Friday, October 17, 2014

Ecofeminism and such.

When I was in graduate school, some of the more memorable times I had were when a bunch of grad students (and sometimes faculty) would get together at a party (while liberally using alcohol) and engage in sessions of trying out the stuff we were learning to solve all the problems of the world (obviously we failed). Bouncing ideas and concepts back and forth in such a setting was usually lots of fun as well as offering a chance to get different takes on perspectives that we were being exposed to in our classes. Looking back, those were some of the best of times that I've had. Trying out concepts on others who can give you feedback or impressions or countervailing thoughts can be lots of fun (some alcohol doesn't hurt either).

Moving into a vegan perspective has been sort of like returning to grad school, but without some of the opportunities to have sessions like I had then so I've sometimes used this blog to explore concepts.'s not quite the same as a great alcohol-fueled session where everyone threw in their two-cents about Freudian repression or existential authenticity or what-not. I can't get y'all together for a session with margaritas and beer...but hey, we work with what we have, right?

I watched recently a talk given by Pattrice Jones (at a conference) and in it she made reference to something called the Logic of Domination. I was really intrigued by this, enough so that I started researching and trying to learn more about these ideas. They came from an area of philosophy called Ecofeminism. The talk is rather lengthy but here's a more concise's not exactly the same as her talk but many of the same concepts are present.

The originator of this conceptual structure is a philosophy professor named Karen J. Warren. Below is a condensed and truncated version of that which is written in more detail here. She contends there are three components to something she calls oppressive conceptual frameworks.

(1) Value-hierarchical thinking, i.e., "up-down" thinking which places higher value, status, or prestige on what is "up" and less on what is "down" and

(2) Value dualisms, i.e., disjunctive pairs in which the disjuncts (a disjunct is a separation of that which is usually considered contiguous or continuous or as part of a continuum) are seen as oppositional (rather than as complementary) and exclusive (rather than  inclusive), and which place higher value (worth, status, prestige) on one disjunct rather than the other (i.e., dualisms which give higher value or status to one over the other such as mind, reason, and male versus that which has lower or less value such as body, emotion, and female).

So…within an oppressive conceptual framework you frame things in terms of a hierarchical structure with higher/lower status associated with position in the hierarchy and think in terms of oppositional binary type terms with one term valued more highly than the other term, e.g. mind, body or reason, emotion, or male, female and then you stick those hierarchically arranged oppositional (and exclusionary) dualisms into a structure of 'reasoning' called a logic of domination.

(3) A logic of domination is a syllogistic structure of arguing/thinking which leads to rationales for subordination. For example…
 (Al) Humans do, and plants and rocks do not, have the capacity to consciously and radically chance the community in which they live.
(A2) Whatever has the capacity to consciously and radically change the community in which it lives is morally superior to whatever lacks this capacity.
(A3) Thus, humans are morally superior to plants and rocks.
(A4) For any X and Y, if X is morally superior to Y, then X is morally justified in subordinating Y.
(A5) Thus, humans are morally justified in subordinating plants and rocks.

Assertion A4 is the core of this stuff, words in red are the beings/groupings involved and the words in pinkish are the characteristics or qualities (or lack thereof) being specified. You can plug in different groups or individuals and characteristics/qualities yourself and use this structure to identify the perpetrators and victims of various dominations.

The subordinating part (A4) is where supremacies and damaging isms are justified…such as male supremacy (sexism), white supremacy (racism), human supremacy (speciesism), etc.

A conceptual framework is simply an internal way of thinking or a script that we use to arrange or structure our beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviors as well as our view of ourselves and other beings and the world in which we exist. An oppressive conceptual framework then is one where the viewpoint encompasses dominance and subordination and that framework is used to explain, justify and to maintain such relationships.

Connections and Intersections.
There's something about this that is, for me anyway, extremely mind-warping. By that I mean that this way of looking at things seems to offer an incredible tool to clear up many confusions that are engendered by the way I learned to understand the world.

Most all oppressions (dominations and subordinations) are essentially the same...and the only change that happens from one to another is the identity of the victims and the identity of the perpetrators...the structure and logic are virtually identical.

