Daily Archives: September 22, 2005

And speaking of Mother Earth…

In my previous post about the gender politics of hurricanes, I mentioned some feminist professors’ suggestion that “feminist” thinking on natural disasters involves reverence for “mother earth.”

That brings me to an intriguing question.

Natural disasters (and unnatural ones as well, such as the September 11 terrorist attacks) are often followed by a lot of religious soul-searching, with people wondering how a good, merciful, all-powerful God could allow such terrible things to happen. (Not so much post-Katrina, perhaps because everyone was too busy pointing fingers at human culprits to blame God.)

The question is: how come the radical environmentalists — the ones for whom environementalism is not merely a commitment to securing a livable environment for human beings, but a nature religion — never ask these kinds of questions? Why doesn’t the “nature good, humans bad” crowd ever wonder how a good, benevolent, harmonious Nature can allow tens of thousands of her children to die horrible deaths? Think about it: if Mother Earth were really a mother, she’d have to be hauled in for child abuse.

Of course, some on the left root for destruction. As Vanity Fair‘s James Wolcott opined in a now-infamous post about a year ago:

I root for hurricanes. When, courtesy of the Weather Channel, I see one forming in the ocean off the coast of Africa, I find myself longing for it to become big and strong–Mother Nature’s fist of fury, Gaia’s stern rebuke. Considering the havoc mankind has wreaked upon nature with deforesting, stripmining, and the destruction of animal habitat, it only seems fair that nature get some of its own back and teach us that there are forces greater than our own. … So there’s something disappointing when a hurricane doesn’t make landfall, or peters out into a puny Category One.

(This post, by the way, is now prefaced by Wolcott’s snarky invitation to “right-wing bloggers” — which presumably includes everyone who doesn’t subscribe to his own brand of bien-pensant leftism — to go ahead and use this post as his “gift to them.” Thanks, Mr. Wolcott.)

The lady on the Women’s Studies List who thinks that the feminine principle is sadly out of balance in our world isn’t quite as eloquent as Mr. Wolcott, but she does think that “perhaps in its own way nature is trying to balance itself through the hurricane.” Sweet.

Tell me how this brand of hateful religious zealotry is different from the right-wing kind which holds that hurricanes are God’s punishment for assorted human sins?

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Hurricanes and feminism?

No, this is not a joke (at least, not an intentional one). Hurricanes and feminism. If you thought the racial politics of Katrina were absurd, wait till you see the gender spin.

In the days after the disaster, there was a rather animated discussion of Hurricane Katrina on the Women’s Studies List, an email forum/subscription list for women’s studies professors and instructors. There, along with standard rhetoric about racism and the awfulness of Bush (“The silver lining is that the Bush administration is completely under fire right now”), there was a lot talk about how to analyze the tragedy in class as a feminist issue.

Funny, I thought that hurricanes and natural disasters in general are pretty gender-neutral (at least now that hurricanes are given both male and female names). But no: “Please,” wrote one professor, “let us recognize that the most vulnerable people that were impacted by this disaster were women, such as the disabled, the mothers with infants, the elderly woman in her wheelchair who was left to die, while her rotting corpse was covered over in a white sheet.” I will concede that due to high rates of single motherhood in poor urban neighborhoods, there were undboutedly more women in New Orleans who were sole caretakers of small children. But disability is now a female condition? Elderly men in wheelchairs didn’t die?

If there was a “women’s issue” here, it was the fact that in the lawless atmosphere that followed the flood, women in general were almost certainly more vulnerable to crime and to sex crimes in particular (though men were probably under greater pressure to act as protectors of women and children; and there are media accounts of female perpetrators of violence, as well). But interestingly, the women’s studies list discussion glossed over that, since to condemn violence and lawlessness would be racially un-PC, and women’s studies is rigidly bound by the leftist orthodoxy of identity politics of all kinds. (For a great analysis of the topic, see Professing Feminism: Education and Indoctrination in Women’s Studies by former Women’s Studies professors Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge.) The same prof whose comment is cited above went on to say, “And, with regards to GENDER, please let’s not forget how black MEN and BOYS were cast in a most familiar trope of criminality through images of ‘looting’ and ‘lawlessness.'”

Others on the list speculated that the federal government ignored Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco’s plea for help because, heck, she’s just a woman (though Blanco failed the sisterhood test for being so insensitive as to criticize the people who didn’t evacuate and for endorsing a shoot-to-kill policy on looters). Then there was this observation:

Another aspect of the disaster that could be construed as a feminist issue is the ridiculous misuse of our country’s resources and tax-dollars which have been poured into a pointless war by a male dominated “war-mongering” government. On a spiritual level the feminine principle has been thrown seriously out of balance by a government which never had any intention of nurturing, protecting, or supporting its own people.

War is male, nurturing is female; gotta love the clichés. (Condoleeza Rice, of course, is not a “real woman” on this list.)

Someone also brought up a class discussion of “ecofeminism,” “Mother Earth,” and “the Goddess.”

So, in asking students to think how urban planning, development, and responses to natural disasters would be conceived differently if we viewed our planet as a living Terra Madre (Mother Earth), they began to add a different dimension to feminist analysis of this tragedy.

Many imagined that everything, from saving the wetlands of New Orleans, to placing emphasis on redesigning a city for safety with housing and levees that were built to guard against the wrath of hurricanes, would have been in place.

