Feminism and the Environment (4)
By Chukwu Augustine M.
CONCEPTUAL: Many ecofeminist philosophers are of the view that “historical and causal links between the domination of women and of nature are rooted in the conceptual structures of domination and the way women and nature have been conceptualized, particularly in the western intellectual tradition”. Thus he observes four of such conceptual links:
One account locates the conceptual basis of the twin dominations of women and nature in value dualism … frequently cited examples of these hierarchically organized value dualisms include reason/emotion, mind/body, culture/nature, human/nature, and man/woman dichotomies.
These theorists argue that whatever is (historically) associated with emotion, body, nature, and women is regarded as inferior to that which is (historically) associated with reason, mind, culture, human (i.e., male), and men.
One role of feminism and environmental ethics, then, is to expose and dismantle these dualisms and to rethink and reconceive those mainstay philosophical notions (e.g., reason, rationality, knowledge, objectivity, the self as knower and moral agent) which rely on them.
EMPIRICAL AND EXPERIENTIAL: Many ecofeminist philosophers have pointed out empirical evidence linking feminism and the environment, as Karen observes:
Others provide data to show that First World development policies foster practices regarding food, forests, and water which directly contribute to the inability of women to provide adequately for themselves and their families. Feminist animal-rights scholars argue that factory farming, animal experimentation, hunting, and meat-eating are tied to patriarchal concepts and practice… Some ecofeminists and ecofeminist philosophers cite experiential connections which honor and celebrate important cultural and spiritual ties of women and indigenous peoples to the earth.
EPISTEMOLOGICAL: Karen notes that “the various historical, conceptual, and empirical/experiential connections which have been claimed to link feminism and the environment (discussed at l-3, above) have also motivated the need for different feminist environmental epistemologies”.
He further observes that Plumwood suggests that if one mistakenly construes environmental philosophy as only or mainly concerned with ethics, one will neglect “a key aspect of the overall problem which is concerned with the definition of the human self as separate from nature, the connection between this and the instrumental view of nature, and broader political aspects of the critique of instrumentalism”. A feminist environmental epistemology would address these political aspects of the human/nature dichotomy.
SYMBOLIC: Here Karen observes that many ecofeminists explore the symbolic association and devaluation of women and nature that appears in art, literature, religion, and theology.
Drawing on feminist literature, some argue that patriarchal conceptions of nature and women have justified “a two-pronged rape and domination of the earth and the women who live on it”, often using this as background for developing an ecofeminist literary theory.
Other ecofeminists explore the symbolic connections between sexist and naturist language, i.e., a language which interiorizes women and nonhuman nature. This may involve “raising questions about whether the sex-gendered language used to describe ‘Mother nature’ is, in Ynestra King’s words, ‘potentially liberating or simply a rationale for the continued subordination of women’”.
ETHICAL: Feminism and the environment have been linked ethically in most ecofeminist philosophical literature. Such argue that “the interconnections among the conceptualizations and treatment of women, animals, and (the rest of) nonhuman nature require a feminist ethical analysis and response”.
Minimally, feminist environmental ethics directs its goal to the development of “theories and practices concerning humans and the natural environment which are not male-biased and which provide a guide to action in the prefeminist present”. Such ethical concerns, however, has led to the emergence of various theoretical positions.
THEORETICAL: the above varieties of alleged connections between feminism and the environment have generated different, sometimes competing, theoretical philosophical positions in all areas of feminist and environmental scholarship. Karen observes that “nowhere is this more evident than in the field of environmental ethics”. He notes further:
In many respects, contemporary environmental ethics reflects the range of positions in contemporary normal IVC philosophical ethics.
The latter includes traditional consequentialist (e.g., ethical egoist, utilitarian) and nonconsequentialist or deontological (e.g., Kantian, rights-based, virtue-based) positions, as well as challenges to them by nontraditional (e.g., some feminist, existentialist, Marxist, Afrocentric) Positions.
Furthermore, “by extension, there is not one ecofeminist philosophical ethic…. Among the most visible are feminist animal-rights positions (e.g., Adams 1988, 1991; Slicer 1991) and feminist environmental ethics based on an ethic of care (e.g., Curtin 1991; see also R. King 1991), an ethic of respect (e.g., Westra 1989), themes in social ecology (e.g., Y. King 1981, 198.3, 1989, 1990), and themes in bioregionalism”.
POLITICAL (PRAXIS): In Karen’s line of thought, and as already noted above the term “ecofeminism” coined by Francoise d’ Eaubonne in 1974 was “to bring attention to women’s potential for bringing about an ecological revolution”.
He observes that “ecofeminist concerns for women and environment have always grown out of pressing political and practical concerns, ranging “from issues of health concerning women and environmental health to development and technology, the treatment of animals, peace, and antinuclear and antimilitarism activism”.
Hence, “the varieties of feminist theoretical perspectives on the environment are properly seen as an attempt to take seriously the grassroots activism and political concerns by developing analyses of domination which explain, clarify, and guide that praxis”.
IMPORTANCE OF ECOFEMINIST LITERATURE
We have identified alleged eight connections between feminism and the environment as propounded by ecofeminists and ecofeminist philosophers, hence the implication of such connection is the awareness it creates towards male-biased approach towards women and the environment. Karen thus observes:
The conceptual links suggest that philosophical conceptions of the self, knowledge and the “knower,” reason and rationality, objectivity, and “nature versus culture”-mainstay philosophical notions in ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of science, history of philosophy, political philosophy- ill need to be reconceived.
