. They are getting involved in debates about violence, parenting, relationships, and sexuality. They are questioning the stereotypes of what it is to be a man. And most – but not all – are doing it from a feminist perspective. This month's New Internationalist asks men and women around the world about why it is important for men to be involved in work on gender equality.
Some related resources on men and authentic virility:
- The Invisible Partners: How the Male and Female in Each of Us Affects Our Relationships, John Sanford, Paulist Press, 1980.
- Original Unity of Man and Woman, John Paul II, Daughters of St Paul, June 1981.
- Men and Masculinities, SAGE, 1998-2011.
- Two Wings of a Bird: The Equality of Women and Men, Bahá'í International Community, 1999.
- Psychology of Men & Masculinity, APA, 2000-2011.
- Biological Differences Between Men and Women With Respect to Social Stability and Aggression, Judith L. Hand, 2006.
- Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality, Joseph Gelfer, Editor - Monash University, Australia, 2007-2011.
- Shaping the Future: A Proposal to Hasten a Global Paradigm Shift for the Security and Well-being of All Children Everywhere, Judith L. Hand, August 2011.
- Patriarchies of the Past - Masculinities for the Future, Catherine of Siena College, 2011.
- The Masculinity Conspiracy, Joseph Gelfer, CreateSpace, August 2011.
NOTE: Permission has been granted to serialize this ground breaking new book in Mother Pelican. Chapter 1 is reprinted in Page 7 of this issue
8. Is Gender Equality Impossible?
22 September 2011: Girls standing in the world cannot be improved without far more positive participation from the boys and men in their lives, a major report says.
The annual 'Because I am a Girl' report which assesses the state of the world's girls, states that fathers, brothers, husbands play an essential role in creating true gender equality.
The report produced by international children's rights organisation Plan International, makes recommendations for action, showing policymakers and planners what can make a real difference to girls' lives all over the world.
The report also includes primary research with more than 4,000 children which reveals that many stereotypical beliefs about gender roles in society are still very entrenched among young people.
But revealingly the survey also shows that children are actually happier when they see their parents sharing household responsibilities, rather than sticking to rigid roles.
Plan International CEO Nigel Chapman said: "It is widely recognised that empowering girls is a key to unlock families from poverty and deprivation. But since we began monitoring the state of the world's girls back in 2007 we have rightly been asked: 'So, what about the boys?'
"Of course, many boys are affected by poverty, lack of opportunity and also violence. But girls face double discrimination by being young and by being female. Everyone, including boys, benefits from a more just, equal world but it cannot be attained by girls alone – we must all play a more active part."
Elders member and former Brazil President Fernando Henrique Cardoso who wrote the report foreword said fathers in particular have a key role to play in leaving old 'machismo' ideas behind.
"I call on all men and boys to throw their weight behind the campaign for equality and to challenge those who oppose women's rights and equality," he said.
"The complementary skills and qualities of both men and women are needed to tackle the enormous challenges we face. This will not be easy. But we will all gain from such changes. Societies with greater equality between men and women, girls and boys, are healthier, safer, more prosperous and more truly democratic."
To bring about change Plan is calling upon campaigners, or those in positions of power:
- to transform school curricula to challenge stereotypes and acknowledge difference
- to support girls' and boys' participation in the creation of policies to improve gender equality
- to make school safe for girls and boys
- to challenge discrimination and engage men and boys.
Read a full copy of the report –'So what about boys'?
Some facts at a glance:
- 65% of participants from India and Rwanda totally or partially agreed with the statement 'A woman should tolerate violence in order to keep her family together'. A further 43% agreed with the statement: 'There are times when a woman deserves to be beaten'.
Over 60% of children interviewed in India for this report agreed that 'if resources are scarce it is better to educate a boy instead of a girl'.
Pressure to be tough can kill: violence, suicide and road traffics account for 60% of all deaths of under 24-year-old men in Europe. In the Americas, under 30-year-olds are 28 times more likely to be homicide victims than elsewhere in the world. (World Health Organisation).
Because I am a Girl is Plan International's campaign to fight gender inequality, promote girls' rights and lift millions of girls out of poverty.
Across the world, girls face double discrimination due to their gender and age, leaving them at the bottom of the social ladder.
Research has shown that girls are more likely to suffer from malnutrition; be forced into an early marriage; be subject to violence or intimidation; be trafficked, sold or coerced into the sex trade; or become infected with HIV.
Plan International is producing one girl report each year in the run up to 2015, the target year for the Millennium Development Goals. Each report provides tangible proof of the inequalities that still exist between boys and girls.
Join our campaign and help us transform the lives of the world's poorest girls.
Because I am a Girl is brought to you by Plan International - a leading children's organisation working in over 50 developing countries to improve the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged young people.
