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Topic: Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem (Read 169 times) previous topic - next topic

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  • meepmeep
  • Administrator
  • zombiecat queen
Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem
Very interesting read:

https://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/journal/issue-7/on-mother-earth-and-earth-mothers

Quote
And yet, today, a growing chorus of voices argues that to be proper environmentalists and nurturing parents, each night should involve a home-cooked meal of fresh, organic, unprocessed ingredients. "We're doing so little home cooking now," food guru Michael Pollan says, "the family meal is truly endangered."5 Chastising the typical household for spending a mere 27 minutes a day preparing food, Pollan champions increasingly time-consuming methods of food production in defense of the allegedly life-enriching experience of cooking he fears is rapidly being lost.6

The juxtaposition is jarring, if not much remarked upon. At a moment in our history when increasing numbers of women have liberated themselves from many of the demands of unpaid domestic labor, prominent environmental thinkers are advocating a return to the very domestic labor that stubbornly remains the domain of women.

For women of lower socioeconomic status, the demands of a time-intensive, low-technology approach to food preparation are even more onerous. In a critique of this return-to-the-kitchen narrative, authors Sarah Bowen, Sinikka Elliott, and Joslyn Brenton describe interviews they conducted with mothers from a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic groups, whose experiences could not have been more unlike the idealized vision offered up by Pollan--in which the cook finds herself "in that sweet spot where the frontier between work and play disappears in a cloud of bread flour or fragrant steam rising from a boiling kettle of wort."7 Rather, they were juggling tight schedules, picky children, and the cost of fresh ingredients.4

Quote
For the women interviewed by Bowen and her colleagues, shopping and cooking occasionally added joy but just as often added stress, burdens, and trade-offs. Ironically, the practices advocated by Pollan, Mark Bittman,23 and other popular food and lifestyle gurus in the name of sustainability and a rich and fulfilling home life turn out to be practical only for women who have benefited the most from industrial society.

But the demands that contemporary environmental ethics place upon women do not end with Pollanesque gatherings around the family table. Young mothers are told to forgo processed baby food, relying as it does on far-flung commodity chains and nonlocal ingredients. Instead, they should make their own,24 reject formula in favor of breastfeeding,25 and replace disposable diapers with cloth.26 All, women are told, are necessary to raise healthy babies on a healthy planet. Each prescription combines claims of environmental benefit, however minor (given the water- and chemical-intensive processes associated with producing and reusing cloth diapers, for instance, they are only marginally better for the environment), with increased domestic demands.

Upon leaving the home, women face another series of charges from lifestyle greens. The choice to ride a bike instead of drive,27 for instance, isn't so simple for women disproportionately tasked with shopping and transporting children from place to place.28 Little wonder that women ride bicycles as transportation at less than one-third the rate of men.29

In these and a variety of other ways, green ideology tells women that tasks that can be automated should be rejected in the name of processes that are closer to nature, without any recognition of the broader social and structural context in which these activities occur. Women perform the bulk of unpaid labor while being beseeched to perform that labor in ways that are more difficult and time-intensive and bring at best minor benefits to the environment or the well-being of their families. The "natural is better" formula and the romanticization of domesticity as untainted by capitalism allow the larger systems in which women and the environment are embedded to escape scrutiny.

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The glorification of nature and farming and the romanticizing of the home, domestic life, and the woman at the center of it are ultimately nostalgias that cover up the brutality of rural life and drudgery of domestic labor in a perfume of freshly cut hay and caramelizing onions. While the new domestics advocating home brewing, fermenting kombucha, and churning butter are likely aware of their irony in an era of unprecedented technological progress, this nostalgia does little to further the goals of middle- and lower-class women in the developed world.

  • borealis
  • Administrator
Re: Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem
Reply #1
This isn't even a new phenomenon. Women on communes in the 60s, back to the land pioneers of the 'love mother earth' ethos, were expected to engage in many hours of daily labour growing, gathering, processing and preparing food. Men who prepared any food at all usually limited themselves to breadmaking, which for some reason was culturally perceived as more manly.

There are now plenty of men who are a lot more sharing of household chores and child care, but as you can see, even before you add in environmental guilt trips:


Quote
A survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2014 came to the result that approximately 43 percent of men did food preparation or cleanup on any given day, compared with approximately 70 percent of women. In addition, 20 percent of men did housekeeping chores (including cleaning and laundry) on any given day, compared to approximately 50 percent of women.[21]



  • meepmeep
  • Administrator
  • zombiecat queen
Re: Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem
Reply #2
This isn't even a new phenomenon. Women on communes in the 60s, back to the land pioneers of the 'love mother earth' ethos, were expected to engage in many hours of daily labour growing, gathering, processing and preparing food. Men who prepared any food at all usually limited themselves to breadmaking, which for some reason was culturally perceived as more manly.

