Happy Friday, loves! I’m so glad you’re here. It’s been an absolute sh*t show of a week— personally, politically, environmentally. That you choose to spend some small part of these crazy weeks with me means everything.
If the time you spend here is meaningful enough to you that you think it would help someone else, too, please consider sharing the newsletter around. Growing this conversation is my central mission, and I can’t do it as well without your help. XO, Asha
Like I said, it’s been an absolute sh*t show of a week. Major flooding in and around New York City due to extreme rainfall killed more than forty people. At the same time, Hurricane Ida has decimated communities in the Gulf region. Both water-based disasters came on the heels of the 20 people killed in Tennesee recently due to extreme flooding, not to mention the wildfires that have raged, per usual in recent years, in California. A recent New York Times article pointed out the obvious for many of us, that these overlapping disasters make one thing unavoidably clear— the U.S. is not ready to effectively address the climate change crisis.
Meanwhile, down in Texas, the GOP has managed to effectively end Roe v. Wade with their latest abortion law, which prohibits any procedures after six weeks of pregnancy. They were aided in their quest to turn women into breeding stock by the Supreme Court, which is increasingly using its shadow docket to enforce right-wing, unpopular political priorities upon the general populace.
These issues are not unrelated. In fact, our inability to effectively confront climate change and our continuing political insistence on controlling the bodies of women are intimately connected.
As part of the research for my book, this week I’ve been reading Women Who Run With The Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés. I don’t know exactly how I managed not to read this book up until now because it was a hugely important text for many women of my generation. Reading it I found myself wishing I had read it when it came out in the ’90s. It would have made so many moments of the last thirty years of my life make so much more sense. I would have been, at various points, so much less apologetic about the one I am with Estés’ wisdom to draw from.
Ah, well. We find things when we are meant to, and this week was the perfect time for me to be reading this important book. Not just because it speaks to the condition of my personal life, but because it speaks to our present moment in the world.
Estés writes, “Where there is a wound on the psyches and bodies of women, there is a corresponding wound at the same site in the culture itself, and finally on Nature herself. In a true holistic psychology all worlds are understood as interdependent, not as separate entities. It is not amazing that in our culture there is an issue about carving up a woman’s natural body, [and] that there is a corresponding issue about carving up the landscape...”
Similarly, it is no surprise that in a culture that presumes to remove women’s autonomy over our bodies— as if we are just dumb animals with no agency, created simply to breed the next generation of workers and consumers to feed the capitalist machine whether we choose to or not— that we also approach the planet as if it is just an inanimate resource with no will of its own, existing only to be exploited for our particular use and profit.
We are idiots if we don’t acknowledge that both women and the planet do actually have agency and inexorable will, as well as a backlog of understandable rage and very, very long memories.
Throughout the history of Western culture, women have been associated with the body, while men have been associated with mind and spirit. Within the context of this compartmentalized and hierarchical system, women, bodies, and the planet have been things to conquer, transcend, or exploit. Today this system rules our environmental policy and our social policy as it relates to women’s bodies. It is both deeply disembodied and lacks integrity.
Describing our objectification of the body (and thus women), Estes could as easily be describing the misapprehension of our relationship to the planet: “The idea in our culture of the body solely as sculpture is wrong. Body is not marble. That is not its purpose. Its purpose is to protect, contain, support, and fire the spirit and soul within it, to be a repository for memory, to fill us with feeling.”
So, how do we get out of this mess? Estés argues that we have to change our perspective, flip the script, and understand it is not “the soul that informs the body”, but “the body that informs the soul.” Likewise, it is not we humans who control the planet, but the planet which holds and controls us. We can either submit to her needs and cycles or perish.
In addition to our hierarchical mind/body split, at issue is our complete and utter terror at the natural reality of limits and death. As regards the environment, we want to believe we can suck up planetary resources endlessly with only minor tweaks on the surface to our current systems of extraction, rather than having to radically rethink our entire relationship to the limits of the ecosystems we depend on. We would prefer to rush headlong towards our own extinction than accept that nothing lasts forever.
We also want to somehow keep women birthing without allowing us any control over either our role in life or in death, as if women were similarly an inexhaustible resource for extraction rather than actual people. We pretend as if women (and society) can endlessly birth and absorb new humans with no limits or consequences.
We also deeply fear that women, given the freedom to actually control our role in life and death, would simply cease to participate and kill off the human race out of spite. This deep-seated fear of women’s power over life and death is patriarchal projection at its finest.
None of this avoidance of the reality of the life/death/life cycle makes any useful sense. Not only is it exploitative and wrong, but it is cheapening our lives and hobbling our ability to meet the crises at hand effectively. “There is nothing of value without death,” Estes reminds us:
Without death there are no lessons… While those who are initiated are unafraid of Lady Death, the culture often encourages that we throw Skeleton Woman over the cliffs, for not only is she fearsome, it takes too long to learn her ways. A soul-less world encourages faster, quicker, thrashing about to find the one filament that seems to be the one that will burn forever and right now. However, the miracle we are seeking takes time: time to find it, time to bring it to life.
If we had made these connections between environmental and social policy in the ‘90s we might have had more time, but we are past time now to confront ourselves and get our cultural soul sh*t together. Perhaps, like so many of us personally, we needed as a culture to hit rock bottom before we could commit to radical transformation.
I hope to God we don’t need to fall any farther, but only we get to decide. Is the work ahead scary? Yes. But, so what?
“Fear is a poor excuse for not doing the work,” Estes admonishes us. “We are all afraid. It is nothing new. If you are alive, you are fearful.” And yet, she instructs us, “Three things differentiate living from soul versus living from ego only. They are: the ability to sense and learn new ways, the tenacity to ride a rough road, and the patience to learn deep love over time.”
I want us to learn a deep love for women and the Earth. How about you?
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