Gendered Fields: Rural Women, Agriculture, and Environment

Gendered Fields: Rural Women, Agriculture, and Environment

Gendered Fields: Rural Women, Agriculture, and Environment

Gendered Fields: Rural Women, Agriculture, and Environment


Applying a feminist and environmentalist approach to her investigation of how the changing global economy affects rural women, Carolyn Sachs focuses on land ownership and use, cropping systems, and women's work with animals in highly industrialized as well as developing countries. Viewing rural women's daily lives in a variety of circumstances, Sachs analyzes the rich multiplicity of their experiences in terms of their gender, class, and race. Drawing on historical and contemporary research, rural women's writings, and in-depth interviews, she shows how environmental degradation results from economic and development practices that disadvantage rural women. In addition, she explores the strategies women use for resistance and survival in the face of these trends. Offering a range of examples from different countries, Gendered Fields will appeal to readers interested in commonalities and differences in women's knowledge of and interactions with the natural environment.


Portrayals and perceptions of rural women's lives range widely from romanticized harmonious images of women working with nature in bucolic settings, as portrayed by Sue Hubbell in A Country Year to representations of overworked, strong women grinding out their daily existence, as represented in Alice Walker Everyday Use and Tsitsi Dangarembga Nervous Conditions. Literature, theater, and other forms of cultural production generate particular portraits serving specific interests.

Sue Hubbell presents her life in the Ozark Mountains in the United States:

My share of the Ozarks is unusual and striking. My farm lies two hundred and fifty feet above a swift, showy river to the north and a small creek to the south, its run broken by waterfalls. Creek and river join just to the east, so I live on a peninsula of land. The back fifty acres are covered with secondgrowth timber, and I take my firewood there. Last summer when I was cutting firewood, I came across a magnificent black walnut, tall and straight, with no jutting branches to mar its value as a timber tree. I don't expect to sell it, although even a single walnut so straight and unblemished would fetch a good price, but I cut some trees near it to give it room. The botanic name for black walnut is Juglans nigra--"Black Nut Tree of God," a suitable name for a tree of such dignity, and I wanted to give it space. Over the past twelve years I have learned that a tree needs space to grow, that coyotes sing down by the creek in January, that I can drive a nail into oak only when it is green, that bees know more about making honey than I do, that love can become sadness, and that there are more questions than answers. (1983:xiii)

By contrast, Alice Walker describes an older African-American rural woman:

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