Any inquiry into suppressed female history undertaken by a born-male is suspect. All born-males have internalized misogyny, and the author is a member of the male oppressor group that is being rigorously condemned. So biology and cultural programming are underlying hypocrisies of the text, plus, in all likelihood, the researcher's 11-year old son, Jad, will in some ways reproduce the contemptible system of male supremacy and hegemony.
However, this critical look into female ancestors and the rise of patriarchy is not merely an exercise in man-hating, self-flagellation. Nor does this second published effort on women's studies serve to deflect the author's own need to change through the appropriation of women's suffering.
The motivation behind this project is to mend the relationship between humans and nature and restore females and animals to their rightful place in history. As a parent, it is a resolute attempt at family and planetary survival through writing and consciousness-raising.
Our study is foremost an acknowledgment of the hard work, struggles, and endless support of females past and present, whose combined efforts have made it possible to attempt this task. The work is dedicated to the author's mother, Savitri, and two grandmothers, Mangalbasi and Lillian, whose shattered lives serve as its primary inspiration.
The content grew out of several lifelong concerns and recent interests. In exploring the contributions of animal-based food to climate change in a previous book,1 the author wanted to trace the historical development of men's exploitation of animals to understand men's underlying relationship to nature.
Further, there was an interest in examining how men's inconsideration of nature, and specifically of food-animals, affected their attitudes toward females and social development. Although distinct in scope and focus, the present inquiry was conceived as a prequel to our study on over-consumption and climate change, looking for fundamental causes.
In the past, did a women-based philosophy exist, or at least an alternative way of thinking about our life and relationship with others? The humanities field is almost exclusively based on the opinions of western men, and Indigenous beliefs are positioned as inferior in comparison. But it is this 'superior,' male-centered, school of thought that has brought us to the brink of ecosystem collapse in a few thousand years.
Ancient, women-based doctrines are the opposite of phallic beliefs on the purpose and meaning of life and death. Women's philosophy is communism and cyclical. It is centered on the needs of mothers and children, ecological sustainability, social balance, equity, and gift-giving. Understanding women's interpretations of existence honor female creativity and significance in the species and is vital to solving the crisis of capitalism and climate change.
Predictably, focusing on food-animals in an exploration of female prehistory and communism will be regarded by academic feminists and communists as essentialist mansplaining, divisive, and even anti-feminist. And, apart from animal studies, most experts in the humanities and sciences will dismiss this multidisciplinary analysis as lying outside of their specialization.
Anthropologists, evolutionary biologists, philosophers, historians, and sociologists alike will plainly ignore this unique inquiry as lacking in academic rigor, over-generalized, and interminably biased due to the male author's plant-based diet. Our effort will be characterized, if at all, as having limited social, practical, or theoretical implications for development agencies and social services.
This study has relevance beyond animal studies and ecofeminism. Food choice is intensely personal, but due to critical social and environmental effects, the exploitation of food and pet animals is also fundamentally political. Researchers, activists, and theorists who ignore domestication will miss a central aspect of patriarchy, and may fail to grasp its full implications for women, development, and the environment.
The open-minded reader who goes beyond defensive responses of personal choice in diet will explore how the histories and status of females and nonhuman animals are inter-related. They will gain a better grasp of the history and practice of carnivory, and insights into prehistoric diets, social, and environmental relations. Pet and animal lovers will appreciate discussions on the ancient symbolism of dogs, cats, bears, deer, horses, cows, snake, birds, and chickens, and expand their perception of human-animal inter-relationships.
Admittedly, the author started out being highly skeptical of the existence of female leadership during the Stone Age. Given the preponderance of phallic aggression in the present, it is tempting to accept the notion of 'man-the-hunter' and male rivalry for leadership during human's entire prehistory. Studies in anthropology do not include other social conditions, and students are warned to be wary of romanticizing a glorified past of peace-loving people.
Having an open mind, we eventually realized the danger of being trapped in confirmation bias. We started to explore Goddess culture, and thereby embarked upon a moving journey into suppressed, female prehistory. Since the patriarchal academy completely repudiates ecogynocentrism and Goddess cultures, the author had to carefully discover and re-interpret evidence, and get rid of learned biases.