Yeah, it's the same old shit as before. :sadcheer:

There was a cartoon in the late 90s on MTV, Daria, and one episode poked fun that that. Daria's parents are former hippies who turned into yuppies, and their still hippie friends come visit. There's a running joke throughout the episode where the two guys are sitting around drinking, saying "sounds like the girls are getting liberated" / "cool, man!" while the women are struggling with manual labor. Goddamn hippies. :whyyou:

At the same time, there are a lot of women my age who don't quite see the connection and buy into the moralizing and omg how dare you feed your child THAT?! shit. They recognize the unequal division of household labor but don't make the connection to this kind of yuppie whole foods "clean eating" movement. It's kind of weird. And lots of people who talk about this kind of thing don't appreciate the class implications, either.

There are now plenty of men who are a lot more sharing of household chores and child care, but as you can see, even before you add in environmental guilt trips:

Quote
A survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2014 came to the result that approximately 43 percent of men did food preparation or cleanup on any given day, compared with approximately 70 percent of women. In addition, 20 percent of men did housekeeping chores (including cleaning and laundry) on any given day, compared to approximately 50 percent of women.[21]

Yeah.

It's kind of annoying to see women in my generation struggle with these same fucking issues all while saying, "I don't need feminism! We have equal rights ALREADY!!".

  • borealis
  • Administrator
Re: Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem
Reply #3
Younger women don't have the direct memories  of how frustrating and restrictive life was for women, especially working class and middle class women, pre-second wave feminism. You pretty much have to be over 60. It's so much better now they are complacent, and don't recognise those issues when they rise like zombies in the present, especially when it's other women pushing the narrative.

It's the usual shaming, too - you don't love your kids enough, you're selfish, you're lazy, you're entitled.

We used to have consciousness raising group discussions everywhere. Younger women possibly need something like that.

Re: Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem
Reply #4
Speaking as a man, I think Pollan has a point. 
Love is like a magic penny
 if you hold it tight you won't have any
if you give it away you'll have so many
they'll be rolling all over the floor

  • meepmeep
  • Administrator
  • zombiecat queen
Re: Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem
Reply #5
Speaking as a man,

You're doing that thing again. :v:

Anyway, he may have a point but that doesn't mean there aren't any serious issues with that approach. This focus on the "natural" being best has most definitely evolved into a moral argument and a class marker, and that's not a good thing. And this assumption that natural must mean sustainable and more environmentally friendly is nonsense.

  • Monad
Re: Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem
Reply #6
Well tbh some strands of environmentalism are no more than some kind of pastoral fascism anyway

  • borealis
  • Administrator
Re: Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem
Reply #7
You've only to read Hawkins' threads to see how wrong it can go even if it's just one person.

  • meepmeep
  • Administrator
  • zombiecat queen
Re: Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem
Reply #8
Yeah, basically.

Even the milder forms of it can be less than ideal. Take pet food, for instance. This idea that any kind of processing makes food nutritionally worthless and that it introduces all sorts of chemicals and contaminants gets transferred directly to pet food, so there's no shortage of people out there who loudly proclaim they absolutely refuse to feed their pet any form of kibble or any food from one of the big brands (the ones who actually test their food through clinical trials). It's processed, so it's not real food, unlike the home-cooked nutritionally deficient unbalanced diet I'm feeding my precious fluff ball. These beliefs about food just get transferred right over, and it's incredibly difficult to help people cut through the fog and learn to evaluate food differently.

On the human side of things, nobody's aiming to make Hot Pockets and Kraft mac 'n cheese fully balanced meals and no one's testing the food in clinical trials to see how it affects development and health, so I'm not meaning to make a direct comparison between food sources for people and animals. It's not like twinkies and Chef Boyardee are anything more than lots of sugar and salt and a ton of preservatives and it's not like they're a healthy part of any diet.

