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Sustainability of Feminism

by Eve Gilmore

Oppression of women and the Earth have gone hand in hand for thousands of years. Both must be liberated before sustainability can be realized. Too many sustainability-oriented, simple-living, community-minded folks are apprehensive, and even averse, to aligning themselves with feminism. However, according to my definition, many of them are indeed feminists. I see little distinction between feminism and humanism. All people should be equal, respected, and free. That is really all one needs to believe to be considered a feminist. Of course, it can get sticky with the many kinds and branches of feminism, and thatís where some people get turned off and donít want to be associated with the movement as a whole, which is unfortunate. I most certainly believe that men can be feminists, although this article is directed to what women can do to advance a sustainable culture.

Biological Feminism

The form of feminism that resonates most with me is what I will call Biological Feminism, which acknowledges that there are daily personal choices we can make to lighten the load on ourselves and the Earth. It considers issues that are much more basic than who opens the door for whom, and its effects as a lifestyle are significantly deeper reaching. The first thing a Biological Feminist does is come to terms with being a mammal. Biologically speaking, certain characteristics make humans mammals. Coming to terms with these facts of life means no shaving, waxing or plucking the hair off our bodies. Who are we to say it doesnít belong there? And what exactly is the problem with it anyway? If it wasnít meant to be there, it wouldnít be.

Although it may not be evident in the ways in which we react to it, body hair is not a strange abnormality afflicting only a small portion of the species. It is largely the corporations who sell hair removing products through their propaganda on television and in magazines that have most American women duped into believing that we somehow wouldnít be upstanding citizens if we had hair where it naturally grows. So we spend too many dollars and hours of our lives on a pointless pursuit that really gets us nowhere. I think it is in part a ploy to keep us from being more effective, just like coupons. Who are the coupon clippers in the household? Itís the women! Coupons occupy many womenís eyes, hands, and minds for hours every month, thereby preventing more meaningful activity. Why else couldnít they just put that stuff on sale

A Biological Feminist questions reproduction. In her questioning, she takes into consideration many factors (not least of which is overpopulation), rather than reproducing simply because she can and was handed baby dolls as a child. If the conclusion is that indeed a child is desired, adoption is considered. Not to belittle maternal urges, but in addition to human children needing homes there are many animals needing adoption, whose only other alternative is being put to sleep with varying degrees of humanity. Pets often genuinely fulfill the need to nurture, love, and have a companion.

Should pregnancy be the choice made, birth at home, or at least somewhere out of the hospital is considered important by the Biological Feminist. It is long overdue that we stop institutionalizing life in its most fundamental form and introducing our children to the world through strangers rushing around amidst a sterile setting. (Conversely, the exiting of life also should cease to be through institutions and instead take place in a comfortable, familiar, loving environment when possible.) A wise motto at the root of this issue which is espoused by midwifery states, "Birth is not an emergency; it is an emergence, see?" Midwifery is on the rise and working to once again unite women with the Earth by honoring lifeís natural processes and using the gifts of medicinal herbs and womenís age-old wisdom.

Breast Feeding a Must

If we choose to give birth, a beautiful and basic thing our bodies are capable of is breast-feeding, another mammalian trait. Unfortunately, during the last several decades breast-feeding has been considered barbaric by Western society. To have the choice to breast-feed and to refuse is a monumental disservice to our children, as well as to society as a whole. Colostrum is the natural serum full of antibodies and all kinds of healthy stuff that the mother is able to pass on to her baby by breast-feeding only during the first few days after birth. She gets to pass on to her child her whole lifeís worth of immunity. To deny children their own motherís milk is criminal. Allergies, poorer overall health, and the subsequent need for more medical attention throughout life is a common result, which puts a strain on all of society. Too often, healthy human motherís milk is substituted with cowís milk. This is unhealthy for both the human and bovine infants. Another substitute to human motherís milk is baby formula which, unless organic, is most likely processed from genetically modified soybeans. Both require purchasing the substitute itself as well as bottles to put it in. The combo is then generally microwaved, all of which is beneficial for the Gross National Product (GNP). This is a great reason to promote baby formula to our convenience driven society and to get women themselves to internalize the notion that something as evolutionarily convenient and natural as breast-feeding is barbaric.

In regards to child-rearing, the Biological Feminist who is able to stays home to raise her children. In no way should it be considered antifeminist to choose to stay home to raise oneís children. It does not at all undermine the progress made by working women. Many women who go to work still do just as much in the home as the traditional mom of the 1950s who did not work outside the home. This is clearly false liberation and does not advance the role of women in society, but exhausts, frazzles, and otherwise breaks down many women with good intentions for her family and for the advancement of women in the workplace. To stay at home to raise children is a great gift a woman in the position to do so can give to the future.

