Posts Tagged body

Is it My Land?

“This land is your land, this land is my land

From California to the New York Island

From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters

This land was made for you and me.” – Woody Gutherie, 1940’s


Whether you believe the earth was created in seven days or that it formed over millions and millions of years, there is one thing that I think we can all know for sure: the Earth and the land is here for us and maintains us. However, although this popular and patriotic folk song from the 1940’s reminds us of this fact, it is clear that all of us have taken its lyrics too seriously and believe that since “this land is my land,” we can treat it and use solely to benefit our needs.


Over the last couple weeks in our Ecofeminism class, we have been focusing on analyzing and breaking down the relationship between our bodies and the land that we live on. In order to do this, we have been reading and discussing several books that not only bring up a great variety of issues concerning the land around us and our own bodies but also raise a lot of important questions and offer solutions to these issues. We began with Sandra Steingraber’s powerful book Living Downstream (2010) which is a very personal and honest yet extremely in-depth analysis of cancers and their direct and indirect relationships to the environment. In this book, Steingraber introduces her readers to a multitude of case studies, which stand as evidence of the effects that the population’s handling and manipulation of the environment around us can have on our bodies’ well being. From Steingraber’s book we transitioned to Soil not Oil by Vandana Shiva, which although different in its approach, provides a framework that we can use to change our relationship to the environment in order to slow down and maybe even stop the environmental crises developing around us. Unlike Steingraber’s book, Shiva focuses on the big picture, immediately urging us that “we will either make a democratic transition from oil to soil or we will perish.” (p. 7) According to Shiva, our Earth as we know it is in the middle of three major crises; a climate crisis in which global warming is a threat to our survival, an energy crisis where reaching peak oil (the end of cheap oil) will dismantle our structures of industrialization and globalization and last but not definitely not least the food crisis, in which our population’s food sources are being squandered by the first two crises.

After reading both of these books, I find it impossible to ignore the breathtaking number of issues that our handling of the environment has caused and will continue to cause if we do not take action. Prior to taking this class, I was aware of some of these issues and how they can affect our lives on earth. However, I cannot lie and say that I tried to do anything with the information I knew or even tried to become more informed. The truth is that I have always been one of those people that although is easily persuaded in accepting that there are issues at hand in our environment, I let myself become consumed in sadness and completely convince myself that there is just nothing I can do about any of it.


What difference can I make? Yes I can recycle things here and there or choose to not drive a car but in the big picture, what difference does that really make? It’s not like my sole actions are going to single-handedly solve these three crises. Yes I know that if we all think this way then we will be even worse off, but can we truly make enough of a difference if we all pitch in?


Until I took this class, my answers to all of these questions would have be straight-up “No.” Yes, I did know deep down that I was wrong, but I felt too defeated and distraught to accept it and I chose to live in denial. I’m ashamed admit know that I chose to ignore, just like I’m sure many other people do when they listen to “This Land is My Land” and get lost in its catchy tune. However, after reading both Steingraber’s and Shiva’s books, I can say that it is time to snap out of it and stop being a coward. In Soil not Oil, Shiva introduces the idea of pseudo-solutions, solutions that seem to solve the issues at hand but may actually add to those issues over time, and actual real solutions that do address the three crises. Although she argues that we must collectively come up and implement real solutions that will have us moving towards reaching “Earth Democracy,” an active and complete transformation of our lifestyle and structures to one centered around soil, I believe that taking some action over no action is an important first step. With the urgency of the crises developing around us, I do agree with Shiva that we should focus on creating real solutions over superficial ones but I also believe that arriving to those solutions will take actions that will result in trial and error. In other words, I am now willing to participate in creating some changes than in ignoring the problem as a whole.

I do not want to claim that I have suddenly been reborn an outspoken environmental activist, but am very grateful to both of these women for truly convincing me that I do have a responsibility in changing our lifestyles because I am connected to the land. Maybe I had never understood this before having grown up in New York City, where having Central Park with its abundant trees is somewhat of a miracle, but I’m tired of making excuses.  However, I have felt disconnected to the land in big part because I haven’t really been surrounded by it. The only place where I have truly felt any sort of connection is in Colombia, where my parents are from. It is because of this distance between my body and the actual land that I am so grateful for reading these two books, which in a very small way have not only interested me in pursuing more connection with the land but in actually recognizing that it and its population needs help fast.

