VAST 204

Gender and Environmentalism

 Instructor: Tara Gilligan


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This course may be used as an elective for the Women's Studies minor.
This course may be used as an elective for the Environmental Science minor.

Course Description: Women and the natural world have long been conceptually linked: We hail our Mother Earth, a loving guardian for the world's children, and depict women as close to nature, in tune with its rhythms and cycles. But as feminist environmentalists argue, this conceptual framework has sometimes promoted destructive actions and policies. The association of women and nature has led us to think of land as fertile or barren, to look on virgin forests as available for our consumption, and to tolerate the rape of the land -- in short, it has contributed to a narrative about humanity's mastery over the natural world. Perhaps unsurprisingly, such a narrative pays little heed to the women, especially poor and underprivileged women, who bear disproportionate burdens as a result of ecologically harmful policies. This course turns a critical eye on that narrative, asking what alternatives we might be able to imagine. It explores the connections between the oppression of women and harms to our environment. It examines environmental policies and their effects on women, recognizing that women's needs and interests are highly contextual and varied. And it asks how to balance competing needs and desires in a global environment, raising important issues in social justice. The course continues a dialogue begun last year with the first-year students' reading of The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, the Corn on the Quad project, and so on. Specific topics may include: water use and pollution, sustainability, and militarism.