Love Your Body As Is

Loving our bodies is an integral step toward sustainability. This tenet of Biological Feminism can be materialized many different ways with abundant positive results. Supporting the natural and healthy posture of the body is crucial to its proper functioning. The Biological Feminist therefore rejects wearing high heels which are a facet of an exploitative and financially draining fashion industry. Wearing high heels puts unnatural and harmful strain on the knees and back. For pregnant women, carrying a child will cause enough of these particular strains without inducing more unnecessarily. Another way to love our bodies and embrace our unique selves is through our hair and appreciating its color and its natural amount of curly, wavy, or straight with which we were endowed. Perming, straightening, dyeing, and bleaching all use chemicals harmful not only to the beauticiansí and our own bodies and brains, but also to the environment.

Similarly, empowerment can be found by letting oneís natural beauty shine through the face and not applying a shield of makeup to hide behind. Our faces are our identities. It is the face that people remember after meeting each other (i.e. "I can place the face, but not the name."). Makeup is marketed to our insecurities as are shaving paraphernalia, perms and dyes. The corporate interests are the ones to gain by women constantly seeking to change who they are in superficial ways. Most cosmetics are tested on animals and contain chemical ingredients we donít recognize and are probably glad not to know more about. These things are all ways in which our valuable time and finances are bled away. Each bloodletting steals our power from us with which we could be doing so much more as half the worldís population. It is time to cease consenting to this manipulation and robbery.

Our menstrual blood is our vital life force and one element of our bodies that distinguishes us as women. We grow stronger in our womanhood by not rejecting our monthly bleeding. By realizing it is an essential part of who we are we can overcome the hurdle of shame that has bound us. In Biblical times it was written that our blood is sinful and dirty and that any man who comes in contact with it is the same. Some semblance of this notion continues today when we think about how hidden menstrual blood is from most men even when they share love or living space with women. A simple step to making a change in this area is to become more intimately involved with our blood ourselves first by using cloth pads or sea sponges.

Except for a few natural brands, tampons and pads are bleached with dioxins known to cause cancer and pollute the Earth both in their manufacture and disposal. Tampons are also known to put their users at risk for Toxic Shock Syndrome, which can be deadly. Cloth pads and sea sponges are composed of all natural fibers, can be used many times over, and generally require touching our own blood. Their longevity makes them a better buy financially in the short term, environmentally over the long term, and health-wise all the way around. Cloth menstrual pads can be purchased at most natural food stores and so can sea sponges, although they are marketed for facial (and, ironically, cosmetic) use and have not been approved for menstrual use. (It is not surprising the corporate male-dominated US Food and Drug Administration wouldnít give their stamp of approval, when we take into account the significant profits made on the pricey single-use feminine hygiene products from which the garbage industry and the GNP also benefit.) After using them for years, I, among many other users, can attest to their safety. They need only be rinsed thoroughly and boiled for sterilization between uses. With some effort, additional sources of information can be found on this little known but wonderful resource.

In summary, Biological Feminism questions ways of doing things that have been handed down to us by the establishment which happen to help them turn a profit. The current system keeps women oppressed by having us follow certain guidelines prescribed by a patriarchal society. As long as we blindly follow the script as we were socialized to do, we lend ourselves to our oppression, remaining obedient and in line. We play along with a system that does not benefit us and does not make sense when we examine it. Accepting our bodies as they are, breast-feeding, adopting, giving birth outside the hospital, being present to raise our children, and being comfortable with our blood all require thinking more, buying less, being more self-reliant, and producing less waste. Biological Feminism points the way to a more sustainable future.

A follow-up article on feminism in Culture Change will be on marriage and threats to the staying together, including materialism. Please send your thoughts.

Eve Danielle Gilmore brought a permaculture background as well as graphic arts to the vice presidency of Sustainable Energy Institute. She can be reached at

An excellent resource for feminism's many aspects is Awakened Woman e-Magazine - The Journal of Women's Spirituality.



Articles of interest:
Measuring and controlling the actions of governments 

Anti-globalization protest grows, with tangible results. 
WTO protests page

Tax fossil-fuel energy easily
by Peter Salonius 

UK leader calls War on Terror "bogus"

Argentina bleeds toward healing by Raul Riutor

The oil industry has plans for you: blow-back by Jan Lundberg

It's not a war for oil? by Adam Khan

How to create a pedestrian mall by Michelle Wallar

The Cuban bike revolution

How GM destroyed the U.S. rail system excerpts from the film "Taken for a Ride".

"Iraqi oil not enough for US: Last days of America?"

Depaving the world by Richard Register

Roadkill: Driving animals to their graves by Mark Matthew Braunstein

The Hydrogen fuel cell technofix: Spencer Abraham's hydrogen dream.


Ancient Forest Protection in Northern California. Forest defenders climb trees to save them.

Daniel Quinn's thoughts on this website.

A case study in unsustainable development is the ongoing crisis in Palestine and Israel.

Renewable and alternative energy information.

Conserving energy at home (Calif. Title 24)

Culture Change mailing address: P.O. Box 3387 , Santa Cruz , California 95063 USA
  Telephone 1-215-243-3144 (and fax)

Culture Change was founded by Sustainable Energy Institute (formerly Fossil Fuels Policy Action), a nonprofit torganization.