Marginalised groups will always be hit the hardest during any crisis, such as cis and trans women, the LGBTQIA+ community, people of colour and disabled people. This article talks about women in the traditional roles, that are still widespread in almost every society, and how they will be one of the groups most negatively affected by climate change with a focus on peripheral or “developing” countries and why climate change is a Feminist Issue.
Women’s contributions to domestic life are undeniably vital. This becomes even more evident in peripheral countries (in the Gramscian sense) where survival still dominates. There women are incapacitated with work and abuse to the point where resistance to the patriarchal-capitalist system is unimaginable. In addition to the challenges women in Western countries face, women in peripheral countries take on roles of both ‘productive’ work such as agricultural labour as well as ‘reproductive’ work such as care roles for children and the elderly and sick (to name a few). Climate change affects food and water security and people’s health on a massive scale. A study by Médecins Sans Frontieres has shown that already due to changes in the rainy seasons the cases of malaria and other water borne illnesses have increased in certain parts of the world. The people that look after the sick and injured will, as traditionally prescribed, be women, further resulting in the neglect of their own needs, health, and progress.
Water is the most talked about aspect that climate change will affect negatively. Changing water patterns and new schedules for floods and droughts will result in both food and water insecurities which no government will care to resolve. More than that, rising sea levels will result in shortages of freshwater; for every centimetre that the sea levels rise, sea water will penetrate freshwater two metres inland and thus create a shortage of freshwater for drinking and irrigation.
With climate change making living situations more precarious and stressful, it is mainly marginalised groups, and in this case particularly women’s, mental and physical health that will suffer. Patriarchal societies, and the men within them who do not fight the norms they are brought up with, will allow those in positions of power to relieve their stress by blaming, abusing, and exploiting the women in their communities even more than before. This would be in addition to the immense pressure that many women will already be subjected to as they try to keep their families alive, and if necessary sacrifice themselves for them and their community. Reports by the UN have pointed out that women when faced with food shortages or droughts, distribute their rations amongst their children and male family members, subjecting themselves to severe malnutrition and death.
Climate change is a feminist issue because it will be women, along with other marginalised groups, who will suffer the most and sacrifice the most. This is due to the gender roles they are appointed and expected to uphold. These two struggles are interlinked, as not only will the exploitation of women worsen, the degree of this being dependent on how badly affected their region is, but through this exploitation women will be unable to support their communities anymore, whether that may be due to burnouts, femicide, or sacrifice.
In our fight against patriarchy we need to remember to fight intersectionally and be anti-capitalist and remember why. Beating the patriarchy and with that destroying capitalism we follow an ecological agenda and stop women from further exploitation. This requires radical feminism that allows no room for patriarchal belittling and discrimination. Supporting women in the global south and the most exploited regions, as well as supporting black and native women is a must and we must all stand united and fight these interwoven threats to us and our sisters across the planet.