Patriarchy, Mother Earth and feminisms

Zapatista Women during ConSciences in CIDECI.

By: Raúl Zibechi

Caring for the environment, or Mother Earth, is a women’s thing, according to a recent study in the Scientific American, a magazine published at the end of December, which points out that “women have surpassed men in the field of environmental action; in all age groups and countries.

The article titled “Men resist green behavior as unmanly,” came to that conclusion after having realized a broad survey among 2,000 American and Chinese men and women. The study asserts that for men attitudes as fundamental as using a canvas bag to make purchases instead of plastic is considered “unmanly.”

The work is focused on marketing for the purpose of getting the men to feel masculine even buying “green” articles, with which it comes to the painful conclusion that: “men that feel secure in their manhood feel more comfortable buying green.”

However, it manages to trace some behaviors that permit going a bit further, in thee sense of comprehending how patriarchy is one of the principal causes of the environmental deterioration of the planet. Donald Trump is no exception, by denying climate change and encouraging destructive attitudes, from wars to consumerism.

I propose three views that can be complementary and that affect the world of men, not so that we adopt politically correct attitudes (with their doses of cynicism and double speak), but to contribute to the process of the collective emancipation of the peoples.

The first is related to war capitalism or the accumulation by dispossession / fourth world war that we currently suffer. This shift in the system, which has accelerated in the last decade, not only provokes more wars and violence but also a profound cultural change: the proliferation of the alpha males, from the domineering chiefs of great and powerful states, to the arrogant males of the neighborhoods that seek to mark their territories and, of course, “their” dominated and, above all, the women they dominate.

Acquiring geopolitical muscle permits being positioned in this period of decadence of the hegemonic empire. That is complemented by the appearance of countless little alpha macho men in territories of the popular sectors, where drug dealers and paramilitaries seek to substitute for the priest, the commissioner and the “father of the family” in controlling the daily life of those below.

The second view is insinuated in the cited study, wherein it concludes that: “women tend to live a more ecological lifestyle,” since “they waste less, recycle more and leave a smaller carbon footprint.”

This relates directly to reproduction, which is the blind spot of revolutions, committed to an extreme production to, supposedly, surpass the capitalist countries. Industrial production and the industrial worker have been central pieces in the construction of the new world, from Marx onward. In parallel, reproduction and the role of women have always been given less consideration.

We are not able to combat capitalism or patriarchy, nor take care of the environment or our children, without installing ourselves in reproduction that is, precisely, the care of life. I understand that reproduction can also be a men’s question, but that requires an explicit policy in that direction, as the comandantas (female commanders) that convoke the women’s gathering in the Caracol of Morelia point out.

As the comunicado says convoking the First International Gathering, Political, Artistic, Sports and Cultural of Women that Struggle, the Zapatista men “will be in charge of the kitchen and cleaning and of what is needed.”

Are those tasks perhaps less revolutionary than being standing on a stage “giving the line” (as we say in the south)? They give us less visibility, but they are the obscure tasks that make the big actions possible. To involve ourselves in reproduction, we men need a strong exercise to limit our ego, even more if we’re dealing with a revolutionary ego.

The third view is perhaps the most important: what can we heterosexual and leftist males learn from feminist and women’s movements?

The first would be to recognize that women have advanced much more than us in recent decades. In other words, being a little more humble, listening, questioning, learning to stand aside and being quiet so that other voices are heard. One of the questions that we can learn is how they have stood up without vanguards or hierarchical apparatuses, without central committees and without the need to occupy the state government.

How did they do it? Well organizing each other, among equals. Working with the inner patriarchy: the father, the well-spoken leader, or the boss. This is very interesting, because women that struggle are not reproducing the same roles they fight, since it’s not about substituting a female oppressor for a male oppressor, nor an oppressor of the left for an oppressor of the right. That’s why I say that they advanced a lot.

The second question we can learn is that politics, by and large, in well-lit and media scenarios, with programs, strategies and grandiloquent speeches, is no more than the reproduction of the dominant system. Women have politicized daily life, cooking, the kitchen, the care of children, the arts of weaving and healing, among so many other things. Believing that all this is of little importance, and that hierarchies exist between one dimension and another, is similar to women continuing to look to alpha males to emancipate them.

Surely there are many other issues that we can learn from women’s movements, which I don’t know about or that we still must discover. What’s important is not having the answer already prepared, but engraving in each other the simplicity humility in to learn from this wonderful movement of women that are changing the world.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, January 5, 2018

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: