Posts Tagged ecofeminism

Blog of Choice / Exrta Credit Blog — Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II

 Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II Movie Reaction

Patrick Superko

After seeing LeAnn Erickson’s movie “Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of WW II”, I found parts of the movie very easy to relate to Steingraber’s book “Living Downstream”.  Before I go into any connections that I made between the movie and Steingraber’s book, I would first like to give some brief background and context about the movie.  So, during the time of World War 2 while most American men were involved with the war, women were asked to function as computers.  In the time of World War 2, computers weren’t what they are today; they were literally humans who computed data and information; calucalated information for hours on end.  During World War 2 these women computers often worked long days with very little time off, computing trajectories on how to shoot missiles in order to hit the enemy or even when/where to drop airstrikes.  These women were abiding by “Rosie the Riveter’s” ideals during World War 2 of replacing jobs that men left when joining the war.

After the war, some of these women applied their computation knowledge to helping program some of the worlds first computers that could do calculations much more efficiently than and man or woman at the time.  As the title of the movie “Top Secret Rosies: The Female Computers of World War II” suggests, LeAnn Erickson believes that the important role that women played during World War 2 is overlooked, hidden, or almost kept a secret.  Prior to the Steingraber reading and LeAnn Erickson’s movie, I personally, was under the assumption that women weren’t allowed to participate in the war; that they had to work at home and take care of their families until their husbands come back from the war.  Without women working the outrageous amount of time that they did as computers during World War 2, the war may have gone a much different way.  Missiles could have potentially missed their targets, air strikes wouldn’t have been as accurate, and the modern day computer wouldn’t have been developed until years later without the help of women.

This movie relates to the book “Living Downstream” and our class discussion from March 30th.  In “Living Downstream” and our class discussion alike, the ecofeminist issue of DDT usage was raised.  During World War 2, the Allied forces used heavy amounts of DDT (DichloroDiphenylTrichloroethane) to reduce the risk of both malaria and typhus.  So much of this DDT was produced, suggested by the film “Top Secret Rosies”, that after World War 2 it was sold back to farmers and civilians as a commercial product without knowing the full side effects of the product.  DDT has been proven to lead to deaths of many bird species, insects, and animals alike; birds of prey eat fish that contain traces of DDT in their system and these traces of DDT lead to negative effect on their ability to reproduce (thinner eggs that are more susceptible to breaking, etc).  Some bird species that have been affected by DDT include the bald eagle, osprey, and falcons.












I do not blame the USA for their actions one bit; they tried to liquidate their excess DDT and cut their losses successfully after World War 2.  The only problem they ran into was that they were unaware of the long-term implications and effects DDT could have on the environment.  If I were put in a similar situation without knowing the full effects (both short and long-term) of a product, I would do all the research and testing possible before releasing a new product into the market.  That having been said, the US government was at fault for using so much DDT during and after World War 2 yet didn’t have a response to fix this problem.  The US government should be held accountable for both the death of animals and pollution of the environment and should attempt to resolve this problem, except 60 years later I do not expect that to happen.


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Bioregional Quiz

18) Which (if any) geological features in your watershed are, or were, especially respected by your community, or considered sacred, now or in the past?

Carlisle, PA is part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, which encompasses 64,000 sq. mi. of land that covers parts of 6 different states and all of Washington D.C. This watershed is one of the larger ones found in the country, with over 17 million people living off it. A watershed, also known as a “drainage basin,” is an area of land that drains into a particular body of water, whether it is a river, bay or an ocean. Within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed that covers the part of Central, PA where Carlisle stands, there is the Lower Susquehanna-Swatara watershed, which locally drains the water in Carlisle towards the Chesapeake Bay. According to the Chesapeake Bay Program website, “Altogether, more than 100,000 streams, creeks and rivers (called tributaries) thread through the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Each one of us lives within a few miles of one of these local waterways, which are like pipelines from our communities to the Bay.” The largest river that drains into the watershed is the Susquehanna River, which passes through Harrisburg, providing nearly 50% of the fresh water that is deposited into the basin. Even though we could not find any specific indications of particularly respected geological features within this watershed, it was clear that the great diversity in fish within the Susquehanna and the Chesapeake Bay itself is recognized and heavily advertised. Due to the quality of the rivers that drain into this watershed and the abundance of fish within them, activities like fly-fishing have become extremely popular, bringing in a lot of the area’s yearly tourism and feeding the surrounding population.

Map of the entire watershed

I was able to find most of the information I needed to answer this question from the Chesapeake Bay Program website, a program dedicated to conducting scientific research and raising awareness about the condition, maintenance and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and the watershed. I was surprised and pleased to see how developed the program is and I can only hope that more local programs focusing on monitoring and maintaining the conditions of our bioregions water, like Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring (ALLARM), will grow to be as successful. From the little I read about it, this program empowers the residents of the Chesapeake Bay area to be more involved in their contact and aid to the bay, much like ALLARM, and provides basic yet valuable knowledge about the land we live on and how our lifestyles can affect the health of our water, and the people it nourishes. However, I could not help but ask: Even though successful programs like ALLARM and the Chesapeake Bay Program exist, what are other ways in which we can get the people to be more connected to the water sources and drains in their bioregion? What would we gain from creating such connections?

19) How many days is the growing season here (from frost to frost)?

