Mother Earth is so done with our shit that she just asked all of us to go back into our rooms and think about what we’ve done.
Back in the 1970’s the French Feminist Philosopher Françoise d’Eaubonne spoke about the exploitation of nature as something akin to the exploitation of women aka ecofeminism. The concept was practically shushed away in academic history. But considering the recent pandemic that has caused humanity to come face to face with its darkness, we are forced to reconsider the relevance of ecofeminism.
Women Leaders: The Real Corona Warriors
The Internet was very recently flooded with news about the commonality between all the nations that have managed to come out successful in their war against corona. The commonality? Women leaders; not only at the forefront of this battle, but also right at the centre of public policy making institutions.
The Chancellor of Germany, Angela Markel took the threat seriously when no other country accounted for its implications. Tsai Ing-wen in Taiwan introduced 124 creative measures to tackle the virus, none of which were as economically problematic as the lockdown. Similarly, Jacinda Adern in New Zealand managed to impose self-isolation when the country had only 6 cases.
It is most certainly inspiring to see women in power banding together to save their people and the world from this pandemic at large. But what needs to come under scrutiny right now is this: how did mankind reach this level of exploitation?
As women continue to fight for fundamental rights across the globe, and the Earth itself calls for a saviour (or many) of her own, a question that becomes more and more compelling is: where is this exploitative force coming from?
The answer to where this is stemming from, lies in the concept that our patriarchal culture brushed under the carpet because it was too incriminating to bear. Ecofeminism.
What Is Ecofeminism?
Our culture favours masculine dominance. This domination asserts itself in ways that exploit both nature, and women, for the benefit of the status quo, the toxic masculine. Building on this, ecofeminism as a philosophy emhpasises the ways in which the domination of nature is equated with the exploitation of women.
The patriarchy, by ecofeminist definition, works to control all other species on the planet. It disregards the ways in which the masculine depends on other beings.
Practitioners of ecofeminism advocate an alternative worldview that values earth as sacred. It recognises humanity’s dependency (instead of domination) on the natural world. It embraces all life forms as valuable.
To sum up, we cannot liberate the environment until we liberate women. And vice versa. Since the force behind both systems of oppression is the same.
So with women leaders coming into power, empowering not just themselves, but the environment too; this aforementioned alternative worldview is what comes into focus. The pandemic has forced us to re-evaluate life, work, and everything as we know it. If it has taught us something, it’s the importance of switching over to this alternative worldview.
Disney’s Ecofeminist Warriors
As a pop culture enthusiast, I am a huge proponent of the idea that pop culture contributes to our lived culture. I have written at length about how pop culture helps form behaviours. How it sets the norms for shared experiences. And basically acclimates people to novel ideas and concepts. Like Ecofeminism.
So how did a hugely influential pop culture institution manage to plant the seeds of ecofeminism, way before the pandemic brought it into focus?
Moana & Frozen II: The Perfect Testament To Modern Day Corona Warriors
The plotline of Moana is basically the textbook definition for Ecofeminism 101. The film opens with quite literally showing Mother Earth or Te Fiti, in trouble. Because mankind stole her heart to gain power for itself. It’s then Moana who rises to power. Comes into her own to restore Te Fiti’s heart and rescue the whole humankind in the process.
Similarly, Frozen II sees the entrapment of the elements of nature at the expense of a ruthless, selfish King aka Elsa’s grandfather. The story encapsulates the struggle of a princess in liberating nature, and herself in the process.
When I got to thinking about this piece, what struck me the most was the parallels of struggle and power in both the films. Both the princesses are supposed to liberate nature, the journey that is not possible without liberating themselves first. Both the story lines have an implicit war with the patriarchal conditions that impede these aforementioned liberations.
But what struck me the most was how these parallels are not just central to the film, but to the problem with the world as we know it too.
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The Problem With Patriarchal Structures
So who are we rising against when we’re rising to power? Think about it, why does the emancipation of nature, and women pose such an assumed threat to the world?
The answer is obviously very complicated and something that we, as a culture need to think long and hard about. I mean, what kind of a culture is it if it needs to feed off of the oppression of another being. Which is precisely what these films try to address, in their own way.
Both Moana and Elsa had a series of obstacles in their way. All of which, in some way or the other were manifestations of a patriarchal-consumerist mindset.
Moana’s first obstacle was her own father. And the authority that fathers typically possess on the lives of their wives and daughters. Her next biggest obstruction was Maui, a quite literal representation of the power obsessed culture and its oppressiveness. Considering how it was him and his greed to rise to power that broke Te Fiti in the first place.
His inhibition to help save Te Fiti. The abrasive self-obsession that constantly undermined Moana. His hook, the representative fragile male ego (remember how emasculated he feels without it) and his overall delusions of grandeur. All of which are classic contributions to the impediments of women’s and nature’s rise to power.
Just how Maui started this whole chain of oppression, for Elsa too, it was her own grandfather because of whom the Magical Forest was trapped and shut off from the world at large.
So think about it, who are we rising against when we’re rising to power?
The Sisterhood Of Saving The World
Going back to how the empowerment of nature is so connected with the empowerment of women, both Moana’s and Elsa’s biggest strength comes from elements of nature itself. The ocean for Moana, and the ice for Elsa.
Similarly, when both the protagonists hit a wall they feel they cannot escape, it’s the women in their life that come to their rescue. Moana’s father surely contributed to her obstruction in her rise to power. But it was her own grandmother that constantly encouraged her to rise to her own.
And Elsa’s biggest supporter? Anna, her sister. Second only to the Northuldra people, the tribe that her mother belonged to.
In this fight of emancipation, there can be no bigger supporter than someone who has thrived under the same oppressor. As they say, real queens fix each other’s crowns.
Both Moana’s and Elsa’s journey to liberating nature was so closely tied in with liberating themselves. We cannot empower Earth, without empowering women, and vice versa.
We’re in a moment where we’re forced to face our failures. Mankind has failed its environment and its women. The global lockdown has compelled us to question all the unsustainable problematic ways in which we’ve been living.
So where does liberation begin? What do Jacinda Arden, Angela Markel, Moana and Elsa have in common? Does having more empathetic leaders answer the question of empowerment? And liberation in the process?
If it’s the one thing that covid-19 teaches us, let it be ‘Understanding The Importance Of Women Leaders 101’. Because there can’t be a better supporter than someone who has walked on the path you are struggling on. There can be no better supporter for the planet, than women; because the force that oppresses both, is the same.
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