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My Toxic Face Wash

Body Log Table –> Body Log Table

Products that I used during the Body Log

  1. Neutrogena Blackhead Scrub
  2. Dove Deodorant
  3. Neutrogena Oil-Free acne Wash
  4. Bare Minerals Powder Foundation
  5. Bad Gal Eye Mascara
  6. Neutrogena Eyeliner
  7. Giant Brand Nail Polish Remover
  8. Crest with Scope Whitening toothpaste
  9. Scope mouthwash
  10. Vaseline Petroleum Jelly
  11. Burt’s Bee’s Medicated Chapstick
  12. “Fresh” Perfume
  13. Aveeno Oil-free Face Moisturizer
  14. Neutrogena Makeup Removing Pads
  15. Vaseline Shea Butter Body Moisturizer
  16. Purell Active Hand Sanitzer
  17. Assorted Anti-Bacterial Hand Soaps (Bathrooms around campus)


I was personally not surprised at how consistently I used my products because I have used the same products for years now because of the sensitive nature of my skin and body to new products. So, going into the log I knew that I wouldn’t drift from my normal routine. However, the aspect that most surprised me was, after the log was finished, and I was reviewing how often I used each item, I found that a majority of the products were not “necessary” for my survival. For example, I could live without my “Bad Gal” eye mascara, but because I have grown up religiously reading magazines with beauty tips that have told me that my eyelashes aren’t lengthy or dark enough to look “beautiful” I have to manipulate them with makeup. This type of foolery within our society has made us, girls especially, believe that these “unnecessary” products to our survival have become essential. Guilty as charged. I cannot imagine what I would do without my powder foundation or my $15 bottle of shampoo. Reflecting back on this need for my products that I use the most, I have found that this sick addiction to our products have gotten in the way of what we most need for our survival, and not what society has placed upon us to think is necessary for acceptance.

Poison, ahem, “Product” of choice…

Neutrogena Blackhead Eliminating Scrub

Known carcinogens:

• Salicylic Acid

• Iron Oxides

• Polyethylene

All in all my product placed lower on the risk scale for the known carcinogens within the scrub. This was partially because of the neutrality of the salicylic acids and the oxides and their chemistry within the product. However… the

Development/ Reproductive toxicity was quite high because of the… Disodium EDTA or…

• EDTA (ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) is a chelating agent, used to sequester and decrease the reactivity of metal ions that may be present in a product.


• Alfred Werner (1893) developed chelating agents, which in 1913, earned him a Nobel Prize

• ORIGIN: Starting in the 1920’s, many new materials such as paints were introduced, and in their manufacturing the elimination of heavy metal contamination was crucial. Citric acid was found to be helpful, but in the mid 1930’s Germany was motivated to develop its own chelating material and not be dependent on importing citric acid. The synthetic substance they invented was EDTA (Ethylene-diamine-tetra-acetate).


Environmental Concerns of Disodium EDTA

• Has emerged as a consistent organic pollutant

• It degrades to ethylenediaminetriacetic acid, which then cyclizes to the diketopiperizide, a cumulative, persistent, organic environmental pollutant.

• In the New Zealand dairy industry, EDTA has been used as an additive alongside caustic agents to improve cleaning efficiency within dairy processing plants and to minimize dairy wastewater discharge into the environment. There are two main disposal methods of dairy wastes; direct discharge into the local stream after treatment, and spray irrigation onto pasture land. (

Known Occupational Hazards

  • Exposure to Titanium Dioxide (in small doses in the workplace)

The titanium dioxide has been found to be a carcinogen through several studies with the use of lab rats between 1985 and 2004.

a Titanium Dioxide Chemical Factory in China


Resources I used:


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Trickling through the Hourglass

Relationship wise, me and my body are terrific friends. Not just because we occupy the same space, but I sincerely feel as though I have forged a strong bond with my body. I feel harmony between my mind and body. My mind has the ability to affect my body physically. When I discover things that really move me, I feel it transcend to my body. My mind can make me feel physically sick, while sometimes it can place me in a reassuring place. Conversely, my body can influence my mind. An orgasm, a post-workout runner’s high, or a lingering pain can form mental states ranging from euphoria to catastrophe.

One of the main areas of influence that a child experiences when forming their idea of gender roles and their relationship with their body is the family. I grew up with a mother who cared too much about her body. Fortunately, I was too stubborn to be affected negatively by her obsessiveness, but I remember clearly thinking that she was a terrible body role model. She was always watching her weight, which was certainly below her BMI. She was constantly exercising and her night would be ruined if she ate too much at dinner.  And she believed that having small breasts should make someone feel less like a woman. Now, I’m a slim girl, and I have been my whole life, but I’ve always loved being a woman and never questioned how much of a one I am. I can’t help but refer back to a documentary I watched while browsing Netflix’s Instant Play catalog. It was simply called Breasts: A Documentary  and it featured women of all ages, sizes, shapes, and backgrounds discussing their breasts in humorous and sometimes eye-opening ways. Of course, some of these women share their own stories of how society has imposed its views upon their chest. Men (and women) are gendered from a young age to appreciate and hope for large breasts, but whether this is a biologically explained or not, biology likes to get creative when shaping breasts. There is no doubt social pressures for a feminine appearance that is both slender and athletic while maintaing voluptuous, “womanly” curves. I’m sure some men and women, when asked what an ideal female body is, will conjure up images of the Hooters girl and other famous hourglass shapes.