The growing season in Carlisle is the same as the average growing season in all of Pennsylvania. As Lindsey Lyons and Heidi Witmer mentioned during their visits to our classroom, the growing season in Carlisle lasts from mid-April to as late as the beginning of November. This six-month growing season is considerably longer than growing seasons in other areas of the United States. However, every crop has its own particular growing season within a region, marking the part of the year in which a native crop will grow in that area.

At first I was surprised to hear the length of Carlisle’s growing season, since I usually associate Central PA with trucking and manufacturing plants. However, after learning more about the dense history of farming in the region carried on by people like Heidi Wilmer, I am impressed with their efforts to maximize food production within local farms. Like she mentioned, information about growing seasons is valuable to people in Carlisle that participate in CSA programs, like the one she and her father are hoping to start. Dickinson College Farm has its own CSA Program that lasts over a 24 week period (six months), in which over 130 families have access to a selection of crops that are in season. In other words, Dickinson’s CSA program provides fresh crops to families in Carlisle for the entirety of the growing season in this region. The longevity of the growing season in PA results in the access to fresh crops for a more prolonged period of time for the people in our bioregion. With current crises developing on our globe like the food crisis, these programs beg the question of what else we can do to improve our food production practices on the local and global levels.

20) Name five birds that live here. Which are migratory and which stay put?

1) American Kestrel

The American kestrel, also often called the sparrow hawk, is the smallest and most numerous falcon in North America. Partial Migrator – stays stationary primarily in areas of Central Pennsylvania and parts of southern Ohio

American Kestrel

2) The Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

“Linaetus of the East” are the most migratory – Fall Migration happens between mid October through mid November down into the south-east region of America.

3) Merlin


Migratory in the Southern region of Pennsylvania – Merlins disperse from natal (birth) sites and migrate in a broad range of North American habitats. Distance and direction of migration is unknown because there is no data available from banding, however scientists suggest that there is migration into mid-California.


4) Wood Thrush


Migratory in the later fall months (mid October to late November) down into the southwestern points of Florida and along the Gulf Coast. However, for the most part, the species is stationary.

5.)  Bufflehead

Migratory and mainly dwell for a majority of the year in central Pennsylvania (particularly in lakes in the surrounding area) and migrate to the south-east in the winters.

The Kittatinny Ridge– A major flyway for birds around Hawk Mountain in Central Pennsylvania. During peak visitation (October), the Sanctuary can host up to 3,000 visitors per day. A comprehensive biological survey has been completed as well as two of the longest running Breeding Bird Censuses in the state. Development along the Kittatinny Ridge/Blue Mountain corridor east of the Susquehanna River is a conservation threat. The construction of communication towers is being studied as a possible risk for migrating birds. Although few formal studies exist, more work in this area is anticipated in the next few years.

Kittatinny Ridge

There is also the Sheets Island Archipelago, which is a series of low islands in the Susquehanna River just outside the city of Harrisburg. It harbors large concentrations of migrating birds and is the site of the state’s largest egret colonies. The dominant vegetation on the islands is Poison Ivy, River Birch, Silver Maple, Sycamore and Tulip Poplar (on some islands). Aster-like Boltonia, Flat-leaved Pondweed, Umbrella Magnolia, Blue-eyed Grass, and Umbrella Flatsedge are all rare or threatened species that are found on the islands. In addition to rare plant species, the archipelago is home to the River Otter, Frosted Effin, Midget Snaketail Dragonfly, and Spring Blue Darner.

The subject of bird migration was very interesting to research because it shows the fluctuation and adaptation that animals, native to central-Pennsylvania, have to their surroundings. Originally, when I went into the project research, I was expecting just to get a few species of birds that resided in Pennsylvania. I was expecting this because when I look around Carlisle, I mainly see sparrows, robins, and the occasion hawk. However, with further research, I found that there were a number of different ducks, sparrows, hawks, and even falcons that are native to central Pennsylvania. I chose the five birds that I researched because they seemed to be a good combination of stationary and migratory species. At first, I had a difficult time finding bird species native to Carlisle, because when I went to research species of birds, they were all species that periodically spend their time dwelling in the surrounding Central Pennsylvania area. However, I called my grandfather, an avid birdwatcher, and he gave me a reference to the Audubon Society online homepage. I was also impressed when he referred me to the homepage of the Cornell College Lab of Ornithology, because the school dedicates an entire lab and website to the study of birds and where to find specific species. I found that most of the species were migratory towards the South east coast, but spent their time mostly in Carlisle and the surrounding flyways and archipelagos (The Kittatinny Ridge and the Sheets Island Archipelago in particular). Merlin and the American Kestrel were the two most migratory of the species I researched for this project and they spend most of their winters in the northern points of Florida, whereas the Wood Thrush, Bufflehead, and the Red-Shouldered Hawk spends their time mostly in the surrounding areas of Carlisle/Harrisburg in heavily wooded areas (Wood Thrush and the Red-Shouldered Hawk) and the low islands of the Susquehanna (Bufflehead).

21) What was the total rainfall here last year?

