Social Injustice Social Issues

Feminism or Death

Belly strike, reproductive justice, mutations: an introduction to ecofeminism  

When we hear about ecofeminism, we often carry with us a great prejudice: we think that it consists of an idea of ​​caring for territories starting from the maternal and the “nature” of women. In reality, there are different ecofeminisms, as well as feminisms, but they certainly start from a common assumption: the patriarchal capitalist system uses both production and reproduction – human and otherwise – to extract value; lands and bodies thus emerge as fundamental resources and fields of conquest of the anthropocentric system. Françoise D’Eaubonne was the first to coin the term ecofeminism with her 1974 text Feminism or Death. Ecofeminism manifesto . A disruptive title, yesterday as today. He does not take half measures, D’Eaubonne, he tells us clearly: without feminist practices, the world is destined to collapse.

As good feminist practice teaches, there cannot be speaking without placing ourselves. So, I begin this brief dialogue with D’Eaubonne and her text by positioning myself as a white, transfeminist, precarious woman in the academic world who has chosen not to choose motherhood. I am therefore one of those who often hear the answer that “yes you say that now that you are 30 but one day you will certainly change your mind”, or that “ah poor, you have some illness that doesn’t allow you to do that”, and so on. It is perhaps also for this reason that the powerful title chosen by D’Eaubonne for her manifesto immediately captured me. 

On the other hand, D’Eaubonne was already an irreverent character in her time: she was edgy, polemical; the French left of the time did not like it, perhaps due to its “against violence”, as Sara Marchesi tells us in the introduction to the first Italian translation of the text – and perhaps even more so after the bomb attack on the nuclear power plant in Fessenheim – and the French materialists didn’t even like it that much. And in reality, even rereading this text it is easy today to sometimes turn up one’s nose at her approaches that are not at all decolonial and at times universalizing tones.

What do we do with this text then? Why reread it today? In reality, the point is that D’Eaubonne certainly had a plan, and his manifesto allows us to weave important issues for our battles today. It helps us, above all, to imagine and practice a world outside of capitalist patriarchal violence. This is the task we have as transfeminists, within and beyond the movements, in the spaces we inhabit, from those of the world of work to the public and private world. And probably especially in a moment like this, in which the attacks on 194, on GPA, on other forms of family, on women’s bodies, on the rights of LBTQIA+ communities, on income, on the possibility of contesting a minister at the Book Fair, to the true right to life while they kill us every day, they seem to get worse day by day. 

Why should feminism be about environmental destruction? Not by biology, not by nature, nor by metaphysics or essentialism: it is the social and cultural construction that determines us.

D’Eaubonne made me think of three knots to weave with his text, cultivated and embroidered though. The genealogy and feminist politics of citation and debt is fundamental, as each node positions us in the weaving of a thought that continues to weave and relate. So, given that no one ever thinks alone, I need to say that my reflections are not just mine, but are cultivated within that transfeminist tide and that open construction site of making and undoing oneself on a daily basis which for me is Not one less Palermo and all his political travel companions – such as Palermo Pride. 

But on the other hand, the same was perhaps true for D’Eaubonne’s manifesto, which comes out of his militancy in the Algerian Front de libération nationale , in the Mouvement de libération des femmes , in the Front homosexuel d’action révolutionnair and last but not least the Mouvement écologie -feminism. Theoretically, and therefore politically, these lines are instead intertwined with the reflections of thinkers such as Haraway, Lorde, Anzaldua, Davis, Federici and with the texts of feminists who have been working on reproductive justice for a long time such as Timeto, Balzano and the many others that I cannot explain here. quote. Three very small nodes to dialogue with the ecofeminism manifesto. A visionary text, which visualizes the future starting from two main theses: the crazy demographic growth, the destruction of the environment. 

(Ecotrans)feminism or death!

Why should feminism be about environmental destruction? D’Eaubonne had clear ideas about this. Not by biology, not by nature, nor by metaphysics or essentialism: it is the social and cultural construction that determines us. And what determines oppression is a hétéroflic , heteropolice and phallocratic society, says D’Eaubonne, which has decided that “man is A and cannot be B, woman is B and cannot be A”. And how many structures still today, how many men, how many associations, how many ministers, how many women guarding this heteropolice structure!

And what does it mean to be a woman? Un malheur , D’Eaubonne replies, a misfortune: “This rape flesh, this object that seems like a being, this zombie, this negativity, this hole: it’s me. We weren’t born into it, we became it . ” In 1974, D’Eaubonne, being the visionary she was, was already clear that the origins of oppression are political, religious, economic and social. “Today we radically reject the biological or essentialist explanation,” she wrote. “Woman by essence does not exist any more than the proletarian predisposed to being or the criminal born except in the fascinating fantasies of Lombroso”. 

