It’s Not Nice to Foul Mother Nature, Should We Dis-engender Her/Him/Them(?) to Help?
A gender reveal party for Earth?
It is well known that President Trump in his zeal, (or possibly just base baiting campaign) to put “America First” took steps to withdraw from the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement. Most thinking people, genuinely worried about the fate of our planet and all it concerns: food, equality, war, pollution, energy independence, storms, floods, fires, and more still believe we should stand up and defend the old girl.
Many original native faiths, as well as current creation-care based religions revere our Mother Earth, our Pachamama, or our girl Gaia. Pope Francis has penned moving rhetoric, and Neil Young has rock and rolled “Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?”
Over all, it is safe to say most people think of Earth as a “she.”
But what if our personification of Earth as a female has actually hindered our progress? What if the conflation of a female planet and the centuries old assignation of sexism to human women is part of why we can’t muster up enough R-E-S-P-E-C-T?
I have to admit, this idea was not one I had given much thought. However, I’m thinking about it now. Upon examining how I, a feminist, regard, revere, and even love women and my home planet, my sacred Mother Earth, I realize most people are still not there yet. There are still plenty of people who think feminism, or equality, is not about equal respect for males and females. Many people, especially in less developed nations, still see sexual conquest, and/or freebies of goods, and labor, as something we should expect to happen to objectified females, and planets.
The Great Chain of Being keeps many in bondage
The patriarchy persists. And, let’s not blame the misinformed. Billionaires, oil giants, and bought politicians have long been on board to rapaciously keep the exploitable exploited for as long as possible. Of course, it is not just women who are oppressed, but any marginalized entity in a less empowered station.
Just as the 2016 climate agreement was about to be signed by 197 nations, Journalist Sarah Milner Barry wrote that “The idea that women and nature are inherently linked is a tacit acceptance of their mutual exploitation.” She goes on to discuss how certain planets, like females, are frequently seen as in need of being managed. Nature, like human females, are out of control, or acting without sense or censure. A hurricane was always given a female name prior to 1980. This was not that long ago. Many people still subscribe to the notion that the Earth was made for being used, and women were made for service to men.
The Great Chain of Being is still a chain; heavy, burdensome, and not all that great at all for those hobbled by hierarchy.
And, it is well documented that people often see nature’s mercurial moods as being prone to non-logic and even violence. Nature, they say, is a bitch, and then you die. Or you hear so often that nature must be conquered.
In my work I have interpreted nature’s “moods” as being fully logical. If you were being drilled, stabbed, buried in garbage, having your children (biosphere) cruelly murdered, isn’t it normal to be screaming like a hurricane? Isn’t it even advisable to burn like a wildfire out of control in your mad fever to save what you can?
A great chain of being just isn’t so great, then. Chains woven into a mesh, or net however is more comprehensive, I am not alone in my opinion that we are linked, not ranked.
Nature is true, Do we teach our children this?
Yet, in a much larger context, I never think to ascribe soley masculine, nor feminine, “traits” to nature. My mind has always seen nature as neutral. And, that’s what makes nature reliable, subject to predictable laws, and most of all true. Nature is above all, true.
When we say something is “cruel” or “senseless” we mean from our perspective, not from the perspective of reality. Having no bias at all makes a much better entity worthy of our worship, or at least of our gratitude and cooperation. People who choose a god that is preferential are rather immature.
But metaphorically, it makes sense to see Earth as female. She is after all, an egg, and every comet and/or meteorite that brought water and organic molecules to her did so through panspermia.
And, there is likely very good reasons that most Earth traditions prior to rigid male hierarchy noted the fertility of Earth as female, sexual, and sacred.
I think we should teach our children to be objective and critical thinkers. If we provide the truth, and let science prove them with Nature’s reveal, we will make it as a species.
Language shapes attitudes
Thinking about how sexism may be affecting the human perception of the planet got me to wonder if we should not ascribe gender to the Earth after all. Why shouldn’t we just drop such gendered language all together?
But, after careful consideration, I think not. Just as we need to stop victim blaming when it comes to tropics like misogyny, harassment, rape culture, and toxic attitudes, we should not be persuaded that we must stop language that suggests female Earth is female.
Rather, let’s stop using language that suggests being female is weaker than, or less than, or in need of subjugation. The strength and beauty we need today, from all earthlings and Earth herself, must be thought of as something to cherish, defend, protect. When we see her (any her — or he) exploited, speak up, just as Mr. Neil Young suggests that you do.
Fighting against wanton exploitation, instead — always having a dream of equality to guide us — as neutral nature advises, feels like a much better goal.
Outdated language does indeed perpetuate outdated ideas. But, if that is so, let’s update our language. We shouldn’t see a virgin forest, or a pristine prairie as necessarily female invoking the Madonna /Whore duality of femaleness. Instead, we should annihilate that false binary. When we speak of barren soil, or untapped potential, we have to discuss how such notions came about and continue to expose oppressive ideas.
Calling out nature’s neutral stance, always non-biased, is useful for this. Remember that the chief use of science is to uncover Nature’s laws. This reminds us that Nature’s laws hold logic, sense, predictability, and extreme and elegant beauty.
In short, any reference to Earth as female is not about to disappear. But it should not be linked with sexist ideas that hinder our progress. The female- ness of Earth should be welcomed as descriptive of an entity that is nurturing. She is abundant. She is strong and resilient. These traits are worthy of our admiration. Similarly, our admiration of that which is female should be every bit as revered as all that is male.