Earth as Feminine
By ELLEN PARSONS Illustration PHILO COHEN
In ancient society, people did not understand the connection between sex and reproduction, so they viewed the women as the force able to bring life into the world. Therefore, they were worshipped and seen as the head of the family. Many archeologists believe that many early societies were matriarchal, not patriarchal as we see today. Our connection to the earth is innate, ever changing, and often seen as feminine. But, there are many levels to the gendered connections we have to our earth and environment.
How does gender affect how we treat and are treated by our natural environment?
Social classes are less likely to want to change things that are benefiting them. Most industries that contribute to global warming are male-dominated. A study conducted by Anshelm and Hultman, a connection was found between men who deny climate change and a particular form of masculinity grounded in engineering your own reality.
Although men contribute more to global warming, it is women who are more affected. In countries where there is marked gender inequality, four times as many women as men die in floods. In some cases during natural disasters, women and children are 14 times more likely to die than men. This is due to the fact that in many countries, they are seen as having a lower social status.
The continued reoccurance of natural disasters in the era of climate change leaves us wondering what the best ways are to rebuild. Social life post environmental disaster is completely upheaved. Without a sense of home, people in crisis find every level of their lives affected.
A commonly found trait in hegemonic masculinity is a need to enact control. This can constitute control over themselves and other men, over women and over the environment. When there is a feeling of uncertainty, as is often found during a crisis, the need for control is increased.
“In this society, if you ever sit down and realize how manipulated you really are it makes you pissed off -- it makes you want to take control… Women are a very easy target because they’re out walking along the streets, so you can just grab one and say : Listen, you are going to do what I want you to do and it’s an act of revenge against the way you’ve been manipulated.”
This quote from the study “Men on Rape” conducted by Tim Beneke is the terrifying proof behind these unconscious justifications of violence.
New Zealand police reported a 53 per cent rise in domestic violence after the Canterbury earthquake. In the US, studies documented a four-fold increase following two disasters and an astounding 98 per cent increase in physical victimisation of women after Hurricane Katrina. These are just some examples.
Does this mean we should continue to see the earth as woman? Is there a connection between how men treat women and how they treat the earth? As beautiful as it is to see earth as mother, as our deliverer of life, it reinforces ideals that nature is a feminine interest and pursuit. If the idea of masculinity were to connect itself to nature, it would be too close to being seen as sensitive, and vulnerable, the opposite of desired masculinity in our world today. This issue is particularly difficult when men attempt to recover post-disaster, but their sadness and hurt is seen as weak, they should just be a man and get over it. Just as we see increased rates of domestic violence against women post-disaster, we see increased rates of alcoholism, depression and suicide in men.
All world issues are interconnected. Global warming cannot be resolved without resolving enforced gender traits, or economic inequality. This also does not mean that solving one issue will solve another. This quote from spirituality writer Malidoma Somé, in an interview for the documentary InnSaei, beautifully summarizes the power of these interconnections.
“The truth is, our disconnection with earth translates into a kind of disrespect of the feminine. How far can you go in violating the mother that gave you life? As long as the feminine is diminished, the connection between us and the earth is gonna be always underscored by a big question mark.”