The "reasoning" used to support the dominating of women, non-human Earthlings, indigenous peoples, various "races", nature and on and on is brought into clear and immediate least it is for me. I saw it before now but this way of looking at it is wonderfully precise. This notion of an oppressive conceptual framework (and the included 'logic of domination') makes it all jump into astonishing clarity.

This approach to looking at human doings is new to me in many ways...not so new in others. A conceptual framework that isn't oppressive is something similar to the viewpoints that have accreted with me over the years as a result of wallowing around in the swamps and sloughs of human behavior and mental health.

For instance, male and female exist on a continuum, repression always creates rebellion, no one is any better or any worse than anyone else (their behaviors can be considered awful or great but not their beings), nor is anyone any stronger or weaker than anyone else, all life is related, and on and on. The previous post was very much about these same notions.

But I've never seen oppression laid out with such precision. It is all rather disorienting to have things like this be so clear and apparent. I've written about similar things but never so concisely. (here and here and here)

Many of the blog entries on veganelder have been about just this sort of phenomena, the victims of oppression, the dynamics of oppression, the horrors of oppression, the damage to the victims, the damage to the oppressors, the beauty and dignity of the victims and on and on.

Veganism is about not doing oppression, it's about lives being equal in value and worth, it's about apprehending the wonder and excellence of all beings and mother Earth. Veganism is about not being a harmer and it just might be (I have lots and lots of thinking and learning to do about this) that these tools for understanding (oppressive conceptual frameworks and the logic of domination) ourselves and our behaviors are great guideposts for identifying and comprehending detours away from the vegan road and markers to let us know that we're on the path.

It's usually very easy to see when someone is being harmed or oppressed, not always but usually. However it often is much more obscure as to what's behind the harming...the why of it...the justification of it. Maybe these ideas clear some of the fog away. I'm sorta wowed by all this.


Bea Elliott said...

Looking at Connections and Intersections my eyes and mind raced between the opposites yet linked oppressions. From one to the other I kept shaking my head "yes". Once you see what the pattern is, each "ism" has it's own complexity, uniqueness and commonality with each other. Fascinating.

There's so much here to digest. I agree that margaritas would surely help.

I saw the talk that pattrice jones gave a few months ago... I think though that I'll have another listen as I may have forgotten, or didn't get, what points you've referred to... I'm even still sorting out what pattrice spoke of regarding the inadequacy (or trouble) with rights.

If it's okay... I'm going to re-watch it and contemplate more on your post...

You said "it often is much more obscure as to what's behind the harming...the why of it...the justification of it." This ones a real thinker!

A question for you to ponder though... (over a margarita or a beer) is the "ism" of ageism. Does it fit anywhere within the Connections and Intersections? The opposites would be the marginalization of both elderly and children. I would think that it too is linked among the other biases of homophobia, racism, etc. Yes?

I have an hour drive to vegfest... So I'll be thinking more on what you've written. It's stimulating brain exercise. ;)

Fireweed said...

Wonderful to stumble across some ecofeminist musings here! if I may, I'd like to add that Francoise d'Eaubonne and Warren are considered to have come up with the term 'ecofeminism' at around the same time in the mid 70's. Exposure to these ideas was a major turning point in my own activist life and I have been writing and agitating as an ecofeminist ever since! A good little film that is very dated now, but which offers a good introduction to ecofeminism was put together by Gretta Gaard in '96…you may enjoy it if you are not already familiar with it as it's available to watch for free and is only about half an hour long! I like it because not all ecofeminists are vegan animal rights oriented unfortunately, but Greta is so that definitely gets included! You'll find it here on the old EvE site. Cheers! -Fireweed

veganelder said...

Whew, thank you for commenting Bea. I was beginning to wonder if I had written something so bizarre that everyone was politely avoiding commenting on the debacle. :-)

First...thank you thank you thank you for catching an error on my part. I linked to the wrong talk by Pattrice Jones. I've corrected the error and the link now goes to the correct talk. When I was setting up the post I had several of her talks up at once and put in the wrong link. She gave more than one talk at the 2013 conference (and was wearing the same shirt) and there ya go. It was carelessness on my part and bad (as the saying goes). My sincere of the saving things is that I have yet to hear a talk by her that isn't worth listening to. In fact, the talk on rights may prompt a future post.