After much research, I discovered the total rainfall in Carlisle in 2011 was 64.2 inches. This in no way came as a shock to me. I live in Carlisle throughout the academic year, where I’m definitely aware of how many days I can’t leave my dorm without a raincoat. Through my research I discovered that April is historically the rainiest month of the year in Carlisle; however, in 2011 it was September by hundredths of an inch. I was not surprised with this statistic either. I almost forgot my raincoat when I came back to Carlisle to start classes in late August; it was the last thing I packed. I felt incredibly grateful that I had remembered it considering the immense rain we got in the first weeks of school. It’s safe to say that none of my group members were surprised by this amount of rain either. Despite the beautiful spring days, rain is the first thing that comes to mind when we thing Carlisle weather.

22) Where does the pollution in your air come from?

Oftentimes air pollutionis associated with other naturally occurring phenomena such as acid rain, smog, and greenhouse gases.   While the above is true, air pollution can also be caused by external sources in our communities that release unnatural emissions into the air causing problems for humans, plants, and animals. Such is the case in Carlisle, Pennsylvania where the majority of the pollution in the air comes from the diesel engines released by trucks that pass through the town while on Interstate 81.

Map of Interstate 81

Carlisle’s notorious reputation as one of the top 20 most polluted counties in the country can be attributed to the mass track industry present in the town.  Interstate 1 cuts right through this small Cumberland Country town attracting thousands and thousands of drivers and most importantly, truckers, each day.  Trucks are responsible for emitting particulate matter, also referred to as ‘PM’.  PM consists of soot and metal particles that pose the most serious threat to human health as they travel through respiratory system straight to the lungs. Specifically, PM2.5 is the highest contributing cause of air pollution in the county. Not only does Carlisle’s high levels of  “diesel engine exhaust and open burning of waste” directly affect the community and its members, but it also contributes to Cumberland County’s overall high level of diesel PM ranking it in the 96th percentile of highest levels of diesel PM nationwide.

Mobile emissions also contribute (though not as ubiquitous) to Carlisle’s air quality and pollution.  Mobile emissions can be separated into two categories: off-road, which includes heavy construction equipment like bulldozers and cranes; farm equipment similar to tractors; and lawn and garden equipment.  On-road mobile emissions classify as heavy-duty diesel vehicles such as trucks, buses and other transports of gasoline.

Visible contamination

It is also important to keep in mind the chain reaction effect that occurs along with the release of biodiesel into the air.  Diesel fuel is comprised of several other pollutants such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and sulfur (just to name a few of the ‘big’ ones), all of which have their separate (but even more potent collectively) affect on the environment.

As a part-time resident of Carlisle, the facts concerning the air quality in the community were quite daunting.  I consider the research process a valuable experience and only wish that full-time members within the community have access to at least half of the information I uncovered when reading through sources.  Studying the history of air pollution in quality could potentially unveil some current speculations regarding community health; thus, implementing civic education within the community (yay ecofeminism!) would lead one step closer to reducing the presence of air pollutants in Carlisle, one individual at a time.


23) If you live near the ocean, when is high tide today?

Carlisle, Pennsylvania, is not home to any oceans. However, finding this information was surprisingly easy. I was originally concerned about

Susquehanna River

Carlisle’s lack of ocean, however after little research it became clear that there are other bodies of water that have tides. This is not something I was surprised by, but it is not something I often thought about. When talking about oceans, Pennsylvania is a landlocked state. Upon reading this question, I was thoroughly confused. I never thought about how close Pennsylvania is to the Atlantic Ocean. I know that many families travel to the shore over the hot summers, but I didn’t really ever consider the fact that it’s not possible to go swim the ocean while still

in Pennsylvania. It is just not something I ever thought about. This all being said, I knew that the tides I would be looking for to answer this question would not be those of an ocean. This is where I began researching the major rivers in Pennsylvania and narrowed it down to the Susquehanna River and the Schuykill River. The Susquehanna River is closer to Carlisle than the Schuykill River, so I observed the tides here. The first high tide on April 24, 2012 is at 1:11 AM and the second is 1:23 PM. I previously had no knowledge of ocean or river tides, so I was surprised that they were almost 24 perfect hours apart.



Group 4: Diana Morales, Krysten Peck, Annabelle Gould and Kylie Logan

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Bioregional Quiz

1. Point north.

When asked to point north, I immediately looked to the sky. It was cloudy, so I couldn’t use the sun to determine which way was north. Even if I could, modern technology has allowed me to have a horrible sense of direction, so the likelihood of me getting it right was still iffy. Since technology created this problem, technology could solve it. I clicked on the compass app on my phone to figure out north. I felt a bit silly using a phone for something so simple, but I am not exactly in the habit of carrying around a compass. North on campus is facing Old West with Weiss behind  me.

2. What time is sunset today?

April 24, sunset is at 7:57 pm in Carlisle. I discovered this information by a simple Google search – again, relying on technology to find out something relatively simple. It seems like not too long ago sunset was happening around 5 pm, not 8. Although we live in the middle of town, there are plenty of places to watch a nice sunset. For example, the roof of Tome provides a good view, or a walk to the Carlisle high school’s field.

Conodiguinet Creek

3. Trace the water you drink from rainfall to your tap.

As Carlisle’s town website states, after rainfall the rain that falls into the Conodoguinet Creek and is treated to meet the Federal and state standers of safe drinking water. This action is done twenty four hours a day for 365 days and is tested for taste and color to assure is upheld according to the “Safe Drinking Water Act.”

