Why Environmentalism Has a Gender Problem: A Breakthrough Debate
“At a moment in our history when increasing numbers of women have liberated themselves from many of the demands of unpaid domestic labor,” Jennifer Bernstein writes in “On Mother Earth and Earth Mothers,” published in Issue 7 of the Breakthrough Journal, “prominent environmental thinkers are advocating a return to the very domestic labor that stubbornly remains the domain of women.”
Tracing the troubled gender dynamics of modern environmentalism, Bernstein takes prominent voices like Michael Pollan and Vandana Shiva to task for their advocacy of a return to the kitchen and the farm. In the developed world, she argues, these demands only add to women's work, while in developing countries, such calls romanticize what is in fact onerous and inequitable labor.
If environmentalism is ever to take feminism seriously, Bernstein concludes, it will need to come to terms with modernization. Three new responses to Bernstein’s provocative essay weigh the force of this claim against some of progress’s less remarked-upon features.