I feel seriously chagrined that I steered everyone to the incorrect talk. If you will use the new link and...if you want to jump to the area where she talks about the specific notion of the logic of domination you can jump to the 25 minute mark and listen/watch to about the 35 minute mark and you'll be exposed to the core of her referencing the structure of the logic of domination. The whole talk was extremely informative with many examples and certainly worthy of much more attention...but my post was focused primarily on detailing more about the structure she presented in that 10 minute span. I will post a corrective entry about the link error.

Thank you again Bea for catching my booboo.

Ok...I wallowed with thinking about and reading about the oppressive framework (including the logic of domination) for some time before finally writing about it. It was (and still is), for me, hard (difficult to think about)...and I think some of the difficulty in wrapping my mind around it has to do with how very very committed our cultural narrative is to trying to prevent us from seeing the commonalities of the various oppressions/dominations. If we comprehend them, if we can see how they're much the same then they lose potency...they lose credence...they become...well...silly. The grotesque power play that they are snaps into clarity. It's humbling and least it has been (and still is) for me. It's scary too. Scary in that I could stumble along thinking I saw things when in fact...I was swathed in blissful ignorance and obliviousness. It's a pain in the ass to get smacked with my own goofy (and harmful) ignorance. I would have hoped I would have been further along in understanding after having lived for so many decades...but...that's simply not so. Jeez.

As for your reference to ageism...indeed yes (and I didn't even need a margarita) it fits perfectly into the structure. I've not come up with anything harmful that doesn't. Part of why I threw the post out there was to get some other perspectives and viewpoints because I know (obviously) that I damn well often don't do a good job of seeing/grasping what there is to see or grasp and I wanted some help in wrestling with this.

I hope the vegfest is a blast...tell the vegan bites creator that she's a real treat...and thank you many times over.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Fireweed. And a big big thanks for the link to the video...I will definitely watch. Are there any particular books/writing by G. Gaard or others you would recommend? Any writings of yours that I might access? Thanks again and looking forward to any response you might have.

Bea Elliott said...

Hello again! No way could I skip on anything that pattrice jones talks about. In fact... I listened to the (right) video twice and probably would get even more out of it the third time. There certainly is a lot to contemplate on...

Because pattrice used a few examples of intersectionality by way of material things - So too am I looking at the physical world differently as well as the social issues that are all meshed together. I realize that it's very important to be able to examine them in total but also to be able to separate them from each other to see the similarities. Each "opposite" has a "higher" level of dominance or importance over the other. Finding out the causes and "why's" of each oppression (the logic of domination) is certainly the way to fix the whole.

All these "isms" are othering systems. They are meant to divide and to put one group as inferior. If we can identify and reject any single one of them... It applies to all. Although I don't grasp everything completely (yet), I have a deep appreciation for this accurate description of oppression. I've never looked at it this way either... And I I'll not overlook things in the future without referencing to these intersections.

Thank you VE for bringing up this mind-stretching information. And thanks too to Fireweed for suggesting further study with Greta Gaard. May I make an eco-femist contribution too by recommending the book Defiant Daughters: 21 Women on Art, Activism and Animals and The Sexual Politics of Meat. The essay (and video) by Ruby Hamad is particularly of interest in drawing the parallels of oppression. This is great stuff to reflect on and build on. Thanx again!

Have Gone Vegan said...

Ha ha, not "politely avoiding commenting on the debacle" here, just challenged by computer issues, work, caregiving duties, and other responsibilities. In short, lack of time! So, lots to catch up on, read, and listen to...

Ageism would fit, and ableism too, plus probably other isms as well. Love anything written by pattrice jones (she always writes her name in lower case, so I'm assuming her preference would be that others do too?), and I like the nifty diagram.

Okay, will try to come back to this post when I've done my homework first. ;)

veganelder said...

Thanks for commenting Bea(2nd) and HGV.

Bea: Yes, lots to think on. Question...what is the name of the video/essay by Ruby Hamad? I would like to find it. Thanks.

HGV: I understand being behind, sorry life is pressing so hard right now. Take care of you.

I look forward to your thoughts after homework. :-)