The Mother Tree : Understanding the Spiritual Root of Our Ecological Crisis
Dialogue : A Journal of Mormon Thought
Imagine two circles, largely but not completely overlapping. The center, a tall oval of convergence, and on each side, facing crescents. One of the two circles is the dominant element of culture, men. The other, the muted element of culture, women. Both the crescent that belongs to men only and the crescent that belongs to women only are wilderness. However, as Elaine Showalter explains, “All of male consciousness is within the circle of the Dominant structure and thus accessible to or structured by language.” Women know what the male crescent is like, even if they have never seen it, because it becomes spoken culture, the histories and mythologies of a people. These myths shape ideologies surrounding built and natural environments. What is understood in the twenty-first century as “nature” is really a curated environment built around industrial needs, urbanization, and selected areas of wildness, the boundaries of which are ever-eroding. The earth’s wildness has no place in “nature,” which has become man’s property. But the experience of women as women, their wilderness crescent, is unshared with men—utterly other—and therefore to men, unnatural. In the words of Ursula K. Le Guin: "This is what civilization has left out, what culture excludes, what the Dominants call animal, bestial, primitive, undeveloped, unauthentic— what has not been spoken, and when spoken, has not been heard—what we are just beginning to find words for, our words not their words: the experience of women. For dominance-identified men and women both, that is true wildness. Their fear of it is ancient, profound, and violent. The misogyny that shapes every aspect of our civilization is the institutionalized form of male fear and hatred of what they have denied and therefore cannot know, cannot share: that wild country, the being of women."