Women Build Warm Fires

“You might be an eagle scout, but ‘I am woman. Hear me roar.’[1]”  Those were the words I wanted to say in response to the frequent “I was an eagle scout” comments made by some of the men during a weekend’s camping trip at Leo Carrillo State Park some years ago while in college.  I did not say that; however, instead, I held my tongue, continued building my campfire (that became a darn good fire, if you ask me), and proceeded to observe the various ways the people in our class interacted with the natural, but maintained environment around us.  What I discovered from my own interaction, along with those of my classmates, was that I not only hold views of the deep ecologist, conservationist, and preservationist as noted in previous papers, but I also have values that can be equated with the constructionistic and web-of-life ecofeminist perspectives.

On a sunny and breezy Friday afternoon, we all arrived at campsite 75 at the state park known to locals as “Arroyo Sequit” or “Secos.”  Once we were all in attendance, we were led by a female docent to the beach where she shared with us her experience with state park system and the various issues concerning the stability and health of the natural environments of parks such as Leo Carrillo.  The information she gave us was interesting and informing; however, it was not through this lecture that I had any enlightening or epiphanic ideas that left me feeling like the light had just turned on and was shining down on me.  It was not until we returned to the campsite and began preparing dinner and the evening’s activities that I began to realize how different men and women are in regards to the environment and how we interact with it.

Most noticeable to me was the difference between how the females and males set up camp and their involvement in dinner preparations.  For the most part, I saw most of the men focused on setting up their own tent and getting their own area situated, while I found that most of the women formed small groups and helped each other with squaring away their tents.  I also noted that it was the females in the bunch that were more in tuned to the situation at hand and more inclined to anticipate the next step in the activity process.  For instance, while Tracylee ran back and forth trying to prepare for dinner, I often heard her shout out to the men for help, but rarely did I hear her have to call out for help from the ladies.  When it was time to start the campfire, one of the “eagle scouts” threw on a couple logs, but it was I who stay focused on creating hot coals in order to cook dinner and although I know I was doing a fine job, the “eagle scouts” could not help but let me know how a scout builds a fire and why it is the preferred method.  I scoffed at their comments because I realized that we, as women, are just more naturally connected to the environment.  As constructionistic ecofeminism states, “women are constituted by social, historical, and cultural contexts that are complex and variable and make them better to serve the environment.”  I do not need to join the cub scouts, I do not need to take lessons on how to tie knots, or how to build a fire because I have been blessed with an innate connection with nature, not just because I am a woman, but because my family and life experiences have helped to create my relationship with nature.

From the time I was a young girl, I have been encouraged to participate and be aware of my environment.  Whether it was camping and watching how my mom or dad built the fire or simply watching how my mom could anticipate what was to happen next- I picked up much of my own innate abilities from mimicking the people I respected and admired.  This disproves the radical feminist perspective, which says, “only women are capable of full consciousness of nature” because much of what I have learned was not just through my mother, but through my father, as well.  This evidence shows the importance  of the combination of both the constructionistic feminist viewpoint, as described above, and the web-of-life feminist standpoint, which asserts, “that cooperation is better than competition and that in order to move forward, we must eliminate the dualisms and value both genders.”  If it were not for the various social, cultural, and historical aspects involving both my parents and friends of both genders, I would not be able to build the kick-ass fire that I did.

[1] In 1972, Helen Reddy’s hit song, “I Am Woman,” was written as a reflection of the positive self-image she felt she had gained from her involvement in the women’s liberation movement.  It soon became the anthem for the women’s liberation movement.

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