Most of us have heard, , and used the term ‘Mother Nature’, barely even stopping to think about the implications of how we associate nature with femininity. It is ‘mother’ nature, not ‘father’ or ‘brother’ nature, who is brutally exploited. ‘Mother Nature’ is seen to care for us, look after us, support us with trees, grass, rivers and oceans. It is also ‘Mother Nature’ who is seen to be temperamental, occasionally out of control, with her tidal waves, earthquakes and storms.
This slightly more philosophical link between nature and femininity can be seen to play out within the daily lives of women and girls around the world, particularly in developing countries. The explanation is simple: environmental issues including climate change have a greater impact on those most reliant on natural resources, who have the least capacity to escape natural hazards and disasters. The majority of the world’s poorest people are women, who both rely on natural resources, and whose lives are spent in absolute poverty so that they have the least capability to escape natural disasters.
Although, particularly in richer countries, the gap has decreased considerably, women are also more likely spend their time doing household tasks. In terms of climate change, this matters less in richer countries, but in poorer areas, for example in Sub-Saharan Africa, women battle increasingly long searches for water, after the ruins of deforestation and desertification. This means women who contribute very little to man-made climate change, are fighting daily to keep themselves, and their families alive, as a consequence of it.
Women are also disproportionately affected because of their lower socio-economic status generally around the world. Huge corporations in developed countries make equally massive profits exploiting workers in developing countries, most of these workers being women. Everyone is familiar with the awful way in which a Primark factory in Bangladesh collapsed onto its workers, and how every day, female workers in developing countries are abused and exploited so that businesses can sell cheap clothes and other products.
Climate change is an environmental issue, but it is also a social one, not only are the poorest people on our planet who have contributed the least to man-made climate change, affected the most, but women, who make up much of the world’s poorest, are also disproportionately affected.
Feminism is for equality for ALL women, so that every woman around the world is equal to every man. If we insist on calling it ‘mother’ nature, maybe we should consider taking care of her too. Both women, and the ground we walk on, should not be tools to be exploited for profit and growth in countries who are already rich enough.
Written by Katt Skippon