It has also allowed us to “think globally” in terms of the global warming that will increase the frequency of hurricanes like Katrina and the ways in which even Nature enters into the realm of politics…

Bet you didn’t know that building levees to guard against hurricanes required particularly feminist thinking.

Luckily, unlike the race-baiting of the Al Sharptons and the Randall Robinsons, the rhetoric of the feminist wing of the looney left rarely seeps into the mainstream, largely staying confined to the nutty professors and their students. Sadly, however, this is a stark example of feminism marginalizing itself. Is there any wonder that most young women in college today regard it as an “F-word”?

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The politics of Katrina

“May you live in interesting times,” says the old Chinese curse. Well, I’m starting to blog in interesting times, freshly in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

For some people, the Katrina debacle has been the tipping point in going over to the anti-Bush camp. My reaction, strangely, has been almost the opposite. By the way, I did not vote for Bush in the last election, and my readers may recall I have been highly critical of Republicans on a number of issues, from anti-gay bigotry to Terri Schiavo. But the post-Katrina combination of hysteria and glee from the Bush-haters has been so revolting, it’s pushing me in the other direction. (For examples see the links here and here; see also this thread and this one, where a poster inquires, “Louisiana voted for Bush, twice. Is Katrina a form of divine retribution?”) When it was widely believed there were 10,000 dead in New Orleans alone, some people could think of nothing better than to gloat that Chimpy BusHitler had been taken down a peg. How compassionate. Yes, Bush deserves plenty of criticism, for everything from the cronyism and cluelessness at FEMA to an initially nonchalant response to the disaster (strumming the guitar while New Orleans drowned) to that amazingly stupid comment about Trent Lott’s house rising from the rubble. And yes, I know that to some extent the buck stops with the president. But a lot of the charges leveled at Bush have been so absurdly unfair that it only makes me more sympathetic.

And no, I’m not excusing the weaselly and sometimes downright dishonest attempts of some pro-Bush spinners to push off all responsibility on state and local officials (including the claim, which made its way to Fox News Special Report with Brit Hume, that New Orleans mayor C. Ray Nagin only ordered a mandatory evacuation after Bush “pleaded” with him to do so). But why is it any better for so many the left to pin all the blame on Bush and dismiss all talk of the responsibility (or lack thereof) of the state and local authorities as so much pro-Bush spin? Read this Knight-Ridder investigative report and tell me that the primary blame lies in Washington. Everyone was clueless. Everyone was shamefully unprepared. Perhaps the most amazing revelation in this story is this:

Though several government agencies were certain by 6 p.m. on Monday that New Orleans’ levee system had given way, no official screamed for urgent help when daylight hours might still have permitted a rescue effort.

By that time, water had been pouring from the damaged 17th Street Canal for perhaps as long as 15 hours. A National Guard Bureau timeline places the breach at 3 a.m. Monday and an Army Corps of Engineers official said a civilian phoned him about the problem at 5 a.m., saying he had heard about it from a state policeman.

But officials sounded no alarm until Tuesday morning, after the city had been flooding for at least 24 hours.

I’m sure someone, somewhere will come up with an explanation of how that’s Bush’s fault, too.

By the way, in case you haven’t heard, Bush cutting funding for flood control projects in Louisiana was not the problem. And neither was global warming.

To all this, add the stoking of racial divisions with the charge that federal aid to the victims in New Orleans was slow because they were black (thank you, Harry Shearer at the Huffington Post, for putting that to rest with a post about Katrina’s neglected white victims). The race-baiting reached its nadir when two Air America hosts, appearing on MSNBC’s “The Situation with Tucker Carlson“, refused to condemn the Rev. Louis Farrakhan’s demented suggestion that white people had deliberately blown up the levees in New Orleans in order to flood the black neighborhoods. (Chuck D.: “You cannot blame people for coming up with conspiracy theories when they look on television and see that the government is four days late in saving people that are supposed its citizens.” Rachel Maddow: “Conspiracy theories don‘t necessarily help but you have to understand where they come from. They come from people feeling like this disaster had a real racial component. I mean it was a majority black city that was absolutely abandoned by the country where people went through stuff they never should have gone through.”)

Add to that the bizarre charge that complaints about looting in New Orleans were “racist” — a pretty racist claim it itself, since it implies that looting is a “black thing.” (And please, let’s drop the B.S. about how the looters were just desperate people in need of food and other basic necessities. Yes, some people broke into stores to get basic necessities. But see this account by a British tourists who says that “looters … tried to sell the stranded guests [at his hotel] mobile phones, radios and clothes.”) Add to this cries of “ethnic cleansing against starved, tired, half dead black Americans” when the military arrived in New Orleans on September 2 for the rescue, evacuation and crime control.

Sure, some on the right have made stupid and callous statement in Katrina’s aftermath (see Sen. Rick Santorum blaming the victims who didn’t evacuate even though many didn’t have the means, or American Spectator editor George Neumayr blaming rap music and affirmative action, or the Hoover Institution’s Victor Davis Hanson claiming that the Katrina response hadn’t been a miserable failure after all). But on the whole, the Hate Week on the left has been far worse. The left on Katrina has been much like the right on Terri Schiavo: hysterical, paranoid, shrill, hate-filled, and not exactly reality-based.

It’s enough to make me want to be on the other side.

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