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Discourses of nature and gender

Fri, April 12, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Union C

Session Submission Type: Panel

Abstract

This panel explores discourses of gender and nature, that is the rhetoric and imagery that connects and constructs them. Our first paper explores how commercial steam laundry owners in the early 20th century used the language of "sanitation" and ecological control—the control of microbes, water purity, measured chemical wash baths—to shore up masculine and white identities challenged by their entrées into a professional domain historically charged to black, Latina, and non-white female washing workers. Our second paper examines the gendering of disaster landscapes in images and descriptions after the 1934 Bihar-Nepal earthquake in northern India arguing that the rhetoric of a feminine disaster space borrowed from nationalist depictions of the ‘nation’ and ‘Motherland’ as a female figure. Here, the disaster imagery in the two nationalist publications depicted ‘devastated Bihar’ as a ‘devastated’ woman in need of rescue by civil society organizations representing the ‘nation’. The third paper will explore the 1970s emergence of ecologically responsive, and responsible, homes as a response to a limited global environment, and the effect this had on women's labor. Using archival materials and publications from the United States and Canada, this paper will argue that gendered discourse underlay the idea that nature could be conserved through domestic architectures and lifestyle choices. The final paper examines the work of Greenpeace co-founder Bob Hunter and the heightened masculinity of the voyages of Greenpeace I and Greenpeace V in the context of Vancouver’s emerging women's liberation movement, and asks how gender politics shaped Hunter’s understanding of “mother earth,” and his reading of whale sentience.

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