4. How many feet above sea level are you?

Carlisle is 473 feet above sea level (Socolow 7). The information is from the article “Elevations in Pennsylvania” done by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania department of Environmental Resources under the Bureau of Topographic and Geologic survey. Cumberland valley has some high points though with the Ridge and Valley Section including the Blue Mountain which is much higher than Carlisle at 1100-2200 feet (Socolow 7). The lowest point in Cumberland County is the Susquehanna river at the junction of Cumberland, York and Dauphin counties at only 291 feet. Also the other two boroughs in Cumberland County which are Mechanicsburg and Shippensburg are 456 and 654 feet above the sea-level respectively (Socolow 7). Given that Carlisle is surrounded by the Ridge and Valley section including the Blue Mountain which is much higher than Carlisle might play a role in the high amounts of air pollution due to the existence of the trucking industry. The fact that Carlisle is located in a valley there must be a link between the geographic landscape and the air pollution that is one of the worse in the nation. Also the recent flooding in Harrisburg and surrounding areas in 2011 due to the overflowing Susquehanna river raises the question that is Carlisle being at 473 feet safe from flooding? The flooding received massive press coverage and National guards were employed. A lot of people were evacuated and lot of property was damaged.

5. When you flush, where do the solids go? What happens to the waste water?

When we flush the toilet, everything goes to the Carlisle Regional Water Pollution Control Facility, which serves all of Carlisle, PA. “Wastewater received at the plant is subjected to a three-stage treatment and purification process which includes: (1) the settlement of solid matter, (2) the degradation of organic impurities through biological processes and, (3) filtration and chlorination.” The wastewater is purified, and then discharged into the Conodoguinet Creek. On the other hand, solid waste is condensed into sludge. Lime is added to the sludge to stabilize it and then it is trucked to farm field, where it is used as fertilizer.  This bio-solid fertilizer can either be applied to the surface of farm land or injected into the soil. This process is monitored by the Department of Environmental Protection and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency, to ensure that facilities are meeting pollutant concentration standards.

The Carlisle Water Pollution Control Facility is an advanced wastewater treatment facility, which allows for the recycling of bio-solid waste. The Carlisle Water Pollution Control Facility current has an operational flow of on average 4.2 million gallons per day. The facility has been recycling bio-solids through land application since August 1981. “The program initially included five farms with a total of 395 permitted acres and has grown to include 25 permitted farms with approximately 1,845 acres. The borough land applies an average of 1,900 dry tons of lime stabilized bio-solids per year, while making sure that every effort to inform the public is taken.”

“During the past 20 years, the Department of Environmental Protection has permitted more than 1,500 sites for the application of bio-solids. However, the DEP has strict guidelines and regulation for land application of bio-solids. This number has not resulted in any water quality impacts on surface or groundwater. This shows that when properly managed, bio-solids do not pose a threat to human health and the environment.”

Queen Ann's Lace

6. What spring wildflower is consistently among the first to bloom here?

Spring is a time of mass transition in Carlisle from the cold weather to much nicer weather. Early spring is usually considered between end of February to the start of March when still parts of Carlisle is covered in snow. The most common spring wildflowers to appear are Dandelion, Queen’s Ann’s Lace and Skunk cabbage. Dandelion and Queen Ann’s Lace are very common and can be seen often around a casual walk around the Dickinson campus and surrounding areas. Spring wildflowers are like a sign that shows the end of harsh cold winters and the start of much charming and sunny summer ahead. Also it is quite fascinating that these wildflowers appear by themselves and are thus natural. But sadly the National Garden Association cites Dandelion as a weed epidemic that leaves no place in Carlisle and suggests that pulling, digging, organic herbicides and reduce reseeding as solutions to get rid of the problem. From the knowledge from Living Downstream by Sandra Steingraber, we should never use chemical herbicides to get rid of unwanted plants and weeds because of their disastrous effects on humans and bio-diversity in general.


As kids growing up in the 21st century, we have greatly distanced ourselves from nature. People have stopped thinking where the tap water comes from or what happens every time we flush or the origin of the food on our table. We are concerned more about the timing of our favorite TV show rather than when the sun rises or sets. May be this is pure ignorance or the curse of modernity but this Ecofeminism course along with the Bio-regional quiz asks us to be aware of what is really happening in this consumer oriented capitalistic culture where nature and people are continuously exploited to run the economy and produce goods that most of us do not even need. Both Vandana Shiva in “Soil Not Oil” and Wangari Maathai in “The Green Belt Movement” stress the importance of local community building in solving the food, energy and climate crisis that is upon us. Most importantly, all three are greatly intertwined and to solve one we need to change another. Fossil fuel is virtually used in every process of business and agricultural production and is the root cause of global warming. Hence we need to focus on our local community. But it is a pity that even though we made Dickinson College our home for 4 years we know very little about Carlisle and Cumberland County in general. This bio-regional quiz greatly helped us to acquaint with Carlisle and its surrounding areas.

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Bioregional Quiz: # 24-29

24. Professor Niemitz was extremely helpful to this groups research. As a geology professor in the Environmental Science Department, he was immediately able to tell us what primary geological processes and events that shaped the Carlisle landscape.When the tectonic plates of North America and Africa collided slowly during the Devonian period, 250 million years ago, they created folding of the Earth’s crust which formed mountains in this area. It also, through friction, heated up the area, creating the temperate climate we see today. This heating up led to increased rainfall and therefore erosion of the easily dissolved limestone, creating limestone and shale valleys, and the freezing and thawing cracked the sandstone. All of these eroded layers of stone created a lot of loose soil that was washed into the watersheds near by. Thus this is how the hills and valleys of central PA formed, Carlisle lying snugly in one of these valleys.


