Blog against sexism, 8 March 2007Today is International Women’s Day, and in honor of that, bloggers are banding together for Blog Against Sexism Day. So what do environmental concerns and women’s issues have in common (and how much do I hate the phrase “women’s issues” anyway? I can’t think of one of ’em that’s not everyone’s issue)?

Well, where to begin?

Sexual health, contraception, and population
Access to contraception and the level of empowerment to use that contraception has a direct effect on the number of children a woman will have — a clear environmental issue, since more babies means more consumption of resources. Increasing education and access to contraception at home and abroad can improve women’s lives, raise the standard of living, and lessen the environmental impacts of humanity — all of which will be key if we want to make this whole “living” thing work.

And even having access to contraception may be damaging to the environment, so increasing the level of awareness, educational resources, and options is a must. Even our toys have environmental implications!

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The union of environmental concerns and women’s rights is especially apparent in developing countries, where population is increasing the fastest, and where having more children most significantly impacts the quality of life. Women account for 70 percent of the world’s absolute poor — those living on less than a dollar a day. And the poor, both in the U.S. and abroad, already face some of the most harmful effects of environmental malfeasance, will face the most severe effects of global warming. So empowering women is a huge environmental concern.

So everyone knows that sex sells, and for environmentalists and women, using women’s bodies to sell more … stuff … just isn’t OK. According to one advertising study, 62 percent of white women and 53 percent of black women used in advertising were “scantily clad” — in bikinis, underwear, etc. For men, the figure was only 25 percent. So whether the stuff is vodka or pantyhose, women’s bodies are being used to up consumption — dangerous for us and the environment.

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And while we’re on the subject of consumption, let’s take a moment to think about all the junk pushed on women to make us taller, darker, lighter, prettier, skinnier, curvier, curlier, straighter, and womanly-er. Of course there’s the waste issue, as well as all the nasty chemicals in cosmetics, the abundance of petroleum in many beauty products, and the environmental impacts of our wardrobe. All this pressure to look hot is bad for our psyches, our physical health, and the environment.

And to get a plug in here for an outstanding online effort, our favorite eco-friendly sanitary product company, Seventh Generation, has an outstanding campaign going on right now. Visit their site, select your location, and they’ll donate a box of chlorine-free sanitary products to a women’s shelter in your state.

Women remain underrepresented in the sciences
Women account for only 20 percent of all Ph.Ds in computer science, less than 27 percent in physics, and only 17 percent in engineering. Girls are simply not encouraged to go into the sciences in the same way men are, and many a woman who may have been the next great biologist or engineer to address global warming issues has been discouraged from a career in sciences. Inspiring more girls to work in the sciences may be what saves us all.

Women have been representin’ for a long time in the environmental movement
Rachel Carson. Majora Carter. Sylvia Earle. Elizabeth Kolbert. Jane Goodall. Wangari Maathai. Dian Fossey. Julia “Butterfly” Hill. Rosalie Edge. Marina da Silva. The list goes on and on.