Feminist & artist. Writing & visuals.

As a woman, my country is the whole world

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21.6.16

Nationalism, religion & individualism are three very pernicious things. The first and second involve an unwavering commitment to an abstract idea of a righteous authority, and the last implies that authority can be found within yourself. This is not to differentiate the latter from the former: our country, our God is misleading - it is yours. Subjectivity is an individual phenomenon, but it is legitimised with numbers. Faith, whether in the name of a country, religious belief, or personal opinion, by definition, is an outlook that pays no mind to scientific methods of reason, or difference of opinion. In these instances, 'we' is not plural - it denotes a shared mindset, one that functions on the faith of personal righteousness. It limits inclusivity and ultimately, legitimate personhood, to shared experience, functioning more as a royal we rather than any real collectivist thought.

Virginia Woolf articulated this as a gendered concept:


"if you insist upon fighting to protect me, or “our” country, let it be understood, soberly and rationally between us, that you are fighting to gratify a sex instinct which I cannot share; to procure benefits which I have not shared and probably will not share; but not to gratify my instincts, or to protect either myself or my country. For, the outsider will say, ‘in fact, as a woman, I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world"

Ana Mendieta's Earth Body works are a great artistic accompinanment to this quote. Visually, Mendieta's female body assimilates itself to the environment, rendering her partially invisible, and commenting on feminine socialisation. Invisibilty, here, is a positive - for women, a 'natural state' is a discouraged mind/body unity. Roni Horn's Mother, Wonder draws parallels between the natural world and the female body, both of which have been exploited by man-made justifications of collective disregard. This luxury of ignorance is not something afforded to women, for we have, for centuries, been excluded from the religious, national and interpersonal 'we' that is inherent in these exploitations that have come to define the world we live in today. In 'whose women?' the author analyses Woolf's quote: "Only recently admitted to citizenship, on terms which we're grudging at best, women, she suggested, had little to gain from patriotism or nationalism." In our day to day life, women have been raised to see themselves from the outside in, with 'feminine' traits like empathy and understanding encouraged and commonly thought to be in opposition with the more 'masculine' logic and reason, but an awareness that extends beyond the individual is crucial to our betterment as humans and in no way illogical. I came across a quote by Gus Speth that captures this:

"I used to think the top environmental problems were biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that with thirty years of good science we could address those problems. But I was wrong. The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy...and to deal with those we need a spiritual and cultural transformation - and we scientists don't know how to do that."

Divisionary ideas, those which separate man from man, man from woman, or humans from nature must be abolished if we are going to live in unity with the world and each other. For feminists, we must not accept what Mary Daly describes as "male fabrications as the true texture of reality" - the true textures of reality cannot be found in any patriotic, religious or gendered dogma. As a woman, my country is the whole world, and we should seek to make that apply for all through "spiritual and cultural transformation" rather than elbowing our way into an deeply insincere plurality.