25. Name three wild species that were not found here 500 years ago.



With at least 948 Naturalized Non Native Plants there are plenty of wild species to be analyzed in Pennsylvania though discovering the specifics of when they were brought here can be difficult to discover. Canadian Thistle, or creeping thistle, is a species native to Europe and Asia but was brought to North America in the 1800s. Even in its homeland it’s general considered an alarmingly fast growing weed. Johnston Grass is native to the Mediterranean but likewise has a reputation of growing fast and being difficult to regulate in this state since the 1800s. The Multifloral Rose came to Pennsylvania in 1866 after travelling all the way from Asia- but it’s still considered next to impossible to properly cultivate as it strangles the local wildlife in open woodlands, forest edges, successional fields, savannas and prairies.

Name one exotic species that has appeared in the last   ___5 years

We tried looking these exotic species up, as none of the Professors, Howard and Niemitz, we talked to had very clear answers, so the internet decided to make me look at maggots and gave me very little genuine information. Brown marmorated stink bugs (ick gross why) were found in Lehigh County in about 1998 and have been causing trouble every winter since. The warmer the weather the quicker they reproduce and in the wintertime they try to get inside homes. These little pests from East Asia with no natural U.S enemies damage fruits, vegetables and farm crops while also being very difficult to control. Some farmers have lost up to 50% of their crops.



26. According to Dickinson geology professor, Professor Niemitz, limestone, sand and gravel are three minerals found in the ground here that are economically valuable. Limestone is made up of calcite and aragonite. Limestone is used in many ways like in building material, the base of roads, chemical feedstock and even in products like toothpaste. Sand is the combination of various types of minerals. It is used in many instances in building materials and is used to ensure traffic safety since it is beneficial to traction. Gravel is used in construction and is also largely used in the production of other materials.



27. According to the official website 100% of the College’s electricity consumption and associated CO2e emissions are offset with wind power. However when asked Professor Niemitz, who we consulted, guessed it was more like 20%, though the website also asserts the campus electricity has been using 50% wind power since 2007. There is a large nuclear power plant in Harrisburg that supplies a large, but unspecified, percentage of our electricity. We apparently buy coal as well— though it’s difficult to find any such information on our website.




28. After the rain runs off Dickinson’s roof, it goes into the Conodoguinet Creek, then into the Susquehanna, then the Chesapeake Bay, and finally into the Atlantic Ocean. The Conodoguinet Creek is 104 miles long located in south central Pennsylvania. The name is Native American and translates to “A Long Way with Many Bends”. It is a tributary of the Susquehanna River and the two join just upstream of Harrisburg.



29. Professor Howard, Niemitz, and our group had a lot of difficulty nailing down a “wilderness” in central PA, however we did discover some local forests and sanctuaries: Tuscarora state forest gets its name from Tuscarora Mountain.  The forest has 95,780 acres of land and includes tracts in Cumberland, Franklin, Huntingdon, Junita, Mifflin, and Perry counties.  After some research, we have found that there haven’t been any forest fires in Tuscarora recently. But back in the 19th century, Lumber and Iron companies would clear the forests and leave behind dried treetops. These treetops were dry enough to catch on fire by the sparks that came off of passing locomotives, which prevented the growth of the forest. There is also Saint Anthony’s Wilderness (State Game lands 211) in Dauphin County.  It is 54,000 acres and road less. No fires have burned there in the last 50 years or if so burned more than a few acres.



Our groups strategy epitomized the use of our Professors here at Dickinson and their knowledge of the Carlisle region where we all live. We went to each of their respective office hours and sat down with them to go through the questions. These conversations were very informative and we even learned some unrelated facts about Carlisle that are pretty cool. We divvied up additional internet research for each question between the four of us and are quite excited with everything that we have found out.

-Jessica Libowitz, Annamaria Santini, Zil Shroeder, Zachary Petersen

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This Land (Ice) is MY Land

I like to think I am connected with nature both at home and at school.  At Dickinson, for example, whenever I walk from the library to the HUB I always choose to take what I call “the nature walk” – instead of walking on the concrete through Britton Plaza, I always choose to take the little mulch path.  No joke!

"Nature walk" trail in Britton Plaza.

At home I like to think I am more connected with nature and the land around me, simply because I am more exposed to the nature.  Whether it be the winter or the summer, my brothers and I are always playing sports outside.  In the winter, I am always playing pond hockey.  Pond hockey is much different than regular hockey in a rink, simply because of the element of nature you add to the game.

My friends and I playing hockey, note the Dickinson jersey.

Personally, I enjoy pond hockey more than playing in a rink; you can breathe the air straight from the atmosphere rather than from inside a rink, the trees tower over you rather than the roof of the arena, and the ice is real not artificial.  There’s just something about playing pond hockey that is much different than “regular hockey” and for that reason everyone should play at least once in their lives.

In the summer, my brothers are always outside playing wiffleball in our backyard.  I almost feel more connected with the land during the summer because we always tend to play wiffleball without our shoes on.  Of course my mom is not happy with us playing without shoes, but for some reason there is a more relaxing, natural feel in playing barefoot.  Much like pond hockey is the most natural way to play hockey, for me playing barefoot is the most natural way to play wiffleball.

