Archive for category 2010 Reflections & Resources

Fresh From the Farm!

The Best Summer Food in Carlisle: Fresh strawberries managed and harvested by my friends and classmates at the Dickinson College (now Certified Organic!) Farm. Today I picked up my first CSA share of vegetables from the farm which included green onions, garlic, sugarsnap peas, strawberries (!), cilantro, chard, salad greens, lettuce, spinach, and more!

Every year from May through June, the Farm offers a program called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) through which local consumers like me subscribe and receive a weekly supply of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Buying into a CSA is an investment in the financial stability of local farmers and their farms, by allowing farmers to focus on the quality of their food and not solely on potential profits. CSA encourages sustainable agriculture that is local, organic, and poly-cultured (they grow numerous plants that support each other and the soil).

 

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loving my skin and loving the earth

Does anyone have good recipes for making your own shampoo, facewash, or body soap? I’ve found a lot of recipes for scrubs and masks but I’m looking for an easy and safe way to make daily cleansers.

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Vegan=Ecofeminist?

Being vegan means more than just “Saving the animals!” or “Saving the Earth!” It’s not just about being a PETA member or choosing a diet that is environmentally sustainable and will give you a great looking body. After reading Lori Gruen’s piece “Women and Animals” in Ecofeminism: Women, Animals, Nature” I came to understand that abstaining from eating animals in one’s diet is also an ecofeminist action. In her essay, Gruen explores patriarchy’s connection of women and animals, saying that men have historically considered both to be “tools devoid of feelings, desires, and interests,” creating a distinction of women and animals both as different from and inferior to man. Ultimately, this separation links the oppressed entities to the other and justifies man’s infliction of pain and death onto both, whether manifested as factory farming or sexual violence.

I’ve been vegan for about six months now. I originally became vegan for health reasons; for me personally, clearing out all of the edible “clutter” helped me to see what was actually nutritional and my diet became much more balanced. Before reading Gruen’s article I had never considered my dietary decision, which as one with ecofeminist implications. When I refuse to consume animal products (meat, eggs, dairy and its derivatives), I am rejecting the historical, interlocking oppression of women and animals. Women are not animals, to be used and abused for the sake of man. Nor should human interaction with animals be devoid of respect.

A vegan diet is an interesting ecofeminist action, although not easy for all to access because of class distinctions. Yes, it has environmental impact by reducing the amount of carbon, water, oil, and other aspects of land and energy to produce the food a vegan consumes. Yes, it means less violence against animals. It also has other ethical and philosophical implications, which Ramsay Pierce, a fellow Ecofeminist blogger, talks about in one of her posts. Being vegan is so clearly ecofeminist because it involves all of these different intersections, but also because it inherently rejects the patriarchal, destructive linkage of women and animals.

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A final word while whipping up a meal

As I sit at my little kitchen table, I am overcome with the urge to cook a nutritious meal of brown rice with vegetables sprinkled with freshly-grated parmesan cheese and to bake some banana-chocolate-pecan-bran muffins. I can smell the aromas of the vegetables releasing their juices and letting their distinct and unique flavors mingle with one another as I gently stir them in the pan. The scent of roasting pecans and melting chocolate waft through the cracks of the oven. I want to light a candle this icy cold evening and invite a few friends to enjoy the meal with a glass of Bordeaux. Then reality smacks me in the face: it’s almost finals week.

I do in fact cook a meal this evening and decide to consciously think of every ingredient I am adding, of its origins and how it reacts with the other flavors. Instead of adding a whole myriad of seasonings as I usually do, it seems oddly important to keep the recipe simple. Just tomatoes, fresh basil, a garlic clove, olive oil, and some whole grain pasta.

I start thinking of my role as a woman in society and my attraction to all that is related to the kitchen. Is this a result of culture or is this a natural phenomenon? Culture versus nature— my thoughts rush back to our Ecofeminism class. As I daydream, I realize with a pang that our last class together is fast approaching. So instead of rushing downstairs to get my notes or a book while simultaneously considering the global implications of all the problems in our society, I decide to put my frenzied thoughts aside for a moment and approach the collection of cookware shoved in a small cabinet in my college apartment.

