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International Women’s Day

Posted by Natalie in Society - 8 March 2011

Unnatural Woman

The notion of Mother Nature lulls us into a false sense of security where we can behave less responsibly than in other areas of our lives.

The idea of a link between women and nature goes back a long way, and probably predates that sneaky biblical implication of fruit-robbing feminine guilt. These days, although we may not notice it, this female-nature, male-culture division endures. Maybe it’s because there’s something comforting about a woman being more connected to the earth, like a spiritual mother figure who has an innate intuition. It implies fate without directly referring to it.

This isn’t just an out-dated, hippie ideal. Recently at the TED Women conference, a female CEO of a successful financial company, talked about applying ‘feminine values’ to the investment banking sector. Apparently, such values include honesty, sustainability and emotion.

In the same way, an entire strain of the green movement has been dedicated to exploiting this concept of women being empathetic protectors of the earth and better placed to deal with environmental issues. Time and time again, we mistakenly go back to this idea. But what harm can it do? Apart from the obvious implication that women are everything that men aren’t, and vice versa, the women-nature link basically justifies inequality by suggesting that it’s grounded in the natural order of things. It’s counterproductive and, frankly, embarrassing.

What’s more, popular phrases such as Mother Nature are now commonplace. We’re all guilty of it, but it’s not just gender inequality we’re encouraging with such blasé associations, it’s the very world we live in. Everyone loves their Mum. But when you stay at your Mum’s do you make the bed, cook the breakfast, wash the dishes…? Typically, no. Instead, we let our guard down. We relax in that haven of diminished responsibility, basking in temporary relief from the world of adult obligations.The idea of Mother Earth represents ultimate respect but also an unconditional love, one where we can behave less responsibly than in other areas of our lives.

As the natural world reaches a critical moment in its history, never before have we had to be more responsible for the impact of our actions on the environment. Maybe if we could change the way we conceptalise nature, drop the ‘Mother Earth’, it’d be that little bit easier to stop treating this place, our only home, like a hotel.

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