I love the land at my home.   Of all the parts of nature, I value the grass, dirt, and the fresh air the most.  After some of the readings we have done thus far in Ecofeminism, I have learned how polluted the air in Carlisle and the Cumberland county is; according to some neighboring counties to Carlisle placed in the top 20 most polluted air in the United States.  It took me almost a year and a half at Dickinson to discover how toxic the air we breathe in everyday here in Carlisle really is.  This air toxicity, according to Sandra Steingraber’s in her book Living Downstream, can lead to dangerous cancers such as lung cancer.  Steingraber suggests that with a “five-year survival rate of only 15 percent, lung cancer is so swiftly fatal that we rarely hear stories of its victims” (175).  This statistic scares me because I am exposed to these toxins everyday without even knowing it; whether it be second hand cigarette smoke or the polluted Carlisle air, we are exposed to more toxins than we may be aware of at Dickinson College.

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Gender Identity in Hockey — My Identity

How is your body both gendered and not gendered?

Gender identity, according to Julia Serano in her article “Boygasms and Girlgasms”, is based on the hormones that are in your body.  Because of all of the testosterone in my body, the active steroid hormone (as well as physical male features) makes me identify myself as a man.  Serano suggests that gender identity — how a person understands themselves with relationship to gender role — is based on the hormone balance in your body; if you have more testosterone than estrogen you will identify yourself as a man, and if you have more estrogen than testosterone you will then be considered to be a woman.

Having taken sex-ed classes in high school and middle school, my body is physically male gendered.  Although hormonal balance plays a part in gender identity, so does your physical appearance I suppose.  I have dressed as a male over the years and once I got to Dickinson College, I suppose that my wardrobe evolved from typical jock clothes (sweatpants, sweatshirts, etc) to more “preppy” clothes (button down shirts, corduroy pants, etc).

Growing up my role models were my father, my older neighbor who I looked up to as an older brother (I only have two younger brothers), my coaches at the given time, as well as my favorite hockey player for the Bruins Ray Borque.  They taught me and sent me messages on what it means to be an athlete, scholar, gentleman, and brother.  My father is a stay at home dad, something that in my hometown of Wellesley is not too uncommon but something that is abnormal and almost frowned upon.  Day after day he makes our meals, cleans, takes care of us at home, and would shuttle me to hockey practices and games when I was still at home.  He is my role matter for that reason, he does not care about what other people think about him.  My father does a lot for my family and sent the message to me that I have to be the man of the house when I have a family.


What other identities contribute to your gendered identity?

The identities of white male, hockey player, student, and fraternity member all contribute to my gender identity here at Dickinson College as well as at home.  I feel as if I do not play the stereotypical hockey player or fraternity member role.  Firstly, I do not play the role of a typical hockey player as they are all seen by society as tough, mean athletes who play hockey to fight and beat each other up.  In my 14 year hockey career, never once have a been in a fight, something that most hockey players find themselves in at least one a week.  That having been said, I am not a stereotypical hockey player; I play the game of hockey much like how I live my life.  I try to play as gentleman-like on the ice at all time, while more importantly being a gentleman off the ice.

Fighting -- something that most hockey players do not actually do.


How is your body separate from and connected with the environments/systems/people around it?

At home, I am very close to the natural world and the community around me. Every winter since I could remember, my family and I make a hockey rink in our backyard and play outside in the cold/snow everyday (as seen in the picture below).  Making a hockey rink every year has made me closer to the environment and nature around me.  Our hockey rink has become a foster shelter if you will for all the hockey players around me, a community if you will.  Having built a rink has brought me closer to the environment and natural world , as I have payed more attention to the weather conditions around me during the hockey season.

Our annual hockey rink -- yes I realize there is no snow in this picture but it was early in the season.

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Connections to My Body and Gender

Grande Odalisque (1814) by Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres






As an Art History major, I have seen one too many female nudes in art. Although many of these works, like Jean-Auguste Dominique IngresGrande Odalisque (1814), for example, place the female as the main object of the male gaze, several artists chose to represent a different version of the woman; a woman that is strong, confident, and potentially dangerous in their sexuality. Known as the femme fatale or “fatal woman” to art historians, some artists decided to portray a woman that was so overtly beautiful that she stood as a symbol of power and danger to all her male viewers. One of the better-known representations of the femme fatale is Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Lady Lilith (1868). In this painting, you see a beautiful woman sitting on the left hand side of the work, staring at herself in a hand-held mirror with vanity in her eyes. She combs her unusually long, golden, curly hair with her other hand, making it the focal point of the painting. The myth of Lilith, states that she was Adam’s female counterpart also created by God, who chose to refuse him and eventually went out to be the destroyer of children and men, with her consuming beauty. Lilith’s hair, as we see in Rossetti’s work, has been portrayed as the symbol of her overpowering femininity and sexuality.