9. Book Review of Ecofeminism and Rhetoric
Ecofeminism and Rhetoric:
Critical Perspectives on
Sex, Technology, and Discourse
Edited by Douglas A. Vakoch
Berghahn Books, 2011
Ecofeminist rhetoric takes place at the intersection of feminism and ecology. Anyone with more than a passing interest in ecofeminism should read the recently published anthology edited by Douglas Vakoch, Ecofeminism and Rhetoric: Critical Perspectives on Sex, Technology, and Discourse. The reader will get a thorough education on where ecofeminism is coming from, the current state of the discipline, and directions for the future, including detailed notes and comprehensive bibliographies. The forward, by Glynis Carr, puts to rest any notion that ecofeminism is no more than a passing fad. It is not, and in fact offers in-depth insights into some of the most critical issues of the 21st century: the rediscovery of healthy gender relations and the restoration of symbiosis between humanity and the human habitat.
This is followed by a preface by editor Douglas Vakoch in which Ovid's poem on the myth of Apollo and Daphe is used as a metaphor for the
confluence between the oppression of women and the exploitation of nature. Understanding this combination of nefarious cultural threads sets the stage for understanding the great paradox facing humanity at the moment: continued accumulation of material wealth is ecologically impossible, and reversal of such material growth is equally impossible for homo economicus to attain. The only conceivable way to resolve the paradox is for homo economicus to become homo ecologicus; an adaptation that humans are perfectly capable to attain but thus far utterly unwilling to attempt. Indeed, any suggestion of the need for such metamorphosis brings about a sense of panic, not unlike the one Daphe experienced when she realized that becoming a mute tree was the only way to escape from Apollo.
The book is about best practices for ecofeminist rhetoric and discourse. Chapter 1, by Jeffrey Bile, provides a very comprehensive analysis of rhetorical and discursive practices by ecofeminists, including a number of highly instructive quotations from authors spanning a plurality of ecofeminist thinking. All are impartially covered, but this reviewer's preference is for a synthesis such as the one proposed by Anne Dashiel with regard to the female-nature connection: women "should RECLAIM it for ourselves, since we have been taught to devalue it" and "men should work to REDISCOVER it." As pointed out in a recent Mother Pelican editorial,
Men are not the problem.|
Women are not the problem.
Business is not the problem.
Government is not the problem.
Patriarchy is the problem.
Chapter 2, by Karla Ambruster, begins with the intriguing story of a young woman having a dream about getting pregnant and then giving birth to three puppies. This leads to a consideration of human-canine relations and the miseries humans inflict on animals via domestication, breeding, and puppy mills; an overview of authors that have dealt with enriching the inner journey with a journey through the inner wilderness that abides in every human being (as in Dante's Divine Comedy); and toward the end a reasoned recognition that human gratification at the expense of non-human suffering is ethically wrong and eventually works both ways: the victimizers become victims of their own victimization of nature, for human life cannot possibly happen in a vacuum.
Chapter 3 moves from dogs to oragutans. This chapter, written by Stacey Sowards, reviews the status of ecofeminist rhetorics within the framework of primatology. Chapter 4 is authored by Merle Kindred. It links ecofeminism to the use of energy in two urban environments located in Michigan, USA, and Kerala, India. The work reported in this chapter eventually led the author to committed energy accesibility and energy efficiency activism pursuant to "fostering an energy renaissance globally." It is good to see, in a book of this caliber, concrete examples of role models for young people who take cheap energy avaliability for granted. Chapter 5 is on "Ecofeminist Ethics and Digital Technology," by Julia Romberger, using Microsoft Word as a test case. At a time when we are still mourning the death of Apple's Steve Jobs, we can hope that a future edition of this book will include an ecofeminist case study of Jobs' iPod and/or iPad. Chapters 2 to 5 show how the lens of ecofeminism can be adapted to, and yield refreshing insights into, the most diverse problems of human ecology.
The afterword by Patrick Murphy is a technical but very readable philosophical analysis of Chapters 1 to 5. But his analysis goes beyond the content of the chapters to reiterate that ecofeminism should be ecocentric rather than anthropocentric: "Part of the crisis of humanity, and certainly of humanism, consists in the degree to which human societies and individuals fail to enable non-human others, as individuals, groups, and systems, to participate in the generation and self-understanding of our outward personalities and of our perceptions of ourselves." There is also an epilogue by Jeffrey Lockwood about "Unwrapping the Enigma of Ecofeminism." He notes that ecofeminism may be conceptually heterogenous and might seem to be incoherent, but the bottom line is that it contributes in tangible ways to mitigate suffering and enhance distributive justice within humankind as well as between humanity and the human habitat. And he offers these words of wisdom: "Nothing is gained by throwing out the baby with the bathwater -- much of Western philosophy might be patriarchal suds but there are some conceptual babies worth keeping."
Something that might be considered for the next edition is to enhance the text with some diagrams and/or photos. Given the beautiful cover, the reader might expect to see some figures. But the bottom line is that, in less that 180 pages, this book provides a comprehensive, well written, and carefully annotated overview of ecofeminism including the past, the present, and anticipated further developments in the future. Highly recommended!