Tag Archives: colonialism

Peeling off a label

I don’t really identify with gender. However, the practical reality is that I have a female-appearing body and because of that I am subject to the sexism and hazards women face. I have identified with feminism, but I’m increasingly unsure about what the word now means, or whether I want to be part of it.

I definitely do not want to be part of the white feminism that talks over the global majority or treats them as victims to be saved. I don’t want to be part of the way white feminism can be complicit in racism, and in perpetuating racial stereotypes. 

I do not want to be part of the cis-feminism that is so quick to shout ‘erasure’ if there’s a person with a cervix in the room or a parent who gave birth. I’m sick of the actual erasure of non-binary folk and trans folk and how that impacts on their safety. Our safety. I’m sick of the idea that acknowledging trans and non-binary folk somehow undermines or harms the idea of womanhood or female identity. 

I do not want to be part of the biological essentialism that causes so much pain to women who don’t have all of the ‘woman parts’ – the women who were born with different bodies, the women who have lost body parts or functions to illness, accident and operations and who should not have their identity threatened by this. Not everyone who thinks of themselves as female bleeds, for many different reasons. I don’t want to be part of a feminism that throws women under a bus for not conforming enough to gender stereotypes.

I do want women to be safer. I want an end to gender based violence and to all other forms of gender inequality. I want equality of respect and dignity, I want equal chances of healthcare needs being met, I want an end to the pay gap. I want everyone to be safer, and to do that we have to deconstruct patriarchal and colonial structures and mindsets. I want to work with anyone who is pushing for that. I want an end to racism, and classism and ableism. They’re all interconnected.

What if we re-thought land ownership?

Land ownership is mostly about violence.  There are places around the world where land is held collectively by the people who live on it, but that’s not mostly what we get. Where land is bought and sold, it’s all about those with the most resources being entitled to control the bounty freely available from the Earth. This tends to have its roots in conquest. Land has gone from common ownership, to being under control of relatively few people. At some point, this will probably have involved war or aggressive colonialism.

There is no moral justification for letting a few people benefit from the violence in our shared history.  That your ancestor had a big sword and was willing to kill should not be a basis for deciding who now has control of land. All too often, we see vast areas of land exploited for the benefit of the few, with no eye to the good of most people, the needs of nature or the urgent need for decarbonisation.  In the UK, the grouse moor is the prime example of this – areas of land that are burned to provide habitat for grouse so that rich people can hunt them. Grouse moors are known to contribute to flooding elsewhere, they deprive regular people of land access, and for what?

Meanwhile in our urban environments, homes and areas of land are bought as investment and may be left empty because the people who own them are only thinking about their personal profits. We’re not obliged to allow this. Laws could be changed to prevent this kind of behaviour. We could have a much more equitable approach to land.

We could cap how much land a person can own. We could penalise people for misusing the land. We could redistribute land ownership more fairly, or bring more land into public ownership. We could require public green spaces as part of urban planning permission.

While we’re at it, we could challenge ideas around private ownership. With a small percentage of people owning far more than they can use while vast numbers of people have little or nothing, we could afford to rethink how we distribute resources. We could start rejecting the violence inherent in certain kinds of ownership. We could decide that exploiting masses of people so that a few people can have far more than they need, isn’t an acceptable way to carry on. We could re-write some of our narratives around entitlement and fairness and question whether ‘deserve’ really should mean being able to profit from someone else having taken land by force at some point in history.

We could question the whole idea of owning land.

Druidry and Rabbits

Rabbits are interestingly complicated from a Druid perspective. On one hand, they’re cute, fluffy mammals, and on the other, they could be the poster-creature for humans messing up.

We’ve been moving rabbits around the world for a long time. When exactly they came to the UK is uncertain – could have been the Romans, could have been the Normans. Certainly the Normans had to build warrens for them because apparently rabbits back then weren’t very tough at all! Old rabbit warrens in the landscape can easily be confused for other things. There’s an interesting pair near me that, in local legend, are supposedly mass graves for a smallpox hospital.

Rabbits in Australia have been an ecological disaster. They may be small and cute, but being in a landscape where they don’t belong has had a series impact on other species. Tree loss, soil erosion and loss of other plant species causes huge knock on effects.

Then we get myxomatosis – a virus that originated in South America and turns out to have hideous, crippling effects on rabbits, who die slow and painful deaths from it. I’ve heard a lot of stories about how it was deliberately brought into the UK to control rabbit populations – a horrible choice by any measure.

We move rabbits around so that we can eat them. We keep them as pets. We use the fur of Angora rabbits for clothing, but the treatment of those rabbits, is often appalling. The problems rabbits cause in the world stem from our human assumption that they are there for us to use in whatever way we see fit. When we colonise landscapes, our impact isn’t just about moving people in, and humans – especially white, European humans – have caused a lot of harm by deliberately and accidentally moving creatures to places where they do not belong.

Rabbits invite us to look at how we use power. They invite us to square up to a long history of ecological damage and arrogance. They are intimately tied up with colonial histories and the history of invasion. From a Druid perspective, they have much to tell us about what a lack of natural justice looks like, and what human hubris does in the world.