Who knows what he would think today, almost 50 years later, of the conflicts still existing within certain feminisms, in the name of a presumed biological identity. D’Eaubonne also sends the not all back to the sender while we still find ourselves fighting: “I will politely return all these theater tickets to you.” But not because men are all “oppressors or potential threats”, but because the theme is always oppression, and if we are not able, or do not have the will, to understand that no, we are not all the same, in terms of subjects, of positioning, of oppressions, my dear, you have a problem, and we really don’t do anything about the sanctity of the individual. 

If we are able to recognize that we are not all equal starting from the privileges and oppressions inscribed in our bodies, and that capitalism uses class, gender, race as multiple hierarchies to divide, dominate and exploit bodies and territories, then we can imagine and practice other possible futures.

And yet, if on the one hand reading Feminism or Death we cannot help but admit its visionary and futuristic nature, at the same time we cannot fail to note its universalism and Westernism. In the preface to the French edition, the radical ecofeminists Myriam Bahaffou and Julie Gorecki bring out and respond blow by blow to the problematic and critical issues of the text, with a view to “redefining ecofeminism by questioning the whiteness inherent in its history”. Today we could respond to the “white” holes of D’Eaubonne’s ecofeminism with: (ecotrans)feminism or death!

Ecotransfeminism is a situated ecology that starts from transfeminism as the engine of the world, not because of a nature or essence that makes us inclined towards care and mothering, but because our theories, practices and relationships aim to demolish this house of master, and not to change it, as Audre Lorde teaches. Because transfeminism assumes the construction of alliances starting from the subjectivities at the maximum points of intersection of the oppressions of capital: if we are able to recognize that we are not all the same starting from the privileges and oppressions inscribed in our bodies, and that capitalism uses class, gender, race as multiple hierarchies to divide, dominate and exploit bodies and territories, then we can imagine and practice other possible futures. 

Only one no, but many yes, the Zapatista movement teaches. And so to build this radical and situated ecology, ecotransfeminism must necessarily assume decolonial perspectives, with spaces of speech and responsible listening positions, built starting from the knowledge and practices of indigenous and community feminisms. Breaking coloniality, building worlds: not for ownership, but for the redistribution and socialization of resources; not for exploitation, but for other relationships and kinship; not for the production of death, but for other ways of co-living and living and dying well.

Nothing to Extract: Belly Strike and Reproductive Justice 

The other major theme of D’Eaubonne’s ecofeminism manifesto is the threat to survival caused by the crazy demographic growth imposed by the male. His position arises from a material fact: the projection that by 2000 there would be 6 billion human beings on earth. A quantity, according to the author, clearly unsustainable for the planet. You had seen things through, D’Eaubonne. The current world population is almost 8 billion and estimates predict that it could reach almost 10 billion in 2050. A material number, this, which will weigh on the materiality of resources, sustainability and above all on the lives and deaths of certain bodies and certain territories. D’Eaubonne was especially concerned about the fact that she would burden that minority which actually represented the majority of the population at the time, 52% women. Today the masculinity index is clearly higher, not only in terms of percentage of presence, but also if we look at the forms of advancement of patriarchal violence. 

“The two most immediate death threats at the present time are overpopulation and the exhaustion of resources”, and both of these threats are connected for D’Eaubonne to the discovery that gave power to men fifty centuries ago, that is, to possess reproduction, of the earth and bodies: “With the soil seized, therefore fertility (later industry) and the woman’s womb (i.e. fertility), it was logical that the overexploitation of both would lead to this double danger threatening and parallel: overpopulation, excess births and destruction of the environment, excess products” A separation which we know, with Federici among all, to have produced that between productive and reproductive work and consequently between public space and domestic space, between enclosures of land, knowledge, relationships, commons , for the disciplining of bodies, of work , of struggles, of behaviors, of sexualities. 

Rejecting motherhood. Reject reproduction for a capitalist world that looks at the womb as a well from which to extract labor force to put into production. Reclaim the resources, regain the womb, regain the choice.