Lady Lilith (1868) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti


When I first encountered Rossetti’s painting there was something terrifying yet something very familiar to me about the image of Lilith. Although I would not consider myself to be a woman consumed with her own looks, I realized that, just like Lady Lilith, I too had a connection with my hair that defined my sexuality and my gender as a female. For as long as I can remember, I have always had long curly hair and until this day I have never allowed anyone to convince me to cut it short (which for me would be should length or even shorter). As we have been discussing gender and the notion of gender identity, or the gender you identify with and how you understand yourself in terms of that gender, in my current Ecofeminism class, it pushed me to analyze the parts of my body that I identify with my gender. Even though for some women female genitalia and other more overtly sexual parts of their bodies stand as symbol of their gender, for me it is my hair. For me, my hair is the ultimate symbol of being a female, and cutting it short would leave me insecure and incomplete. My hair, of course is not the only gendered part of my body, but to me it is the most important of them all. Ironically, I have always said that it takes a truly beautiful woman to go bald and still look stunning and I truly respect women with short hair, but for me my hair makes me female; it is my strength, confidence and my sexuality.

The attachment to my hair probably derives from my Colombian culture, where femininity and sexuality are very important to women. To put this into perspective, I must introduce you to my life-long idol and beautiful Colombian icon, Shakira. Known for her beautiful looks, peculiar voice, but overall her unstoppable hips, Shakira is the ultimate Colombian woman, a woman that I have looked up to imitated my entire life. Shakira’s physical attributes, which of course her long hair and her hips, make her the ultimate symbol of the female gender in my eyes. Like the artist, I think of my hips and my love for dance as gendered aspects of who I am. When I dance, I feel my femininity and I am completely comfortable in my body and its relationship to the people around me.



Shakira – HIps Don’t Lie

However, I am fully aware that there are people out there who do not feel completely comfortable associating with one or either gender. During my junior year of high school, I read the novel Middlesex (2002) by Jeffrey Eugenides, a book about a transgender man named Cal that struggles to define their his identity as well as make sense of his family’s socially “unacceptable” past.

Cover of Middlesex (2002) by Jeffery Eugenides

Through this book, and again through reading Julia Serano’s piece, “Boygasms and Girlgasms: A Frank Discussion About Hormones and Gender Differences,” I realized just how frustrating and confusing life can be for people that identify as being transgender or are unsure of their gender. Although I have never questioned my gender, there have been many times when I’ve said, “God, I wish I was born a guy and I would not care so much about anything.” Thus in Serrano’s piece where she states, “In retrospect, when testosterone was the predominant sex hormone in my body, it was as though a thick curtain were draped over my emotions…but on estrogen, I find that I have all the same emotions that I did back then, only now they come in crystal clear,” I realized that I too had been informed by social assumptions of gender that cloud the truly biological differences between the female and male genders. It was refreshing to know that many of the emotions that males and females have are not actually different but that they are just experienced differently. This distinction, among many other things, has made me even more proud of being a woman.

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Eager to learn

 To be completely honest, I feel like I grew up in a bubble, oblivious to my natural environment. I was the child who enjoyed staying in the house and playing with dolls. Along with the fact that I am allergic to grass, I was never enthused with playing outdoors. I think this shaped my view on nature. I never thought of nature as a bad thing but I was never too concerned about it either. This changed somewhat when I began learning about global warming and other environmental concerns. At this time I realized that air to breath and water to drink were necessary to my survival. This is when my appreciation for nature began. 


Environmentally Friendly?

When it comes to gender, im not quite sure when I first thought about myself as a woman and what that meant. I do remember being a young child, and fighting with my siblings over which power-rangers we were going to be. Me and my sister both always wanted to be the pink power-ranger, because “pink was for girls.” I was aware of stereotypes and societal expectations of gender at a very young age. It was not until attending Dickinson that I really began to challenge these sterotypes/expectations and ask myself what it really means to be a woman. As a psychology major, looking to broaden my knowledge base, I stumbled upon the women and gender studies minor. I didn’t read any texts that led to my thoughts about nature or gender, my viewpoints are all based in experiences.

Feminism in general is something that is somewhat new to me. I am still grappling with the question of exactly what it means to be a feminist and whether I identify with being a feminist or not. I look forward to this class and am eager to learn about ecofeminism, seeing how nature relates to feminism, being able to define exactly what ecofeminism is and think more about myself as a feminist.

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I have to start by being brutally honest. Prior to enrolling in my current Ecofeminism class, I had never encountered the term “ecofeminism.” What on earth was “ecofeminism” I thought. The ambiguity of the term was one of the main reasons I eventually decided to take the class and although I am nowhere close to understanding the complexities of the movement, it has caused me to ask myself questions I had never thought of before. As a woman, what is my opinion on gender and the way it’s molded in our society? Have there been times in my life when I have felt “oppressed” by either men or culture? Did I buy that there is a direct link between women and the environment? How much do I actually care for the empowerment of women and the well-being of our environment?

Although I can’t say that I have concrete answers for any of the questions above, I do know that the issues they raise are connected to my life, especially as a Hispanic American woman. Living as a “minority” in this country, I have experienced that hierarchies still control our everyday lives, and that there are many inequalities within our society, whether transparent or not. Throughout my life I have experienced that at times, being woman, especially a Hispanic woman, does put me at certain disadvantages in comparison to Caucasian women, let alone to Caucasian men. As a senior in college with graduation looming around the corner, the pressure of finding employment and transitioning into the “real world” is daunting.  Not only is it scary to think that we will all soon be competing for jobs in this unpromising economic situation but that as a woman, I might not be considered as a serious candidate next to my male peers. According to a report issued by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, even though the “Gender Wage Gap” has decreased significantly in the last six decades, the ratio of women’s to men’s median weekly earnings in 2010 was approximately 81%. This means that even if I do find employment after graduation, I may not be paid as much as a male peer pursuing the same field. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but to me, there is something inherently wrong with that fact.