But not all types of processing are created equal, and there are always trade offs when it comes to food. Cooking degrades nutrients, so any kind of cooking automatically "reduces" the nutritional value of any food. Thiamine/B1 in particular is very heat sensitive. But cooking also prevents us from getting fucking sick and it often makes food more palatable, so most of us cook a lot of things anyway. Flash freezing vegetables may affect how much you get out of them, but if buying frozen vegetables makes it more convenient for you to actually eat them since you don't have to worry about spoilage, isn't that better than buying fresh and having to throw half of it away? People get uneasy about preservatives, but the reduction in food spoilage is certainly a benefit for people's budget and for the environment in general.

Anyway, this is straying from the wider point that pushing these ideas of a simpler domestic life that mimics your great-grandma's tends to place the burden on women's shoulders more than men's. Because, guess what, that's exactly what it was like for your great-grandma who baked fresh bread every day.

Just the other day, my mom was making some mac and cheese and some chicken nuggets for my niece and nephew. My SIL drops my nephew off with things I wouldn't think you'd feed a kid who's only 1 1/2 years old, like microwave popcorn, but whatever, none of my goddamn business. My other brother's girlfriend (the one who doesn't like the brown people who are outbreeding whites) walked by and made some snarky bitch remark, "Mac and cheese and chicken nuggets? They're going to grow up to be little Americans, aren't they?". So here's a woman who used to cook every single meal for my brother because he never learned and also because his possession of a penis grants him the right to free maid service for life from any female human in the home. Not too long ago she "went on strike", as she phrased it, and stopped cooking for him, so he had to learn and now makes dinner most days. But she still has the balls to drop a shitty comment like that on my mother, who has spent her entire life taking care of the entire household and who is 68 years old and single-handedly caring for her demented mother who requires regular diaper changes and wets the bed every day. The kids get dropped on her all the time even though she doesn't want to be babysitting all the goddamn time because women are required to care for everyone all the time by sheer virtue of being female, so when my niece asks for mac and cheese, my mom makes fucking mac and cheese. But this is a travesty and wrong and you're raising those kids wrong because you're not cooking fresh food that they're not going to eat and that's going to end up in the garbage anyway.

That's the kind of thing I think about whenever I read anything about these calls to a more natural kitchen with meal rituals and all that shit. Sure, it'd be nice and ideal, but keep the moralizing out of it because it's not an achievable reality for a lot of people for many reasons, and even when it is, it reinforces the shitty gender inequity we're still struggling with.

  • rednoise
  • Sludgey Southern Kitcheneer
Re: Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem
Reply #9
Speaking as a man,

You're doing that thing again. :v:

Anyway, he may have a point but that doesn't mean there aren't any serious issues with that approach. This focus on the "natural" being best has most definitely evolved into a moral argument and a class marker, and that's not a good thing. And this assumption that natural must mean sustainable and more environmentally friendly is nonsense.

The "natural" movement, like most other things in capitalism, is just a way of repackaging shit for industries. It's interesting that the article points out that women are encouraged to make "their own" baby food because the processed stuff just comes off of far flung supply chains. What the hippies who encourage this shit don't take into account is that often the Whole Foods or Sprouts around the corner get their produce in far flung commodity chains, too. Not to neglect the overarching point of the article, it's always helpful to point out the hypocrisy of these people, as well.
"Marx and myself, one has fought harder all one's life long against the alleged Socialists than against anyone else"

-Engels

  • borealis
  • Administrator
Re: Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem
Reply #10
That, and the reality that unless you spend hours a day with a mortar and pestle and milling stone etc., you're going to be buying at least a half dozen $40 to $300+ appliances to help you process your damn food. Manufacturers love that.


  • RAFH
  • Have a life, already.
Re: Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem
Reply #11
Well tbh some strands of environmentalism are no more than some kind of pastoral fascism anyway

Pastoral Fascism! I love it. It's going to be the basic plank on my next political venture.

"Eat Grass or Die!"

Give new meaning to "Don't tread on me!" and the phrase "A snake in the grass."




Are we there yet?

  • borealis
  • Administrator
Re: Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem
Reply #12
The root problem is that every time someone has a half formed possibly good idea, some capitalist bastard comes right along and monetizes it.


  • RAFH
  • Have a life, already.
Re: Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem
Reply #13
The root problem is that every time someone has a half formed possibly good idea, some capitalist bastard comes right along and monetizes it.
I'm hoping that will happen and with the full support of most feminist groups, providing broad support for new regime. As long as we toss anyone into the vats, it'll be good. Meanwhile the Girl and I will be on our rather modest yacht. It allows us to anchor out and separated from all those thorches and pitchforks.
Are we there yet?