I’ve had another professor write to me about the Ecofeminism independent study class I took last semester. Her comments were regarding my review of Griffin’s Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her. Thinking back now, I absolutely loved how Griffin connected women with nature. I remember quiet tears rolling down my cheeks as I read her beautiful writing in the Introduction, which I’m repeating here:
We are the bird’s eggs. Bird’s eggs, flowers, butterflies, rabbits, cows, sheep; we are caterpillars; we are leaves of ivy and sprigs of wallflower. We are women. We rise from the wave. We are gazelle and doe, elephant and whale, lilies and roses and peach, we are air, we are flame, we are oyster and pearl, we are girls. We are women and nature. And he says he cannot hear us speak.
But we hear.
My review of the book, on my blog, spanned two entries — mostly because I had to pause and mentally digest the powerful and disturbing first section, before continuing on. You can read both posts here:
Interestingly, after reading my posts the professor mentioned that she felt I’d rather missed the main point regarding Griffin’s writing. Thinking about it now, I’d have to agree. Here are her words:
She [Griffin] was trying to voice a different way of imagining the relationship between human beings and nature, using the voices of women, because women have not been the voice that dominated nature. She was doing deep excavating, that could undergird an environmental movement in which “nature” is no longer passive matter, and in which human beings “are nature.” “We are nature weeping, nature with a concept of nature.” I don’t know about you, but when I first read those words I could not understand them, because I was still within a mindset where human beings are one thing and nature is another. As she was doing a deep reconceptualization, she was not focusing on activism. At the time she wrote and still, many if not most environmental activists do not understand what she means when she imagines nature speaking. My colleague in [a local Green group] could write “for future generations” but not “for birds.” For him the latter was “too emotional.”
I was fascinated by that! It had never occurred to me to consider Nature having an actual “voice” in that sense. That was entirely outside the “Nature speaking” which I was used to: the delicate, almost translucent green of leaves unfurling on the trees in spring; the birdsong bursting forth ebulliently from the full branches swaying slowly overhead; the rich scents of both flowers and horse manure; the sweet, dribbly juiciness of fruit from our trees, picked during summer’s heavy heat; the fall thunderstorms rattling in violent sheets of rain on the barn’s tin roof, and the weirdly dangerous beauty of the lightning bolts dancing within the luminescent, rolling thunderheads which piled up powerfully on the Texas horizon; the joyous barks of the dogs bounding and surfing through the snow with us as we rode our snorting, briskly dancing horses along the cold winter trails… Nature’s voice, to me as a young woman, was the general health of the land — and it “spoke” to me through brilliant scents, breathless sights, bone-thrumming sounds, sharply accented tastes, and shimmeringly tactile touch. I never realized, as a girl, that there were those who could not — or, more shockingly, chose not — to listen to Nature’s voice.
This, then, I think is the internal roar of Griffin’s title: when that voice is disregarded, deliberately ignored, brutally silenced. It doesn’t matter if the “speaker” is Nature or Woman — their abuse is still painfully felt, the injustice still mounts up, their uncomprehending outrage still grows. When that agony of violation finally spills over into a roaring tsunami of furious outrage, thundering forth metaphorically through the conflated Nature and Woman — what world will result? Or can we, with just and wise action now, drain off that appalling betrayal before such a destructive explosion of righteousness?
This was a fascinating, alarming, beautiful revelation to me, and so I wrote back:
You know, I did miss that she was having Nature speak through women. That’s really interesting, because due to my upbringing (lots of horseback riding, and animals that were part of the family) I’ve never had any trouble in seeing humans as just another part of nature. In fact, I’ve gotten into trouble with parents by (innocently) suggesting they use good animal-training techniques on their children. To me that was a good thing, since I saw animals as people; to them it was an insult to their child -– who was (to them) NOT an animal!
I’d have to say I found Griffin’s writing astonishing and painful and beautiful and moving. As my professor wondered, and as I do as well: how did Griffin come to be aware of all this 40 years ago — when she was only in her late 20s? At that time in my life I was utterly clueless about women’s issues, let alone environmental ones. I thought we should be fair, but that was about as complex as my thinking got. I wasn’t even aware of issues of race, age, or gender!