As I bring the spaghetti sauce to a simmer, my thoughts lazily wander to “womanism” by Layli Phillips and this just leads me right back to Audre Lorde’s “the erotic”. My mind is usually zapping with static images and sounds rushing from one thought or feeling to the next. I breathe in deeply and embrace what I am doing at that instance. An image of a 50’s housewife flits through my thoughts. I cringe but then realize- why does that matter? I am happy and plus, “there is no alternative to food” as one of our classmates so eloquently stated a few weeks ago. So while doing a “chore” I might as well enjoy the process of providing nutrients for my body to generate energy.

If there something to remember in 50 years, it is that the the little things matter and bring joy. There is beauty and pleasure in most things we do each day. I don’t need to run away to a distant country to appreciate and be aware of the little charms in life such as the simple preparation of a wholesome meal. I don’t need to be in Toscany to appreciate my spaghetti bolognese or in France to savor a three course meal. I am here.

picture from: http://spaghettibologneserecipe.org.uk/spaghetti_bolognese_recipe_pics/55.jpg

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The Wonder That Is Baking Soda

Since our class talked about eco- and body-friendly alternatives to beauty, health, and household products, I’ve researched some more things that you can do with a fan favorite: baking soda. I use it once a week with a bit of water to exfoliate my face, but this guy came up with 75 more uses for the product, ranging from relieving jellyfish stings to cleaning your dentures. With the very reasonable price of  about $2 per package and with little to no deleterious health effects, baking soda is making its way onto my shopping list pronto.

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Consciousness to Action: Local Foods

Throughout the semester, we have discussed various ways to change the ways that we treat our bodies so that the things we do are better for our bodies, the environment, and the larger social implications. Most of what we discussed has focused on the products that come into contact with our bodies, such as cosmetics and tampons. We had not, however discussed a major everyday product that impacts our bodies, the environment, and society until today – food. We’ve had a few intermittent discussions about food in terms of veganism and vegetarianism, but today in class we had a more in depth discussion about the decisions we all make as individuals about the food we consume and how we talk to friends and family about our food choices.

Food and food choices tie into ecofeminism multiple ways. The choices we make about the food we eat relate to our body image and sometimes the choices we make are influenced by the body image that society has constructed for us.  Some societies also construct women as the home keepers, meaning women are responsible (in some households) for determining the food their families eat and sometimes also determining where that food comes from.  Our food also has larger environmental and societal implications as well, as the common statistic cites that that average piece of produce in the U.S. travels 1,500 miles from field to table including cleaning, packaging, and processing. The fact that much of our food, such as that sold in grocery stores, comes from so far away detaches many of us from any relationship to our food. The reality of this system, however, includes the factory farms and pesticides used to grow our food, the fossil fuels used to transport our food, and the plastic used to package food. This also includes the workers who are exposed to the pesticides used and the workers who are exploited for inexpensive labor to keep food costs low, as discussed in the article “Farmworkers and Pesticides” by Marion Moses.

So what are we going to do about it? First, as we discussed in class today, we need to educate ourselves and others and essentially arm ourselves for the intellectual battle of convincing others why this is something to be concerned about. Last year I took my parents to see Food Inc.  (http://www.foodincmovie.com/) and they have (slowly but surely) reconsidered factory raised meat. I further read books, such as Vandana Shiva’s Stolen Harvest which explain the larger implications of bioengineered food, minimal crop diversity, and the loss of local foods systems on the global scale. This particularly explains what is wrong with our food system and why it needs to change.

As we also discussed in class, the second key to getting friends and family members involved in these issues was to present the issues to them in a way that sparks their interest. I got my parents involved in local foods the summer that I worked at the farm by taking them to the farm and other nearby farms and to our farmer’s market. Since then, my parents have really taken off with it – my dad started a compost infrastructure for composting our food and garden waste to use for the gardens. My dad has also started growing a lot more of the food that he cooks with (even growing it organically), and my mom has started keeping her herb gardens organically as well. My parents go to the farmer’s market in my home town religiously every weekend and look forward to when I bring home produce and goods from the farmer’s market in Carlisle.

I realize that not everyone’s friends and family will be as quick to take to their interests and concerns as mine have been.  However, I think that taking these approaches can be helpful  when talking to friends and family about the various issues we’ve discussed this semester and trying to get them just as enlightened, concerned, and involved as we’ve become. It is the responsibility of those of us who have the ability to make a choice to make informed choices about not only the products we apply to ourselves, but the food we eat and the food that we encourage others to eat.

