Sunday, December 04, 2005

Rachel Carson: Feminist of the Day:

Rachel Carson
Biologist, writer, ecologist
"Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species -- man -- acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world."

Rachel Carson is most famous for writing A Silent Spring, and exposing DDT for the poison that it is.

But she wasn't a feminist, a Life Magazine interview shortly before she died described her as "unmarried, but not a feminist" (5 words that say a lot about the attitudes towards women, marriage and feminism). She said: "I'm not interested in things done by women or by men but in things done by people." Unfortunately sexism affects all women, even those who want to ignore it. Those who had a vested interest in defending pestisides were more than happy to use sexism to try and silence her. She was portrayed as being a hysterical spinster (again a phrase which tells you a lot about the people who said it).

I understand why women want to believe that they, as an individual, can escape from a sexist society, that they can be a person not a woman, but unfortunately we can't. It's not those of us who draw attention to sexism that stop that from happening, but our sexist, misogynist society, which continues treating us like the other.

Conclusion: She says she's not a feminist, and I believe her, but her work was very important.


  1. Anonymous9:22 pm

    "I'm not interested in things done by women or by men but in things done by people."

    Doesn't this quote by Rachel Carson actually denote the world as the feminist would like it to be? I'm presuming that absolute equality is the aim for feminists such as yourself?

    In that case wouldn't Rachel be in some way correct for perceiving the world like that? She IS treating men and women as equals.


  2. Anonymous9:33 am

    Yeah, in the same way as some people say "I don't care whether people are black or white or green, I treat them all the same."

    The world as people would like it to be doesn't always correlate with the world as it actually is.

  3. Anonymous10:24 am

    gee, that didn't address the first statement at all.


  4. She may have wanted to live in a gender-blind world, but she didn't - as the sexist attacks on her by those who opposed her research proved. By acting as if you live in a gender blind world you don't actually do anything to bring one about.

  5. Anonymous4:06 pm

    well each to their own, not everyone is born to be an activist, and sometimes just setting an example is the best thing.


  6. Setting example as a member of a group who is being discriminated against isn't the best thing. Setting an example doesn't do anything.

  7. Anonymous9:59 pm

    Really, and there was me thinking that influential productive women such as Elizabeth Barrett-Browning and Katherine Mansfield (to name just two) might provide positive role models for women who wish to assert themselves in this misogynist world, silly me.

    Tell me, do you get to see any daylight or trees or anything when you walk around with your head jammed so far up your own arse?


  8. You're talking about something completely different. There's setting an example *to* members of a disadvantaged group of what you can achieve (and personally I think that's over-rated - I believe with women writers it's the resonance of what they write, not their example, that other women most benefit from). That's completely different from setting a member as a member of a disadvantaged group to ignore the prejudice against your group to those who discriminate against you. That was what you were talking about before - and it never got anyone anywhere.

    I am just about to post a comment policy - I will not host comments with personal insults. I didn't delete your comment this time, but will delete similar comments in the future.