The Ecology of Women issue of On The Issue Magazine
How are women affected by toxins in water, air, products? And how can feminists respond? On The Issues Magazine, Spring 2011, looks at new frames for environmental activism.

"The Ecology of Women"
by The Editors


Every single person on earth carries some "body burden" of synthetic chemicals and toxins that they have -- involuntarily -- absorbed or swallowed. These toxins – including ones found in pesticides, fire retardants, animal-feed additives -- are ubiquitous, and some are now identified as possible culprits in breast cancer, early puberty, infertility, miscarriages, birth defects and more.

Just as the feminist health movement of the 1970s created a revolution in healthcare when women began to connect the dots between what was happening to their bodies and how their bodies were treated by institutionalized medicine, pharmaceutical interests and regulatory groups, another feminist revolution may be needed now to address new understandings in environmental health.

The Spring 2011 edition of On The Issues Magazine -- "The Ecology of Women" -- looks at environmental health, especially the harm caused by small amounts of toxins and chemicals that enter our bodies from the air, water, food and consumer products.

"Ecology" itself is "a branch of science concerned with the interrelationships of organisms and their environments." In our provocative new edition, "The Ecology of Women," we are looking at the gender implications of the environment, and also at how feminist thinkers can address these concerns anew.

Tribute to Feminist Health Activist

This edition follows the path of writer and activist Barbara Seaman and also pays special tribute to her. Seaman's work stands as a particularly potent model of questioning the status quo. In our Tribute to Seaman, we capture the voices of impressive feminist writers and activists: Cindy Pearson, executive director of National Women's Health Network; Merle Hoffman, editor and publisher of On The Issues Magazine, Judy Norsigian, executive director of Our Bodies, Ourselves; authors Barbara Ehrenreich, Jennifer Baumgardner, Leora Tanenbaum and others who also wrote separate articles for this edition -- Laura Eldridge, Molly Ginty, Karen Charman and Theresa Noll. Art editor Linda Stein offers a moving "mood portrait" of Seaman, too.

Our articles on women and ecology look at big-picture thinking and on-the-ground movements. Now is the time to swing open the doors of "intersectional" feminism to ecology: connection-building in health, organizing and determined activism is needed more than ever.

In Acting as if Future Generations Matter, environmental lawyer and activist Carolyn Raffensperger explains that, despite mounting, and sometimes frightening, evidence of environmental harm, there is hope in adopting a precautionary principle to end the use of unregulated chemicals. The work of another modern-day pioneer, Sandra Steingraber, is heard in a video clip by the outstanding filmmaker, Chanda Chevannes, who also contributes a rich essay about her discovery of toxins in breast milk – hers and a beluga whale's -- in A tale of two nursing mothers. Theresa Noll reminds us in Moving the Silence: Rachel Carson's Groundbreaking Work that the environmental movement came into being because of the 1962 book, Silent Spring.

Women Taking New Roles

Eleanor Bader reports on the activities of Breast Cancer Action in San Francisco, as it fights to remove synthetic hormones from milk, while Margie Kelly tells an amazing story about mothers who used their consumer power to force the removal of baby bottles made with a harmful chemical in Message in BPA Baby Bottles: Don't Mess With Moms. In Little Girl Lost: Early Puberty Hides Environmental Injustice, Michelle Chen explores research on girls and the complex web of environmental and socioeconomic influences that is altering their development, along with the response of one New York community organization.

Another series of stories take readers to geographic locations that are experiencing environmental stresses. Karen Charman, in a feature that became especially timely with the disasters in Japan, uses her original research about the Three Mile Island nuclear power accident in Pennsylvania to explain potential harms from radioactivity in Nuclear Revival: Lessons for Women from the Three Mile Island Accident. Jacqui Patterson, in Gulf Oil Drilling Disaster: Gendered Layers of Impact, describes multiple health, family and economic gender differentials she found after the BP oil spill. Molly M. Ginty follows a trail through The Everglades, the only place in the U.S. declared an endangered site by the UN, in Swamped: Trying to Save Fragile Bodies. Elayne Clift looks at water – we all need it, but women around the world suffer in especially cruel ways when it is scarce -- in Life's Precious Trio: Women, Water and Health.

Laura Eldridge explains in Adding Environmental Footprints to Birth Control Choices how to prevent pharmaceutical drugs, including the Pill, from damaging the environment, while Elizabeth Black runs through the eco-standing of sex toys in Mother Nature Gets Naughty.

As usual, On The Issues Magazine carries poetry and art. "The Ecology of Women" features three poets selected by Poetry Co-Editor Judith Arcana – Marge Piercy, Denise Bergman and Frances Payne Adler -- who describe women coping in their own perilous environments. In The Art Perspective, curated by Linda Stein, artist Mary Miss shows a unique outdoor installation in India the she designed to elevate nature and well-being.

We have now added a new feature, allowing you to comment directly on stories. And we welcome your thinking about "The Ecology of Women," whether a story about Barbara Seaman or a letter, article or essay about feminism and environmental health. We add new ideas regularly in our special feature, The Café. The future of women's health, lives and ecology means continuing to make connections, find patterns and seek balance; we offer this edition of On The Issues Magazine as our contribution to this vital endeavor.

Also see: Tribute to Barbara Seaman: Triggering a revolution in women's health care in this edition of On The Issues Magazine.


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