Nov 18, 2018: Feminist Futures
I talk a lot about feminist energy futures. And, as I’ve written about, feminism for me (while perhaps contentious) is intersectional and includes decolonized, anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal, anti-anthropogenic visions for the future. There need not be only one. There can be many feminist futures.
What are feminist futures? What are the histories of feminist living? What is the present of feminist living? What are the futures of feminist living?
Feminist living, for me, is living in community where household reproduction, otherwise known as women’s work or domestic labour or housework or mothering or childrearing, are not the domain of women but of communities that divide this labour equitably between its members. It is a world in which women’s opportunities and sphere of influence is not relegated to the private world of family life, but extends to governance structures and social economies that support the whole community. While life in North America before the Second World War was certainly not feminist, the post-war era that pushed communities into sprawling suburbs as a way to create a marketplace and demand for goods in every household—which I’ve written about before (Wilson 2018)—certainly did improve the situation, despite the advances that were made during the war by women. And despite the advances of second wave feminism, many women’s lives were only further domesticated by neoliberal standard-bearers that left most women feeling inadequate at least some of the time, whether it was the working woman who felt guilty for either not having children or not staying home with them, or the stay-at-home mothers who felt inadequate alongside their career-minded peers. Which leads to this moment. The present moment.
At this time, despite the widespread belief that women have come so far, a feminist life still eludes us at an infrastructural and institutional level, where male privilege still reigns supreme whether it is in the area of salary scales, promotional timelines, or simply the privilege of not having to be sexually harassed throughout the ranks. But, where a feminist life seems most possible, is in communities of women, working in parallel and in response to the oppressive infrastructures of our workplaces and social-cultural lives, where we can choose to support one another and make the conditions of our home lives and our work lives more livable through our feminist support of one another and our collaborations. The past is rife with feminist wisdom and women’s knowledges from around the world that have been intentionally suppressed under patriarchal rule; knowledges that must be recovered. The feminisms of the future need to excavate those past knowledges where possible, but regardless our archeological achievements, those past knowledges can only serve as the foundations for the feminisms of the future.
We also need to collectively build new knowledge and knowledge systems, in order to deal with the issues of our time: yes, with pay inequity and the uneven distribution of social reproduction that have been the focus of past feminisms, but also with new issues related to ways of being and doing in the world that not only question the privileging of men but that of man in general, with rising global temperatures, with large masses of the population displaced by climate catastrophe, with new systems of governance and organization in times of duress that will call for greater collaboration and other forms of leadership and peace making, if we don’t want climate and resource wars. Women cannot solve all of these problems, just as men didn’t create them all.
Patriarchy, however, (whether perpetuated by men and/or women) was a major player in getting to where we are, and feminism (likewise mobilized by women and/or men) offers a resistance to existing forms of oppression, all while recognizing that the world may not be ours for the saving: that would be rather grandiose and anthropocentric in its inspiration anyhow. But feminist futures can, I wager, make for more livable futures for humans and their multispecies neighbours, whether we slowly die away or find a way to coexist on this planet. And the sooner we start thinking in feminist ways, the more possibility there is that we will assure any human future at all.
Let’s hope that when environmental devastations abound that it isn’t only the neoliberals who have hoarded and shored up their fresh water and food reserves, paid for with proceeds from the devastation of the global climate, who are equipped to survive: for that, my friends, would bode poorly for the future of the species more generally. That is why I stake my lot with feminism, as a practice and a politics. The future is feminist. If humanity is to survive, my wish is that we survive, not because of some capitalist notion of survival of the fittest, but because we became collectively more resilient through the feminist communities we built. Idealistic? Perhaps. But I’d rather die trying to live one way than survive the other. In order get started now, I propose that we mobilize these feminist politics and practices around energy transition: its material infrastructures, its (co-)ownership and governance, its economies, and that we imagine ways to reorganize our societies around these new relations of being and doing energy.
Wilson, Sheena. “Energy Imaginaries : Feminist and Decolonial Futures.” Materialism and the Critique of Energy, edited by Brent Ryan Bellamy and Jeff Diamanti, MCM’s Publishing, 2018, Alberta, pp. 377-411, http://www.mcmprime.com/files/Materialism_Energy.pdf