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  • Writer's picturethekatediaries

How being a feminist is great for fighting climate change

Updated: May 2

I know what you’re thinking, why does this crazy burn-your-bra lass always need to bring everything back to gender- not everything is about raging against the patriarchy. Which yes, you are correct- not every situation is fitting for a reading of the vagina monologues. But hear me out as I would argue(along with a long tradition of ecofeminists) that being informed by a feminist political perspective is pivotal in our fight against rapid and irreversible climate catastrophe.

I assume if you are reading this - you are already under the impression that climate change is a real thing, and unless we find the political will, we are fucked - to put it mildly. This article therefore does not need to waste time adding to the climate anxiety that already exists. We all know that unless we meet zero net carbon emissions by 2050 we will live in a world that will signal the end of our hospitable existence on planet earth.

What I want to bring attention to instead is the way we approach fighting climate crisis, and unless we radically shift towards a feminist perspective - our efforts will be rather futile. This is not a peripheral niche perspective by some woke white chick trying to get unique visitor clicks, but is central to launching a comprehensive strategy in responding to the climate crisis. To get there- a quick 2-3 sentence crash course in Feminist International Relations theory- here’s years of debatably useful post-grad study delivered to your door for free- #Bargain.

Feminist IR is about showing how gendered dichotomies pervade all areas of our lives - think of it like male/female, public/private, rational/emotional, scientific/nurturing, technology/nature, productive/reproductive, strong/weak, protector/protected and so on and so forth. The privileging of one is possible by the devalorisation of the other- ultimately relegating the latter to the realm of relative non-existence, non-significance, and non-meaning. It is here we see the gendering of the state and market as characteristically masculine domains, and how we have ended up with the feminizing of mother nature.

And It is here we find our underlying problem, this masculinist(not men’s per se) perspective encourages a view of the earth that is instrumental to serving economic and political goals. At the same time however, this gendered construction as we have just talked about, is invisible as it is presented as rational and scientific, and tends to inhabit the hegemonic positions of power and influence.

It is only when we start to question the fabric of life and what matters, do we see where this perspective might be lacking. It is here we can see why faced with imminent threat to our species, an economic rationale continues to get a prime seat at the decision making table. This rationale is recognised specifically as the neoliberal obsession with a naturalized, yet delusional, agenda of infinite growth.

It is here we see why politicians instead of being chosen for prioritising policies that matter to the populace, tend to succeed by pandering to popularity contests in public spaces. Their public/media personalities of being charismatic, strong and rational(often read as masculine characteristics), becomes increasingly imperative to success in their job - over that of say, leadership capabilities to ensure the continued survival of the species.

What I am essentially arguing here is that we live in a world governed by this gendered subtext- what is being said that isn't explicitly being said. Sometimes, it manifests into real-life examples of women failing to achieve power or influence unless they capitulate to playing it like a man. But mostly, it is the dominant gendered rationale that we adopt subconsciously - which is even more pervasive. We must therefore start to question the prevailing philosophy of our lives and our world- which commodifies everything at the expense of other, perhaps more important values. A philosophy which emphasises the forever-maximising individual, driven by society’s push to constantly consume new clothes, new technology, new gadgets, new cars, to travel more, devour more, eat more avocado toast(this one is here for all us millennials to keep us in check), more, more, more!!

I would go so far as to say that without critiquing and changing the very ways power is privileged for some people(white, western, male, heternormative) and some ideas(economic, nationalistic), we will miss out on the opportunity to change in any meaningful way. Being a feminist in the fight for climate justice exposes that privileging an economic rationale got us into this mess, and thus, is not capable of pulling us out of it alone. We need a philosophy of our individual and collective lives that prioritises social relations of cooperation and care over the abstracted individual and expediency, relates to and values the world around us in ways that are non-monetary and visceral, and views feminine aspects - like that of nature- as our ally and equal, as opposed to something to be exploited and conquered.

And if like me, sometimes all this seems just way too abstract, and like fruitless mental gymnastics, then, for the time being, I say we just use this as an opportunity to be reminded to do our best- try to eat plant-based and local, wash on cold, vote for politicians who lead in green policies, recycle properly, buy from companies who prioritise sustainably, opt for green transport options, and pop an LED light bulb in the socket.

Let’s not only love our planet like we love our mums, but also take her seriously when the glaciers are melting off her face and she says enough is enough!

- For more fun academic insights into ecofeminism click here

- For a balanced view of the climate situation- how serious the situation is, but also how we can be optimistic with what we can still achieve- you can find a wealth of resources here at the global optimist

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