The infamous hourglass figure

Unlike my mother, I recognize where I came from, what I am, and what I have. I love being able to go bra-less (Let’s burn some!). I like my body and like being able to convoy my inner self to the world through my outer self. I love traditionally “feminine” things not because I was told to do them, but just because I’ve developed an interest in them, whether it be sewing, fashion, or cooking, which I like to do with my dad. Julia Serano, in the “Boygasms and Girlgasms” chapter of Whipping Girl discusses some of the biological differences in men and women on the hormonal level. Sure, testosterone is known to increased sex drive and estrogen is known to increase the intensity of emotional feelings, but as Serano says, “if one were to argue that this biological difference represents an essential gender difference-one that holds true for all women and all men-they would be incorrect.” Just as one can find incredible variety in the beautiful, bountiful breasts owned by women across the world, it is the differences between individuals that makes each person so fantastic. I am a woman, I am a woman with emotions, but I get emotional for different reasons than the woman down the hall would. I am a sexual woman, but I find pleasure in different things than the woman I sat next to on the train might. The differences that distinguish us, and the common similarities that unite us, are what construct the overarching web of womankind that I identify with and enjoy contributing to in my own way.

-Amber McGarvey

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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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Brainchild of a Tree-Hugging Ninja Princess

I owe my perception of gender, nature, and my body to the phantoms of my childhood. Back in those days, my head and heart were young bonsais ready to be wired and arced into desired forms. Because my sire was one of those absentee fathers, my mother did most of the shaping. Virtually all the fathers in my microscopic hometown spent most of their time holed up at the local chemical plant, “working.” Mothers – especially mine – did everything else: ice-skating, cooking, cleaning, teaching, playing, dancing, story-telling, and general awesome-doing. Many of them had money-making jobs themselves, yet they still managed to be vital parts of their children’s lives. If I needed something, the solution was intuitive as breathing: go to Mom. Mom worked miracles. Mom made the world go ‘round. Dad, however, seemed only to come home to eat, sleep, and lose arguments with her. It was obvious to me that females were the stronger gender. I had to be careful not to make my older brother feel handicapped by his masculinity. If I’d read Anne Fausto-Sterling’s Sexing the Body, which mockingly quotes the founder of the modern Olympics, who stated that “women’s sports are against the law of nature,” I would have submitted my mother’s cross-country metals as evidence to the contrary (2-3). If women weren’t supposed to be athletic, Mom and I played way too many games of Ninjas vs. Pirates.

My mother played a less direct role in my developing relationship with Nature. Determined that her children wouldn’t suffer the zombifying condition she termed “brain rot,” she banned most television shows and made us play outside. In the dirt. As a result, when I wasn’t making mud pies, one of the only cartoons I watched was Captain Planet. In the programme, teenagers from across the world become the heroic defenders of the Earth and the sworn enemies polluting industries. An enthusiastic disciple of Captain Planet, I made a point to treasure all the trees in my neighbourhood, which I already believed to be magical, thanks to Mom’s fairy stories. As far back as I can remember, I’ve felt a companionship with the natural world. It’s home. Captain Planet Introduction on YouTube

The eco-idols of my childhood (Honea, 2008).

Unsurprisingly, Mom’s ideas about the body and how it should be perceived and cared for washed into me, too. She taught me to be healthy and to love my body, imperfections and all. When I’d come home crying because the boys teased me for having freckles, she told me that freckles were kisses from angels. How could I wish away angel kisses? Well into my days in middle school, she warded off door-to-door salespeople peddling subscriptions to Cosmopolitan and Seventeen in order to protect me from the idolization of too-thin bodies and sexy tummies. She might have saved my life.

True, the foundation of my perceptions of gender, nature, and my body were based on the naïve assumption that my mother is the source of all wisdom. However, I don’t regret my childhood, who I am, or what I believe about gender, nature, and the body. I know her teachings of the indomitability of women, the magic of Nature, and the inherent perfection of the imperfect body contributed to so much of my enduring happiness.

Works Cited:

Fausto-Sterling, Anne. “Dueling Dualisms” from Sexing the Body (New York: Basic Books, 2000).

Honea, Whit. “The Real Reason Tom Cruise Backed Out of Captain Planet.” Babble. 2 Feb. 2008. Visited 7 Sept. 2010.

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