The value dualisms which seem to pervade the western philosophical tradition since the early Greeks (e.g., reason/emotion, mind/body, culture/nature, human/nature) and the historical sex gendered association of women with emotion, body, and nature will need to be examined for male-gender bias
Foul Means and Good Ends: Be Careful!
The principle of double effects is right! Among the four principles of double effect is that a bad means can’t yield a good end/effect. Rather good ends should be sought in good means/actions.
This fact is one of the great lessons of today’s readings. The servant in today’s Gospel reading desired to get a good end with bad and foul means. Thus for the good reason of his life insurance and substance, after he must have been dismissed from work, he opted the bad means of embezzling his master’s property.
In his shrewd, he wasted his master’s property for his selfish reasons so much so that he lost about half of his master’s wealth in the hands of his debtors.
The principle of double effect rather suggests a different and opposing dimension to this man’s approach. Thus one’s life and aims for good must be achieved with a good means if not we become possessed by our possessions and in the end caught up with frustration.
By this story, Jesus is not commending the steward’s dishonesty. The steward’s dishonesty had been discovered and was obvious to everyone. Just as the prodigal son of last Sunday’s reading squandered his money, the steward in today’s reading squandered his master’s property.
Both, however, took bad means and steps to secure their futures. However, what Jesus is concerned with is the lack of spiritual foresight on the part of His followers.
The point Jesus makes here is that we ought to be as foresightful, dogged and prudent in gaining heaven just as this servant was in his material pursuit.
Jesus, clearly, is not commending the wicked steward for his deviousness. He was, after all, establishing a conspiracy to defraud the owner of the interest on his loans while at the same time returning the master’s principal amount on his loans, making friends with his mater’s debtors, and securing his own future along the way.
Jesus was presenting His followers with the example of the zealous foresightfulness of the wicked steward and wishing that His own followers would be at least as enterprising in caring for the future of their souls.
Obviously, the reading of today is a cautionary tale. Cautionary tales cause us to question ourselves and take stock of our own behavior.
So in that spirit let each of us take a walk through our home and see if there are not some things in our cupboards, on our bookshelves, in our garages which do not belong to us, in our kitchens, e.t.c. And when we have done that let us check our bank accounts and even our lifestyle.
We really need to achieve these things but the question is ‘what means do we achieve them’? Better we do this introspection on our own, in private, than that the Lord should have to one day take us by the hand and point out our dishonesty.
What of those luxurious houses, those bogus lifestyles, designed in extravagance with wealth made from extortion and fraud? Is it not possible that the Lord may one day say, ‘those luxuries of yours are actually the property of the poor?’Pope Francis recently commented on this when he pointed out that all we possess which we really do not need are goods withheld from their rightful owners, the poor?
Remember; when we are undercharged in a store do we correct the error or do we just say ‘Oh, that’s their fault’ and pocket the money? Do we refuse to do charity because we say that it is the responsibility of the government? When we find a phone, wallet or handbag do we make efforts to return it or do we say ‘Well, I lost mine the other day?’ or just say ‘ah! God has buttered my bread’! Some others may just say, ‘after all I need one myself’.
Nevertheless, remember the relationship between our ends and the means to them. Both must be right at the same time.
Similarly, the first reading of today is calling the attention of those leaders who trample and extort money from the poor Nigerians, widows, clients to their offices, needy, sick and all forms of bribery.
The prophet of social justice, Amos is calling on you today to desist from such ungodly money-making attitude. This includes those who sale the people’s mandate during elections.
The boss in different offices who molest and abuse their employees and other workers in different form such as; sexual molestation, salary ratio settlement, conditions for promotion to imply compromise to ethical values and morality. I pity the victims of these faces of molestation.
These big OGA please in the spirit of God, I plead, liberate these people whom you hold in bondage. Remember you are answerable to God one day.
And so the immediate question confronting you and me is: How zealous are we towards making spiritual gain? Is it my unspoken assumption that what I do or what I don’t do in this life really doesn’t matter in the long run because a loving and infinitely merciful God will provide for me anyway? That insults God.
Many charitable and service organizations have Mission Statements. Most parishes have theirs. Successful businessmen all have Business Plans.
From time to time, they need to examine what they’re doing in the light of those plans and statements in order to keep focused so as not to divert their attention from their goals. It’s by so doing we remain in the right parts or means towards our ends.
The world we live in is filled with distractions, distractions that come to us in all of our electronic devices both visual and audio. At times we get so busy that we wonder what we are accomplishing and where we are going.
There are consequences that flow from our decisions and there are consequences that flow from our non-decisions and neglect. When you stop and think about it, not to decide is in itself a decision, a neglectful decision that can have bad consequences for us.
This is particularly so when it comes to our spiritual lives. Make positive decisions today about your life and the ends you desire to achieve in life. Remember, 419ners are most successful when they catch up with a greedy person who desires to become rich overnight.
Just as St. Paul tells us in the second reading, pray for our leaders so that they may not fall victims of these cancerous leader-infections. Paul wrote this letter at a time when Christians were going through brutal state-approved persecution under the wicked emperor Nero.
The church needed to pray so that the king would reverse his bad and discriminatory laws against Christians, which would enable them to live their lives in quiet and peace, fulfilling their religious obligations without fear of arrest, molestation or death.
So the church needed to pray for them to come to the light of truth and salvation. Remember sooner or later we shall all be called upon to render an account. May the good Lord help us Amen.
Join Sunday homily with Rev. Fr. Anacletus Ogbunkwu on www.anacletus ogbunkwu.com