How to reverse this reversal? How to cope with this fence, this separation? How to recompose what has been separated? For D’Eaubonne and the écologie-féminisme rèvolutionaire group, demographic growth must be slowed down: the call à la grève de la procréation , the strike of the wombs, dates back to 1974. Rejecting motherhood. Reject reproduction for a capitalist world that looks at the womb as a well from which to extract labor force to put into production. Reclaim the resources, regain the womb, regain the choice. To clear the field of any doubt, the womb strike is not birth control or the definitive suppression of human reproduction, but the reappropriation of procreative choice and reproductive rights. Out of our pants, in short. 

And it is also clear for us today, from the ecotransfeminist perspective, that the labor strike is one of the battles. And so the voluntary interruption of patriarchy – which is the name of the national procession for free, safe and free abortion organized by Non una di Meno on 6 May 2023 in Ancona – must necessarily hold together the right to abortion, the strike of wombs, the choice of maternity, non-maternity, the struggles for contraception, the construction of kinships and other forms of (un)families, the end of the coloniality inherent in the relationship between gender, race, healthcare, the end of the removal of reproduction for the non-white world, the end of forced sterilization, the end of reproductive racism. 

Moult

Françoise D’Eaubonne had very clear ideas for implementing what she prefers to call mutation and not ecofeminist revolution: “a long march” for sexual freedom no longer conditioned, which would eliminate “heterosexuality as a norm and basic structure of society, the sexism, the free work of the housewife, the decisive halt to galloping demography and intensive productivity to satisfy false needs in order to divert true desires, and therefore the cessation of the massacre of nature, of apocalyptic pollution and the destruction of environment taken over by the sole holders of the sources of life, women. The revolutionary spirit would be overcome by the primary need of the modern world: mutation” 

And he had very clear ideas about what this long march from revolution to mutation should entail. “The disappearance of paid work (beyond equal wages); the disappearance of competitive hierarchies (beyond access to promotions); the disappearance of the family (beyond the control of procreation). But above all a new humanism that can only pass through the solution of the ecological problem.” D’Eaubonne and her ecofeminist manifesto had clear ideas; a program for degrowth, for demographic slowdown, for the massive halt of productive (and reproductive) work, to try to overthrow power starting from women – because without feminism all that remains is the death of the planet. 

Our task today is to weave our radical theories, practices and perspectives with this text, just as radical, powerful and imaginative was the perspective of D’Eaubonne, who did not mind being branded as neurotic, acid, shrewd, angular, angry. She didn’t mind getting into controversy even with her own militant groups. And the angular character of D’Eaubonne that emerges between the lines of his “delirious epic”, of his “graphomania”, as Sara Marchesi writes in the introduction, can help us to position radicality in our political agenda today more than ever starting from reproductive justice. 

Placing reproductive justice at the center of ecotransfeminist political discourse means fighting against a differentiated reproduction of patriarchal capitalism on the hierarchies of gender, race, class, species, ableism. It means opening battles on patriarchal, capitalist, extractivist, colonial violence. It means placing the theme of self-determination, income, services, bodies, desires and sexuality at the center. It means talking about the redistribution of sexual and reproductive responsibilities. It means imagining practices, languages, conflicts, without the rhetoric of catastrophe or peace. It means asking ourselves the perspective of power, of the future, of what other worlds we want to build outside this model of domination.

Ecofeminism means all this and D’Eaubonne had understood it, anticipated it, imagined it starting from those he called mutants – women and marginalized people. And so with ecotransfeminism we have to deal with families, kinships, non-monogamous systems, homoparentality, posthuman cyborgs, marginal subjectivities, salamanders, rosemary – ancient contraceptive methods recalled by D’Eaubonne -, alter(el)actions, mutants, dogs called Ernesto (with all due respect to the minister), alliances, octopuses, tentacled beings… Moulting, organizing the mutation.

Gabriella Palermo is a Ph.D and scholar of the subject in Geography and is part of the Palermo node of the transfeminist movement Non Una di Meno. You are currently a contract professor at the University of Florence and at the University of Palermo. Her research interests include: critical oceanic geographies; gender geographies and feminist geographies; the relationship between geography and literature. You edited Silvia Federici’s volume “Witch Hunts and Capital. Women, accumulation and reproduction” (DeriveApprodi 2022) and she translated Sharham Khosravi’s text “Precarious lives: waiting and hopes in Iran” (PM Edizioni, 2023) with Gioele Zisa. Among her latest publications, see: “From terraqueous geographies to wet perspective: wakes and waves of the Black Mediterranean” (2023); “Imaginative geographies of the Black Mediterranean: facts and fables in the novel ‘When the sky wishes the stars come out’ by EC Osondu” (2023); Ghosts from the Abyss. The imagination of new worlds in the sea-narratives of Afrofuturism (2022).

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