The Enemy of Nature (Tulika Books, 2003)
Section entitled “The Gendered Bifurcation of Nature” (pp 118-121)
The first map of the human species was drawn according to ‘him’ and ‘her’, in that produced configuration of sexuality known as gender. Gender is the original dividing line within humanity; all constructions of humankind, whether within humainty or between humanity and nature, are inscribed by it. There is nothing more ‘material’ (to the common origin of words, material and mother). Sex is of the earth, and the primary dividing lines between genders were between earth-transforming labor. From this matrix (there is the root again) arose the beginnings of domination, and all future dominations, including that effected by capital, are shadowed by that of male over female.
This is not an exercise in politically correct male-bashing, but the recognition that the history of domination would be radically incomplete unless the role played in it by the construction of the masculine gender were acknowledged. The actual origins must remain shrouded in an impenetrably distant past. Nevertheless, everything that is known (though all too often ideologically denied) about the human species compels the reconstruction of the following, which we state succinctly and according to the ideas already developed about human nature, so as to bring us to the essential points:
* In the original, hunter-gatherer, phase of society, the first differentiation of labor occurs according to sex, generally speaking, with males hunting and females gathering — along, needless to say, with their work of reproduction. Note that this labor produces the gender itself, and that its originswere a genuyine differentiation, with nutual recognition, fluid social relations and self-determination. Such can still be seen in the cultural remnants we have of these peoples, and by the reconstuction of the quality of self-experience derived from it: the ‘dream-time’ of Australian first peoples, the wandering of souls, the manifestations of Trickster, and so forth.
* The pahse encompasses the great span of human prehistory, and entails a great range of human-natural transformations, including the domestication of animals and the origins of agriculture. Though wihtout domination, the origianl dividison of albor set forth males as the takers of life and females as life givers. Moreover, the death-dealing tools of the h unt, and the fact of its often being carried out by roving bands, prepared a way for something worse.
* Here a sporadically occurring event may be cetain even though no concrete firstinstance can be brought forward. Its agent was masculine, not as individual hunter, but as a subset of the collective; a group, or band of hunters. Its stimuluswould vary, being composed however of internal as well as external forces, the latter being, say, a threat to survival, such as disease or drought, which compelled a search for new resources; while the former was a function of the psychodynamics of the male group. In any case, the event in question was the transformaiton of a hunt into a raid, with the object being notnow the obtaining of food and skins from animals, but the expropriation of productive labor from other humans, taking not the life of another creature, but the life-giving and building power of one’s own kind.
* This necessarily involved the seizure of women and children from a neighboring collective. We would suppose a threefold violence; killing or driving off the males from the atacked collective, denying the self-determination of the seized women and children, and the forcible sexual violation of the captives.
* This act was a profound mutation in human being. It created a whole new conjuncture, which in time became a structure. First, the possibilities of exploiting another’s labor are introduced, always in the direction of male over female. Second, the potentials for enduring social divisions are grounded in this, again male over female; these are to extend forms of the hunting band, to the warrior band, and to the ruling class, with any number of intermediate and modern variations, such as the Vatican Curia, the NFL Superbowl champions, corporate Boards of Directors, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Politburo, and secret societies like Yale’s Skull and Bones. There is a sense in which the whole worldhas been run by male groups since the beginnings of history. Third, the genders are further produced by this, with sharply opposed identities consstituted by master and slave. And fourth, violence — physical force along with the culture glorifying this — had to becomeinstitutionalized in order to hold on to what had been stolen.
* The structures imposed by the original seizure of female labor had dramatic expansive possibilities. Social violence entered the lists of the dangers to which societies are exposed. The violence invited retaliation and/or defense, and it came to define ever larger social aggregates with expansive dynamics, as each particular group underwent a compulsion to achieve power relative to others. Internally, the drive toward power caused struggles for leadership and social control. The result, after innumerable twists and turns we are unable to detail here, was the emergence of the Big Man, the Chieftain, the King, the Emperor, the Pope, the Fuhrer, the Generalissimo, and the CEO.
We would emphasize again that these priciples would variously be applied across a vast range of situations. There is no need,either, toimagine a single such event radiatinig outward to encompass the rest of humanity. But what has to be underscored is the absolute dynamism of this event, and the fact that it amounted to a real mutation of human society as potent as anything in the realm of genetics. Out of the nexus of original male violence arose codified property relations, as a way of holding onto what had been taken: hence the notion of legitimacy follows that of violent seizure. Similarly, the institution of patriarchy emerged, as a system of apportioning women and assuring ownership and control over children — a never ending dilemma for a man who sows his seed and moves on, as the Big Man must. Property, in this sense is not primarily that which attaches to the self, like clothing and jewlery (although in stratified and wealthy societies, the control over personal consumption is quite significant), but rather the power of producing — and re-producing — life and the means forlife. the control over labor generates civilization, and this originates in the forcible control over women.
It follows that domination and property are gendered from the beginning. This means that a basic alienation is introduced at the foundations of society — alienation being the reflex, at the level of human being, of ecosystemic splitting. The dominant male identity is formed in this cauldron. From the beginning, its reference point is the other males in the hunting/warrior group,with whom it associates andidentifies; corrdinatively, it comes to shun and deny recognition to the subjected female. A purified male-Ego comes to define the dominant form taken by the self, which enters into the exfoliating system of splits constituting the emergent civilization. Subjectively, this alienation becomes inscribed as a progressive separation from the body,and from what the body signifies, namely, nature.
A polarization between the human and natural worlds ensues, with masculinity occupying the human (=intellectual, far-seeing, spiritual, powerful and active) pole,and femininity the pole of nature (=instinctual, limited and body-based, inconstant, weak and passive). The gendered bifircationof nature has been set going, to configure the relations between genders, and between humanity and nature, all the way to the ecological crisis.