After deconstructing phallic myths and prejudice across several disciplines, it became apparent that contrary to the male dominance theory, prehistoric women were the primary leaders of human cultures. And, it is obvious that the thousands of Goddess narratives and icons represents the dominant ideology during prehistory. Without glorifying the past, there is ample evidence that people flourished in peaceful, sustainable, plant-based communities for hundreds of thousands of years, by respecting the land, nature, and animals.
In developing a radical feminist analysis to explain the reduction in the status of non-human animals and human females that occurred with the ending of the Stone Age, the author was influenced by the work of numerous 1st and 2nd wave feminists. Women scholars such as Ida B. Wells (1862 to 1931), Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860 to 1935), Katherine Burdekin (1896 to 1963), Mary Daly (1928 to 2010), Sally Miller Gearhart (1931-), Gerda Lerner (1920 to 2013), Sheila Jeffries (1948-), Michele Wallace (1952-), Ariel Salleh (1944-), and many others served as muses for the text. The study is influenced by the phenomenal writings and wisdom of these great women.
The Women's Liberation Movement resulted in a flowering of academic research on the origins of women's oppression. Our unique study contributes to this crucial body of work by including diet and nonhuman animals in a historical analysis of patriarchy. Importantly, it deconstructs how males' objectification of females is related to their colonization of other-than-human animals.
What's more, the inquiry documents the background of ecogynocentrism in three ways to provide a sense of the cultures and economies that existed before the patriarchal reversal. First, by examining Stone Age artifacts, such as Goddess figures, female cave art, and hand-prints. Second, the narrative includes stories of egg-producers living in pre-colonial societies, before their contact with patriarchal Europeans. And third, the text surveys female-centered cultures in the present.
Our interest in feminist studies began in the early 1990s under the academic guidance of Florence (Kiki) McCarthy, a socialist-feminist whose research work centered on women, development, and migration issues in Asia, Australia, and the US. Kiki was instrumental in my dissertation which looked at biological sex, caste, and class among Dalit (untouchable) women in India.2
In Voices from the Subaltern (2004), we argued that addressing social discrimination is critical for empowering minority women facing class-based oppression. At the same time, ending male abuse, domestic violence, and wider aspects of patriarchal oppression were also crucial to improving the status of Dalit and minority females.
The study followed the path of socialist-feminists, such as Maria Mies and Bina Agarwal, who examined the linkages between women, land, and modern development. As early as the 1980s, Mies argued that "Marx failed to appreciate that Man's freedom through labor and technology are made possible by the expropriation of a surplus from women and nonhuman nature."
Similar to the interdisciplinary work of socialist-feminists, our thesis on multiple oppressions faced by Dalit females preceded the 'discovery' of inter-sectionality by cultural feminists and identity activists. Even though 1st and 2nd wave feminists focused on intersectional issues, both are denied credit for holding multiple perspectives.3 In its current framing, inter-sectionality is conflated with queer empowerment, while women's lack of access to land, cultural subjugation, and class oppression remain sidelined.4
Our interest in understanding the interconnections between women, culture, class, and development naturally led to the exploration of ecofeminism. The author was extremely fortunate to meet and interview the incredible Marti Kheel, whose book, Nature Ethics (2007) was a profound influence.
Mary Daly's Gyn/Ecology (1978) and later radical feminist texts were equally transformative. The author was likewise inspired by the feminist fiction of the brilliant Sally Miller Gearhart, especially The Wanderground (1978). Interviews with Kheel and Gearhart were combined in an unreleased documentary, Nemesis: The Goddess of Divine Intervention (2010), dedicated to Mary Daly. Marti, Mary, and Sally are the Triple-Goddesses of Cyborgs Versus the Earth Goddess.
