by Ariadna Romans i Torrent
Our societies are governed by the principles of liberalism, androcentrism and patriarchy. Care tasks have been relegated to the domestic ‘female’ sphere, making them undervalued at a social level and precarious at a professional level. By highlighting the principles of interdependence and eco-dependence, typical of ecofeminism, we can work to increase visibility of the struggles of those currently relegated to the domestic sphere.
We understand by care tasks all those that focus on ensuring the good or good condition of someone or something, such as caring for children, the elderly or the sick. For countries with less developed welfare states, these services are essential to society. However, care tasks are in a situation of precariousness and vulnerability, caused in part by the belief that these are tasks that do not generate any type of monetary or commercial benefit and are hence outside the economic system. Caring services have become an integral part of our societies, and they deserve recognition for their work and support from the state if they find themselves in economically precarious positions.
The proposal of ecofeminism, a social and academic movement that unites the premises of ecology and feminism, can serve to formulate answers. Currently, our relationship with nature is based on principles of domination, oppression and exploitation, principles that share the treatment that has historically and socially been given to women. The environmental and feminist struggles are currents of thought that seek the liberation of nature and women from these harmful dynamics in order to propose a new paradigm, free of exploitation, oppression, and domination. Ecofeminism is a movement that not only unites causes, but also seeks shared solutions.
The principles of eco-dependence and interdependence make us aware of our relationships with nature and other people and can help the transition towards a more just, less violent, and more sustainable world. Eco-dependence is the dependency relationship that exists between nature and human beings, where both are conditioned by the actions of the other. Interdependence, on the other hand, refers to the relationship that exists between human beings to the need we have for each other not only for our survival, but also for our life together. We are eco-dependent to the extent that we depend on nature and we are interdependent to the extent that we depend on other people. Thus, in whatever form and in whatever political and economic system, we need nature and other people in our lives.
Although they may seem very basic at first sight, both statements denote a certain awareness of the link that, as living beings, we have with our environment. This awareness of dependent beings has deteriorated in the capitalist system. The values of independence, individualism or effort as the main forces to achieve our interests have prevailed over the vision of a human existence that is much more aware of and connected to what is around us. One of the spaces in which the existence of eco-dependence and interdependence is most evident is the challenge of care in our societies.
In our patriarchal society, it is the woman who assumes care tasks and the management of all those activities that focus on maintaining life and caring for third parties. In capitalist systems, these tasks are invisible in the public sphere. They are seen as domestic tasks that do not provide commercial benefits and, therefore, do not generate value for the economic system. Thus, even in cases where care has been monetized (for children, the elderly, or cleaning), these tasks are insecure and undervalued.
Solving the problem of care means, as XXK Collective explains, giving women the ability to choose the conditions in which they want to carry out care, as well as recognizing that they are not obliged to assume this role. It is thus essential to find a balance between the rights and the protection of all working people, in order to redistribute those traditionally poorly distributed tasks to promote a new model of shared responsibility. Based on this, “we must build a care model that is not based on the systematic exploitation of women from different latitudes: recognition of the impacts of transnational care chains, as well as other debts that cross the city, co-responsible for the global situation”, according to Bayas and Bregolat from the Observatori del Deute en la Globalització.
Ceasing to understand nature as a resource is key to achieving the sustainability of care tasks and promoting a new ecofeminist system where our relationship with it is marked by the rhythms of nature and without harmful dynamics of contamination, domain or control. Understanding that care is not only applicable to people, but also to the natural environment, will allow us to create new safe, healthy and more sustainable spaces. We must not create an added burden for women, and acknowledge that the economic system can modify its rhythms to allow everyone to care collectively, for themselves, and for their natural environment. To achieve this objective, we must create new frameworks of shared responsibility between genders. We must break the prejudices that have led to assumptions such as that care tasks are only for women, or that they are undertaken by women solely out of an internalised sense of obligation.
Recovering an awareness based on eco-dependence and interdependence can make us recover the awareness of our link with the planet. Far from the trap into which liberalism leads us in the political sphere and capitalism in the economic sphere, we are neither alone nor can we live in isolation from what happens in our environment, both environmental and social.
Ecofeminism is a relatively new movement of the feminist cause, but one that has spent 50 years bringing together forces between environmentalists and feminists to guarantee a system that allows, in turn, to fight against climate change and for the freedom of women. In societies where the effects of global warming are increasingly prevalent and social inequalities increase every year, women are particularly disadvantaged. It is essential to recover the aforementioned principles to develop an awareness of our dependence on nature and others. Only then can we develop a fairer relationship with each other and with the planet.
Original article published in Spanish at Agenda Pública (El País).
Ariadna Romans i Torrent, political scientist and philosophy graduate. Currently a master’s student in the International Development Studies programme at the University of Amsterdam. Manager of the Feminist Section at Ateneu Barcelonès and freelance writer in multiple magazines.