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Authors to Follow

Another ecofeminist writer to add to your docket – Nikki Gloudeman, senior fellow at Mother Jones magazine, where she writes about the environment, gay rights, culture, and social justice.

Check out her recent article “What’s Killing the Babies of Kettleman City?” about mothers in Kettleman City, California fighting back against birth defects caused by toxic waste in their community.

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Toxicity Resources

Hi! Post any resources you’ve discovered here to help others on their toxicity research. A word for the wise: Don’t get too discouraged by your findings.

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Pretty Amazing

Check this out. Pretty amazing.

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My Erotic will Prevail though is Numbed Today

 

My heart almost bursts; nothing can be contained; I no longer need to breathe and yet there is a limitless supply of air within me that is impatient to be released. All my energy is suddenly pumped from my heart to my head, hands, and feet. My head becomes warm and I suddenly think of everything and yet I cannot even express the simplest of things. Audre Lorde calls this feeling the erotic and describes it as “… a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feeling” (Lorde, 54). Every particle within me wants to escape and to fill the world. The erotic is a feeling to which I aspire. It is not some promiscuous sexual act but a boundless sense of joy and wonder of life, of accomplishment, of possibilities.

Usually when people unleash the wildness of the erotic, they are considered immature, childish, or slightly unnerved. It is a stage that we grow out of, that we experience until we are hit by “reality”. Lorde refers to this as a kind of oppression, “We have been raised to fear the yes within ourselves, our deepest cravings. … The fear of our desires keeps them suspect and indiscriminately powerful, for to suppress any truth is to give it strength beyond endurance. The fear that we cannot grow beyond whatever distortions we may find within ourselves keeps us docile and loyal and obedient, externally defined, and leads us to accept many facets of our oppression as women” (Lorde, 57-58). Why are we so ashamed of expressing that which makes us most happy? I know few people who are able to feel the erotic as a result of an appreciation for the little joys or beauties in life. This is a subject that frequently surfaces in our class discussions and it always seems to be based in cultural norms and our patriarchal history. The only time that it is alright to express the erotic is when enough alcohol has been consumed. Drinking is a shortcut to stimulating the release of the erotic without a filter of etiquette, morality, or politeness that would otherwise hinders us. However, it is a numbed erotic; it is only physical. Like pornography, it “is a direct denial of the power of the erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling” (Lorde, 54). The erotic to which I aspire is unconditional and explosive and a culmination of every sense I know and more. I imagine my nerves vibrating and screaming to break free, stimulated by an electric surge that does not tire.

I find that connecting with the erotic within is often sparked by another person, art, an epiphany, or circumstance. I cannot differentiate yet between the interactive erotic, the one that results from the little beauties rather than majestic grandeur, and the one inspired by nature and the production of art. While abroad in France last year, I discovered that spontaneity sometimes inspired the erotic within me. I rented a car on a hot morning in the middle of May, arrived at a refuge in the afternoon, and woke to snow-covered mountain peaks that begged to be explored in the morning. The glistening snow blinded me, the bells hanging from the necks of the goats rang, and the shepherd stood silently on the hill. After a moment of adjustment, I just screamed. My body wanted to conquer the mountain. But this feeling only got better. As I reached the peak and heard the avalanche rip down the other side of the mountain, my arms fly open and I embraced the world. On Monday, I sit in class again with 200 hundred students drinking coffee while resting my head on my hands listening to the professor ramble about xenophobia. Why can’t all life be one big erotic moment? Why do I need to run to the mountains to find this joy?

Indifference and numbness are so prevalent today among college students of our generation and to be capable of experiencing the erotic with non-humans is often viewed as shameful and immature. I do not allow the erotic to dominate my life but allot a time and space to it. I am not able to “wash dishes and feel the erotic” like we mentioned in class. This is the same phenomenon to which Helen Forsey alludes. I approach nature as a safe-haven, as having the potential of inspiring the erotic, and as an escape from the dullness of everyday life. I rarely still find moments in my week when I feel the erotic. The unexpected outcome of a meeting with a superior or the completion of a project on a subject that I feel passionate about may spark the erotic. Maybe if I listened to the erotic more often I would lead a different life, study something else, and live in a distant country. What would a life driven by the erotic look like?

Works Cited:

Forsey, Helen. “Community: Meeting our Deepest Needs.” Nature, Culture, and Community.

Lorde, Audre, Sister Outsider. California: The Crossing Press/Freedom.

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