While the study is written by a man, it is informed by feminist writings in several disciplines, including scientists such as Sarah Hrdy and Patricia Gowaty, and anthropologists like Marija Gimbutas and Heide Göttner-Abendroth. The theoretical insights of these feminist scholars are indispensable but unknown. Some faced a tremendous backlash in their opposition to the dominant male-centered narrative, for example, Gimbutas and Daly.5 Our research makes a valuable contribution by disseminating their vital scholarship, and by countering their critics.
Our study is a collaborative effort, and the author is especially grateful for the tremendous support and insights offered by the brilliant and gracious, Charlotte Cressey. As we walk along the ecofeminist path, it is comforting to know that Charlotte is ahead. We especially benefited from online discussions held by hundreds of feminists on social media.
Critical insights were garnered from online friends including Africa Sankofa Johnson, Amira Davis, Angela MacDougall, Ava Park, Beata Murrell, Carla Clark, Caitlin Roper, Cheryl Seelhoff, Chris Cherry, Cynthia Stephen, Erin Anderson, Favianna Rodriguez, Helen Hye-Sook Hwang, Jennifer Bilek, Karen Pastore, Katha Pollitt, Kathleen Barry, Kirsten Savali, Lisa Blank, Lisa-Marie Taylor, MaryLou Singleton, Max Dashu, Meghan Murphy, Monique O'Reilly, Nohad Nassif, Olutosin Adebowale, Rachael Honeytone, Rasa Von Werder, Rinita Mazumdar, Rita Banerji, Sallie Ann Harrison, Samantha Berg, Sharmishta Ayyar, Sikivu Hutchinson, Swaneagle Fitzgerald, Trey Capnerhurst, Trista Hendren, Winnie Small, Zainab Amadahy, and other amazing feminists too numerous to name.
Our multidisciplinary inquiry of domestication addresses some burning questions in feminism. For instance, what caused members of the young-bearing sex to lose their higher status? What can account for females' 5,000 years of exclusion from the phallic-dominated historical process? And what could explain the long delay in women's coming to consciousness of their own subordinate position?
Systemic oppression, Global misogyny, and the ecological crisis are all highly intractable problems that are not easily solved. And just like self-defense in not a cure for violence against women, adopting the man's tools and weapons will not save females and animals. This work is not a panacea for solving the monstrous crimes of patriarchal capitalism, but it does offer clues. Likewise, the author is not an exception to machismo, although there are hints for deconstructing toxic masculinity.
This introductory study journeys from prehistory to the present, and due to its wide scope, there are significant omissions. Also, the project was limited by time, resources, space, purpose, theoretical focus and so on. In the interest of balancing breadth and depth, footnotes are used extensively to keep the text more succinct.
As with our other writings, the focus here in on presenting a subaltern perspective, one that is unrecognized and discredited in mainstream academia and culture. The ASIA's Journey narrative highlights themes, links chapters, and sketches a dystopian future that girls and women potentially face with the impending climate catastrophe.
The current environmental crisis is linked to men's oppression of other-than-human animals, girls and women. Climate change will not be solved until and unless females' agency and power are fully restored, and nonhuman animals and nature are honored and protected.
m seenarine, 9/6/17
long beach, ca
1 M Seenarine. 2016. Meat Climate Change: The 2nd Leading Cause of Global Warming. Xpyr Press.
2 M Seenarine. 2004. Education and Empowerment Among Dalit (Untouchable) Women in India: Voices from the Subaltern. Mellen Press.
3 This demonstrates how mainstream academia functions to simultaneously minimize and marginalize radical feminist and minority discourse, while accommodating and co-opting other theoretical frameworks deemed less threatening.
4 Mies noted the importance of nonhuman nature to class analysis, yet this is entirely absent in intersectional discourse. In an era of abrupt climate change and biodiversity loss, animals should be part of intersectional inquiry, but they are not. Rather than widening the frame of reference, in effect, inter-sectionality is narrowing our analytical lens to cultural and sexual identity.
5 The author was intensely moved by Katharine Burdekin's Swastika Night (1937) and profoundly inspired by her feminist utopias. Yet, much of Burdekin's writings were done under a male pseudonym, and her forward-looking novels are little-known.