This blog is a project-in-progress for an honors class called Feminist Transformations of World Religions. It is a discussion-based class that is mainly student led, with each of us choosing a chapter from our textbook “Feminism and World Religions”. Each chapter focuses on one of the seven major world religions, and each is written by a woman feminist that is a believer of the particular religion she writes about. It was the style of this class that made me feel a blog for a final project would be appropriate, as blogging is a current method of communication that not only is constantly changing but has the power to change our minds, much like academic discussion. I hope that others will be interested in posting their ideas and generating discussion, and that this project will not be stagnant and stale but owe its success to many threads of ideas coming from many different points of view. It’s also important to note that although I am the creator of this blog, I do not speak from a voice of authority, but rather as a curious student. I am learning through this process and will likely refine my own ideas many times over (hopefully without putting my foot in my mouth). With that, friends, let us explore!
It is extremely important for me to point out that while I hope to examine the story of Adam and Eve in the Christian tradition, there are a vast number of Christian sects and denominations that I will not be able to speak for. I am not a Christian myself, so I will be speaking from an outsider’s perspective.
In one of the books that I am using for research, “Women and World Religions” by Lucinda Joy Peach, the author compares Protestant churches and the Catholic Church and the ways in which those traditions allow or bar women from becoming church leaders. Moreover, while liberal Protestant churches tend to be more accepting, right-wing traditionalist Protestant sects still enforce a more traditional gender hierarchy. While I hope to acknowledge traditions outside of these two, I will mainly use the Protestant and Catholic traditions as examples because I am the most familiar with them and they also draw a pretty clear line in where they allow women to participate.
I hope to explore the story of creation in the Christian tradition, specifically through the lens of eco-feminism. During this process, I want to examine how the portrayals of Adam in relation to Eve in this story are similar to the relationship of Christian people to the earth, and even extrapolate where those notions have gotten us today.
What is eco-feminism?
My ideas about feminism do not come from a single source but rather have evolved from my exposure to research, discussions and observations about the world today. Since I am a 21-year-old, middle-class white woman living in America, my understandings of feminism are decidedly Western, very personal and therefore cannot be applied universally. It is, however, important for me to give some kind of a disclaimer on my core understanding, as it is the basis of what I hope to do here.
Feminism doesn’t just apply to women anymore. It has evolved and many say it is in its third wave, with the first most readily recognizable as the Woman’s Suffrage movement and the second as the sexual liberation movement of the 60’s and 70’s. These waves, while achieving great lengths for American women, were limited in their scope and mostly applied to middle-class white women. Feminism today seeks to empower not only women but all oppressed peoples by recognizing the intersectionality of oppression, or the way in which “social and cultural categories such as gender, race class… interact [and]… [contribute] to systematic injustice and social inequality” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersectionality). To break it down and to phrase it the way I see it, modern feminists are recognizing that it is not possible to fight only for women’s rights because it is impossible to remove all of those intersecting structures to get at the things that are holding women down. To simplify it further, it’s a rich, straight, white man’s world and the rest of us are just living in it, many of us by the skin of our teeth.
So feminists are fighting for human rights. But some of us, the eco-feminists I mean, wish to complicate things further and say “Hey! That’s great that we’re moving towards human equality… but what about the rest of the living creatures on this here green earth?” The current view of Western feminism, while progressive and inclusive, is not all-inclusive and privileges humans over every other form of life. And since our very existence hinges on this beautiful planet and her resources, we must include all of the earth’s creatures and life forms in the quest for equality. So to the feminists and to the environmentalists, you are all fighting for the most important of things, but it’s about time we all joined together to achieve greater goals because we truly are all fighting for the same thing.
I’ll leave on one of my favorite quotes that made a whole lot of sense to me when I first heard it and truly inspired me to call myself an eco-feminist. This is said by Joel Salatin, a small-time organic farmer who is known for challenging the current United States food system: “A culture that just views a pig as a pile of protoplasmic inanimate structure, to be manipulated by whatever creative design the human can foist on that critter, will probably view individuals within its community, and other cultures in the community of nations, with the same type of disdain and disrespect and controlling type mentalities.”
-Joel Salatin, “Food, Inc.”