Yesterday was not only Administrative Professionals’ Day, it was also Earth Day, which got me thinking. The point of any “Day” (or “Month” or whatever) is to raise awareness for a cause or a group, as we are likely to forget about it/them, or devalue it/them most of the rest of the time. You know, how we deal with women’s work. Or environmentalism.
I like to think I’m fairly green: I’ve been vegetarian for about 14 years, I recycle every scrap of paper, cardboard, aluminum, glass, and plastic that I can, I use cloth napkins and CFLs at home, I never take plastic carrier bags from stores (they are Public Enemy No. 1, as far as I’m concerned), I don’t buy bottled water or lots of take-out, I do laundry in cold water and make my own detergent (and other cleaners), I’m a member of a CSA in the summer, I have a shower aerator, a drying line in my apartment, and so forth.
In any case, it’s something that I think is very important. Obviously all that effort is but a drop in the bucket, globally speaking, but I personally feel like it’s necessary and it’s what I can do, rather than just mope and quake about the Earth’s prospects.
I’m not listing all these things to shame or harangue you into only eating lentils and cloth-diapering your babies (unless you want to…), but rather as a way of starting to think about the connection between feminism and environmentalism.
To me there is a pretty obvious link: Because we gender the Earth as female, and a Mother, it’s not a huge logical leap to guess that, under the Patriarchy, female “things” are devalued, or seen as “for men’s use and profit.” Similarly, it’s not illogical to think that women (perhaps especially those who are mothers, and are concerned about their childrens’ future) are more likely to feel “connected” or responsible to the Earth through their shared “femininity” (that word is so problematic for me).
But I think there’s another, more material reason: because so much of what most people are asked to do–and feel capable of doing–revolves around personal, domestic duties: shopping, cleaning, cooking, etc., and because these, of course, are more often in women’s hands, women (yet again) end up taking on the lion’s share of responsibility for “greening” a household. I know that’s the case in my home. I was the one to research CSAs and make the case to the Dude for why we should join. And then I was the one who had to do an absurdly disproportionate amount of the cooking last summer, because Dude, although a very lovely man, was not raised in a kitchen like I was and was baffled by kale and 10 pounds of cucumbers. I was the one who decided on, planned for, and sewed hemp shower curtains so we could quit buying off-gassing PVC liners that got mildewy all the time. I made the choice to switch to homemade cleaners (although he does the laundry). Et cetera, because awareness and action beget more awareness and action. The flat truth is that “being green” adds work to women’s lives. My life.
I’m more than a little bothered by this. I know it is patently unfair that these duties fall mostly on me, largely–though not exclusively–due to my gender. But at the same time, I’m not willing to “choose my choice” of first-world, middle-class, NIMBY privilege and keep buying expensive noxious potions to keep my home “clean” (or perhaps I should say: “kleen”), and pitching my mountains of greasy pizza boxes into landfills, just assuming that corporations will self-regulate (HA! HA HA HA HA HA HAAAAAAAA!), or the government will fix it (but sweet fancy moses, could we maybe get this cap-and-trade thing nailed down?). So I keep pushing myself–and, admittedly, the Dude–to learn more, do more, and make what little difference we can make.
I can’t say that my attempts at living lighter on the Earth will directly make the lives of other women easier, but it might keep us around long enough that we can finally have that feminist revolution I keep dreaming about.