ecological self

To acknowledge that “I am this body” is not to reduce the mystery of my yearnings and fluid thoughts to a set of mechanisms, or my “self” to a determinate robot. Rather, it is to affirm the uncanniness of this physical form. It is not to lock up awareness within the density of a closed and bounded object, for as we shall see, the boundaries of a living body are open and indeterminate; more like membranes than barriers, they define a surface of metamorphosis and exchange.

The breathing, sensing body draws its sustenance and its very substance from the soils, plants, and elements that surround it; it continually contributes itself, in turn, to the air, to the composting earth, to the nourishment of insects and oak trees and squirrels, ceaselessly spreading out of itself as well as breathing the world into itself, so that it is very difficult to discern, at any moment, precisely where this living body begins, and where it ends.

Considered phenomenologically - that is, as we actually experience and live it - the body is a creative, shape-shifting entity. Certainly, it has its finite character and style, its unique textures and temperaments that distinguish it from other bodies; yet these mortal limits in no way close me off from the things around me, or render my relations to them wholly predictable and determinate. On the contrary, my finite bodily presence alone is what enables me to freely engage the things around me, to choose to affiliate with certain persons or places, to insinuate myself in other lives. Far from restricting my access to things and to the world, the body is my very means of entering into relation with all things.

—  from the Philosophy on the Way to Ecology chapter of David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous

The Eden Project

self-sufficiency and education. This former china clay quarry now acts as one of the largest plant enclosures in the world. No imported soil was used in the design.– Instead, green waste, surplus sand, and clay were manufactured into topsoil. Within the gardens are vast botanical and ecological collections that educate visitors about the relationship between plants and people around the world.

no pure theory - trans*feminism on its own terms

One thing I think some of us white feminists haven’t been fast enough to grasp is that there’s no such thing as pure theory.

Theory comes with baggage. It comes with a community of practice - the people who use the theory. It comes with a history - the people the theory has been used upon. And it comes as a package with its specific social and ideological context - meaning, simply, that any given theory never acts alone, but comes with a “family” of related ideas and practices.

I’ve been thinking about this with regard to the essay by ciscritical-not-cisphobic I reblogged earlier today. ciscritical-not-cisphobic writes that the term cissexism:

…  is gender. The two structures are one and the same… seen from different angles; some traits are brought to the fore in one and occluded in the other…

Gender, here, refers to the radical feminist sense of the word, paraphrased by ciscritical-not-cisphobic as:

the societal power structure that creates the concepts of “man" and “woman", the roles imposed on them, and the structure that forces identity onto people, typically in accordance with anatomy, and roles in accordance with identity, that creates these concepts in order for there to be a hierarchy where men rule over women.

But many trans*feminists are using “cissexism”, not “gender”. Why is that? I think it’s because radical feminist gender theory - often called the “sex-class analysis”, comes with baggage.

For a long time I’ve been trying to treat the sex-class analysis without its baggage. And in many ways the theory’s been helpful to me. It’s helped me understand so much about being a transsexual woman which would otherwise be incomprehensible - or worse, only comprehensible as a personal issue, not a political attack.

But I’ve also struggled constantly with the feeling that I’m trying to use someone else’s tools. The sex-class analysis doesn’t quite fit. Not because it’s a bad analysis - I think it’s correct - but because it’s interwoven into so many other ideas and practices which I don’t quite accept, or reject entirely, and because it’s embedded in a community of practice many members of which hate my existence.

As I’m moving toward a more ecological view of the world, a worldview in which, in the words of Susan Griffin, “most things are both cause and effect”, I’m realising that things which have customarily been woven together don’t come apart so easily.

I don’t know what this means yet for my radical feminism. I do know that I feel proud, grateful and profoundly relieved to be just one of a number of wonderful transsexual women who are coming up with our own radical analysis of gender, trans*-forming insights we gather from elsewhere into an articulation of our own reality on our own terms. And I hope that the practices we inseparably interweave with those ideas and the community around which those ideas grow up will continue to empower the spiritual, political, intellectual, physical and mental health of trans* women, as so many other movements have not.