Saturday, 30 July 2016

Hows, whys and Ecofeminism

Classified as: theory, reflections

I've been writing my theoretical and methodological chapters and trying to make sense of the fields of theory I've used in developing the research and analysing the findings. These are: health promotion theory, political economy (largely based on Marxist and neomarxist theory), theories of discourse and practice (sometimes called cultural theory, to distinguish them from the economism and structuralism of Marxist theory in particular, I think), ecohealth and ecofeminist theories.

One of the things I have to explain is how I moved from beginning the research with a personal belief in feminism but not a strong over-arching feminist approach, to the current position where I now see Ecofeminism as the strongest explanatory framework for the research findings.

The simple answer is this: there have been over 100 people involved in this research project now, including about 40 as research participants (I will try to include a table with specific figures next week). The overwhelming majority have been female, particularly when you analyse down to 'those employed in the health and community sector' and then 'those who are research participants'.

You can explain the 'how' of this quite easily: women are over-represented in the caring professions and women are somewhat more 'pro-environment' than men, therefore more women are involved in the research. But the 'why' is deeper, and involves asking about things that are generally taken for granted, such as why 'caring' (both paid and unpaid) in this society is predominantly done by women.

For that, I have turned to history and feminist theory, and finally to Ecofeminism, to understand that our public discourse is dominated by exchange, trade, competition, money and hierarchy but is built on a taken-for-granted realm of subsistence, cooperation, everyday life, care and nurturance and 'nature' or the ecologically given.

As I've noted before, in recent history dominant knowledge was patriarchal, created by ruling class white men. Within that knowledge, women, 'inferior races', peasants or working class people and the natural world, were the given - that which constituted, or produced, the natural and human 'resources' that could be traded or fought over (summarised so clearly by Weber, as discussed here).

I have become increasingly impatient with social theory that doesn't deal with gender (as so much of it doesn't). I think that only by understanding this patriarchal world that has created our current reality, can we move on from it - but so many people seem reluctant to do so (partly because it's still all around us, of course!).

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