What does it say in an era when awareness of the seriousness of environmental crisis that we have created has been transformed by the actions and sacrifice of a (very) young woman, the UK can’t bring even one female to the table for next year’s UN climate summit? I was angry but not surprised when I read this. I also found myself vaguely remembering something Susan Griffin wrote in Made from this Earth (1982). So I hunted it out. In the Introduction, she writes about being requested to give a lecture on ecology at the University of California in the 1970s:
“At that time, the ecology movement had made a dramatic and moral issue (out of the disposal of recyclable waste) … Because I was so overworked, I resented this … and my resentment led to a discovery. Following the reasoning of my own anger, I said that women are always asked to clean up after men. We do the dishes, wash the toilet … and now we are being asked to take care of a mess created by a society run by men.”
The 1970s lecture that Griffin gave was the stimulus for her going on to write her brilliant book-length poem Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her (1978). The book examines and meditates on how “our culture identifies matter and nature with women, but culture and spirit with men.”
The exclusion of women from decision-making around our own survival shows how Griffin’s words can still hold true.
However, important and magnificent as Griffin’s contribution has been, it was 50 years ago, and we are now in serious peril on all fronts. And while a resentful and smirking part of me can’t help thinking, well, hell’s cure to you. You made the mess, there’s something right about the fact you, with the genius provided by your Y-chromosomes, have to work out how to fix it. Because finally you have skin in the game. Not very mature, I know, especially given that we all have that skin and we are all in the game. Including the multitudinous innocent, of our own species, and of others.
Nevertheless, the pandemic has starkly illustrated how female leadership can contribute to successful outcomes. And in the week that is in it, with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who said: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made”, it seems a no-brainer that there should be female representatives on every country’s “team”.
All our lives could depend on it.