Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 15, No. 3, March 2019
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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Fostering Gender Communion for an Integral Ecology

Luis T. Gutiérrez

March 2019


"The very notion of the domination of nature by man stems from the very real domination of human by human." Murray Bookchin, The Ecology of Freedom, 1982.

Since the inception of human history, the patriarchal mindset of disunity and power games has been ubiquitous in human relations and, by extension, in relations between humans and the human habitat. Such mindset of disunity is artificial, not natural. Unity in diversity is natural, but diversity with disunity is unnatural. For many centuries, this patriarchal crack in the unity of nature was mostly manifested as violence between humans, with relatively minor ecological implications. Now, with the abuses of power made possible by fossil fuels, the ecological impacts are becoming increasingly significant.

How can we foster "unity without uniformity, diversity without fragmentation" between humans, and between humans and nature?

In my view, the profound cultural evolution required to overcome the patriarchal mindset must be forged at the intersection of gender, ecology, and religion. A vast literature on ecofeminism has been emerging for several decades. Much of the work points in the right direction but disregards the religious dimension of cultural evolution. Some significant work on ecotheology is also emerging, but often disregards the gender dimension. For instance, Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Si' understates the overpopulation problem and, therefore, downplays the underlying gender issues. Is it possible to fix the crack without outgrowing religious patriarchy? Arguably not so, because cultural patriarchy and religious patriarchy are practically inseparable.

To confront the ecological crisis, patriarchal gender ideology (i.e., gender binary, male headship) is an inadequate anthropology. But there is a more adequate anthropology, the Theology of the Body, that is based on a detailed exegesis of biblical texts and is thus fully consistent with the Judeo-Christian tradition. It was published in pieces during the early 1980s by Pope John Paul II, and explains that man and woman are of the same flesh and fully become human persons by being in communion with each other. Such interpersonal communion is crucial for integral human development, and also for an integral ecology because, as embodied persons, we cannot flourish in isolation from nature.

"All of this shows the urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution." Pope Francis, Laudato Si', 2015.

What kind of cultural evolution (revolution?) is needed for an integral ecology? An integral ecology is one in which humans care well for nature because they are fully integrated with nature. So we need Homo economicus, master of nature, to become Homo ecologicus, consciously in full communion with nature. Since human/nature relations are a mirror of man/woman relations, and vice versa, it is hard to imagine that such evolution can happen without a radical renewal of gender relations. By way of climate change and many other symptoms of environmental distress, Mother Nature is already a protagonist in the #MeToo movement. Now we need a critical mass of "ecological citizens" to push forward.

One way to push forward is to foster gender communion. What is "gender communion"? It is not patriarchy and it is not matriarchy. It is neither the toxic masculinism that leads to machismo nor the radical feminism that eventually becomes machismo with a skirt. Gender communion starts with solidarity, the mindset of unity in feelings and actions pursuant to mutual support and the common good, when it is shared over the entire gender spectrum; a solidarity that can then extend from human/human relations to human/nature relations. For some persons, gender communion can go beyond solidarity to the nuptial communion of persons described in the Theology of the Body; but, in more general terms, a culture of human solidarity with nature, let alone human communion with nature, is hard to imagine as long as rigid gender boundaries degrade human relations.

An integral ecology requires a radical renewal of gender relations. For believers who are in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Theology of the Body provides an adequate theological anthropology to support the renewal. It also provides a good point of reference for any other religious person in tune with the signs of the times. For everyone who is concerned about our ecological predicament, many universities now offer programs on gender and sexuality studies where patriarchal gender ideology is being methodically deconstructed, often in collaboration with scholars in related disciplines such as environmental sciences and ecological anthropology. Fostering interpersonal communion across the entire gender spectrum is crucial to keep moving toward an integral ecology.

In brief, feminism is the antithesis of masculinism (machismo). For an integral ecology, gender communion is the new synthesis to be forged: communion between man and woman, between the masculine and feminine polarities in all human communities, and between humans and the entire community of creation.


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Luis T. Gutiérrez is the owner and editor of the Mother Pelican Journal.

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