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The logic of domination: Finding connections between Borderlands by Gloria

Anzaldúa and the Ecofeminist movement

By: Maria Camila Tamayo Arias


Universidad de Antioquia

In her book titled Borderlands, the author Gloria Anzaldúa is very clear about the fact that
there are multiple kind of borders in our everyday life experiences, that is to say, a
borderland is something that is not only restricted to a physical space, it’s also something
that we can find in a more psychological limit. Her definition of borderland says: “A
borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an
unnatural boundary” (p. 3, 1987). A boundary that is unnatural, a boundary that is created
as if it was something fixed and that cannot be changed is the kind of boundary that
Anzaldúa is fighting against. It is clear that the author’s struggle is in connection with the
different problems that the Mexican, Chicano people are having, given the imposition of
the paradigm of the white male of the U.S. Nonetheless, we have to keep in mind that a
particular problem like hers is a kind of problem that can provide us a universal point of
view for the goal of human emancipation, her fight is a fight that acquires other
characteristics in other contexts and places, but that carries the seed of oppression that is a
repetitive aspect throughout the history of the humankind. Having this in mind, it is
possible and particularly meaningful to relate the central purpose of Anzaldúa’s book to
another struggle that is developing an important relevance in the context of the
environmental concern that we as a society must be aware of. This struggle is the
ecofeminist movement.

It is clear that for Anzaldúa, as she mentions on her book, women have been severely
oppressed by dominant aspects of her culture, such as the fact of giving women only two
kinds of destinies that would be appropriate for a well behaved woman: being a
mother/wife or being a none. Serving men, doing the house work, not protesting or being
rebellious, not aspiring to be too much are some of the features that Anzaldúa mentions and
that she rejects for her path of life. She knows that the liberation of the mestiza, as she calls
it, is something that can only be made if equal conditions of human development are
conquered. That means that women, the homosexual community, the queer community, and
many other kind of human groups that do not follow the ruling paradigm should be
included as people that have an intrinsic value, a huge potential for building a life project.
She makes this position very clear when she says in a literal way in her book: “The struggle
of the mestiza is above all a feminist one” (p. 84, 1987).

If this struggle is a feminist one, and the ecofeminist movement proposes to eradicate any
kind of boundary that had been imposed in order to maintain the interests of a privileged
group over the interests and rights of the women of the world, this ecofeminist perspective
is something that really fits into Anzaldúa’s perspective. The ecofeminist movement claims
that there are certain dualisms that have turned out to be the main source of oppression for
the nature and all the women. The main dualism is the one that mentions Nature/Culture,
Nature/Human. This dualism puts the nature in a position of inferiority. This kind of
dualism requires a civilizing process through which the man has taken himself out of
nature, he does not recognize and accept as something of value the things that make him a
natural being, an organism with clear physiological processes, and a clear necessity for
what the earth provides. Nature is considered in only an instrumental way, as means to
something else, means to satisfy human greed and desire to dominate. Ever since ancient
Greek, women have been linked to the nature, as if they were mainly nature and not part of
a cultural process. Anzaldúa shares this vision when she claims: “… according to
Christianity and most other major religions, woman is carnal, animal, and closer to the
undivine, she must be protected. Protected from herself”. When women are linked in this
way to nature, to the animal side, to the carnal aspects, many of the prejudices and ways of
oppression that are used against the natural environment and all of its components and
living forms, show themselves as being in a very intimate relationship with the oppression
that is applied to women. With this, we enter in the core of the ecofeminist theses, for them
the fight for giving women the status they deserve as human beings is a fight that has to go
side by side with the struggle of the environmental movement. If we want to gain the goal
of the emancipation of all women, then we have to change the way that the human kind is
deciding to treat nature. We could say that this is justified by two aspects. First, according
to authors like Alicia Puleo, women are in a more vulnerable position when it comes to
facing the consequences of all the ecological exploitation that we witness nowadays. This
means that if we do not correct this pattern of action that imposes a massive exploitation
over the environment, the women of the world, in a very special and particular way, will
not have the conditions to build a life project, to develop an individual identity that is out of
the imposed paradigms. The second aspect regards what I just mentioned above, the fact
that many of the prejudices and perspectives that belong to the logic of domination of the
nature have clear roots in an androcentric (imposition of male values) conception that has
imposed itself throughout the history of our civilization. To save the nature, the animals and
our ecosystems we could, and probably should, start by destroying all of those mental and
psychological mechanisms that place the male individual as the one that has to rule over
everything, especially women.

Anzaldúa shows a very clear concern for the nature and the earth when she emphasizes so
much on the value of the lands that have been taken away from her people. She has a
conscious of the symbolic, cultural and material importance of one’s identification with a
certain natural space.

I would like to comment too on the fact that for this ecofeminist movement the values that
have been inherited from the Age of Enlightenment are values that we have to recover and
to maintain, of course in a critical way. The rationality and its powers is something of a big
importance. Anzaldúa takes the rationality as something that has been constantly imposed
on her, she takes this aspect in a very critical way by sayin: “I allowed white rationality to
tell me that the existence of the “other world” was mere pagan superstition. I accepted their
reality, the “official” reality of the rational, reasoning mode which is connected with
external reality, the upper world, and is considered the most developed consciousness –the
consciousness of duality” (pp. 36-37, 1987). Anzaldúa wants to remark the importance of
other modes of consciousness, the unconscious side of the human being. I believe that it
would be convenient for her to also give a place of important value to the rationality, given
that this is an aspect of human development that has shown great significance for different
critical processes in history. It is important to say, that the ecofeminist movement is not a
movement of radicalisms, it tries to maintain the things that are valuable of every aspect of
the multiple dualisms that we have, in order to make a meaningful progress in the process
of inclusion that human beings should lead. This is why they highlight too the importance
of emotion and feelings, as things that impulse in a strong way our desire to fight for many
rights that have been neglected. To respect, value and give someone or something the
dignity that they deserve we have to learn to love first.

With these aspects, I believe that the connection between Anzaldúa and Ecofeminism is
more or less clear, I hope to develop a lot more in what is coming the environmental point
of view of the borderlands problem, which is a problem that I consider central in the
different political, ethical and moral discussions that we have today.

My points of view on Ecofeminism are based on the author Alicia Puleo.


References

Anzaldúa, G. (1987). Borderlands. San Francisco, U.S.A: Aunt lute books.

Puleo, A. H. (2011). Ecofeminismo para otro mundo posible en: Ecofeminismo para otro
mundo posible, pp. 403-435. Madrid, España: Editorial Cátedra.