Thursday, August 7, 2008

Feminism, Deep Ecology and Environmental Ethics

Notes on, Zimmerman, Michael E., Feminism, Deep Ecology and Environmental Ethics. In The Deep Ecology Movement, An Introductory Anthology, Drengson and Inoue (eds), North Atlantic Books, 1995, pp 169-197.

In a nutshell, this is a paper responding to feminist claims that Deep Ecology is so heavily based in patriarchal thinking that it cannot possibly succeed. Main reasons (according to this male author) as I (a male) interpret them are:
  1. That until males accept the domination of women as equivalent to male domination of nature any such philosophy is only giving lip-service to the ideas it professes;
  2. That the specifically male trait of identifying self as independent of social relations is tied to the uniquely male trait of identifying self as independent of nature;
  3. That women have such a different (and superior) world view (that they somehow inherit despite their obvious domination by and participation in this admittedly patriarchal society) that they are uniquely positioned to overcome the problems men have created;
  4. Only men could be concerned with "rights" of humans and other organisms because only men see themselves as independent selves. For women this point is moot since they are social, natural beings.
Zimmerman responds to each of these points carefully. I have not read the sources he cites. I have read little feminist literature. This paper confirms my understanding which is a pity. I am always hoping to find a view that will burst the bubble that isolates me from the authors of this literature, especially if it is written by a male critic and can be interpreted by a male (me).

Clearly there are differences between males and females. Our physiology and life experiences are shaped by different chemical and societal conditions. I prefer philosophies that cherish these differences and at the same time seek our similarities. We are all part of the same system. We can't exist without one another. We are the combined result of 4.5 billion years of evolution. I acknowledge the mess males keep getting into and the messes they make of female's lives. I bet females would get into their own messes (and some of them would clearly make a mess of male lives) if this was a matriarchal society. Enough already. This is why we need to work together and stop squabbling about what is a male/female trait/notion/ideal. Action: acknowledge the problem and identify ways of life that can improve the situation.

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