Graph showing the Gender Wage Gap from the Institute for Women's Policy Research

Now, the other component to Ecofeminism is the injustices done to the environment, which is argued to be oppressed by culture in similar ways that men dominate women. When considering my views about nature and the environment, I realized that I associate with this aspect of the movement much less. Yes, I do recycle, but the main reason for my separation from the environment comes from growing up and still living in New York City. Although I will always argue that NYC is the best city in the world, analyzing it through ecofeminist lens made me realize that it encompasses many aspects that ecofeminists are against.

My friend and I enjoying a Summer night in Times Square, New York City.

As a New Yorker, I have to admit that I have been soaked into the fast-paced culture of the city, controlled by technology and constant consumption. I had to ask myself: am I wrong for participating in this “cosmopolitan” lifestyle? Was I thus supporting forms of oppression to the environment and to my own gender?

As I begin to wrestle with these issues, there is one component of Ecofeminism that I struggle with the most. In Andy Smith’s piece, “Ecofeminism through an Anticolonial Framework,” she begins by quoting Karen J. Warren’s idea that, “All feminists must also oppose any isms of domination that are maintained and justified by that logic of domination.” According to Warren and Smith, ecofeminists should not only be concerned with the oppression of women and nature but with all forms of oppression. While I understand this argument, it highlights one of the movement’s biggest issues that we discussed in our last class, that of Inclusion v. Exclusion. If what Warren and Smith argue is valid, is there any hierarchy or injustice that would not be included in the ecofeminist critique? Furthermore, if ecofeminists choose to stand against all forms of oppression is the name “ecofeminism” now inaccurate? It looks like for now, I am only left with even more questions to ponder.

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Aristotle, what were you thinking, man?

I have never thought to identify myself as a ‘feminist’ or ‘lover of the environment’, but I think this is mostly due to a lack of reflection. As a naturally reflective individual, it comes as a surprise that I haven’t given these labels more thought. Although it depends on the way one defines ‘feminist’, I fit at least one variation of the definition. I attended the Bryn Mawr School from the time I was twelve years old until graduation. It is a school in Baltimore, Maryland founded in 1885 by five women in an effort to provide young girls and women with a learning environment at least as stimulating as the plethora of highly competitive and academically challenging all-boys schools of the time. Growing up in that environment, gender equality was not a controversial topic. Everyone who was a part of the school was there because she or he shared these same values. I was proud of our school’s history, and proud to be a part of its present, but it was not a stance that I was ever placed in the position to defend.

For all of my years at Bryn Mawr, I learned from a very passionate faculty. In high school, I took an environmental science course. As a result of the class and a few other experiences, I had a somewhat extended stint as a vegan, but my current diet is unlabeled and based on a more informed understanding of environmental and animal treatment issues. It’s not a coincidence that the majority of my friends are environmental science majors. I try to stay informed and surround myself with people who I can learn from and with. I strive to make the environment a priority in my everyday life and as I noted, I have had the opportunity to study about the environment in an academic setting. I can’t say the same in terms of feminism. I have never pursued the topic academically. Strange given my background? I think that it might have something to do with the fact that I am so in love with my major, and as a result I’m not inclined to give up my time very easily to other disciplines. But when I had the chance to choose a philosophical article to critique in one of my classes last year, I chose one from the Canadian Journal of Philosophy (*our library subscribes to a bunch of great philosophical journals*) on the philosophy of feminism. I really enjoyed the process of writing that paper and thinking about particular issues surrounding the feminist movement. I don’t think very much about gender issues in my classes, but there is one experience that stands out in my mind. I remember reading Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics in a class last year, and reaching the section in which Aristotle states the proper place for women. Being physically inferior to men, their role in society is to stay in the home, bearing and raising children, pleasing their husbands and being generally obedient to men; they should not be educated as men. I did not believe it. Excuse me, Aristotle, I thought we were friends. I remember looking around the classroom, and noticing that I was one of very few girls. Ultimately it was a good thing, because it reinforced the fact that putting anyone or any idea on a pedestal is not a productive practice, and that one should always be critical. Already, I have found this to be true with regard to the feminist movement. Putting it on a pedestal doesn’t allow an individual proper space to realize what internal problems exist there; if she doesn’t realize the problems, there is no way to correct them and eventually create a more effective movement. Jordan’s comment in class regarding the historically imperialistic background of ecofeminism definitely struck me as important. Along the same lines, I was surprised to learn that “many native people sense that feminists struggle to make a better life for themselves at the expense of Native people” (Warren, 25). Andy Smith’s entire article, Ecofeminsim through an Anticolonial Framework, was very enlightening. It just seems obviously contradictory to the movement’s philosophy on a few levels, the most basic one concerning the fact that women are obviously a part of the Native American population.

In that philosophy class, the greatest surprise for me was that a philosopher who appeared so rational and intelligent could hold such a view of women. These surprises are everywhere. It doesn’t mean that we should consider everything that Aristotle has provided us with as worthless, just as the feminist movement should not be disregarded completely by the Native Americans or those who are aware of this flaw in the movement. We should take what is considered to be the standard and test it against our critical minds; what is created as a result, will be progress.

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