What does sex have to do with nature?

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Nature is always seen as feminine. The term “Mother Nature” has been used for centuries to describe the properties and characterization of nature. Since nature seems to foster growth and nurture the world that we live it, people associate it with femininity due to the strong relationship between these characteristics and past societal norms. Women have typically been expected to work in the home, raise the children and foster growth within the home. Even though times are changing and men are seen more often taking on nurturing roles, why is nature still seen as being feminine?

The term Mother Nature comes from the relation between female goddesses being the ones controlling nature while the male gods had more aggressive and controlling jobs. Females have always been seen as the ones to take care of the house and children. This motherly role was soon depicted to encompass the whole world through nature. This idea also connects to the idea of femininity being pure and innocent and untouched, just as nature is. This societal view of the characteristic female, enhanced the idea of tying femininity in terms of “Mother Nature” to nature instead of maybe a more masculine figure.

The fact that is term is still present can also be attributed to the fact that the more civilized we become the more “man” tries to adapt nature. It seems as though Mother Nature is losing its power and is being dominated by man. Forests are being cut down and cities are being built while nature is becoming pliable to the needs of humans. The idea that man is dominating Mother Nature, relates to societal norm that men dominate women. It shows again gender norms of femininity being subservient to masculinity.

Even though there is a strong connection between the growth that nature encompasses and feminine properties, people relate more destructive aspects of nature with femininity too. Almost all hurricanes are named after females, although since 1979 they have begun to rotate male names in. In a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they alleged that hurricanes with female names are more deadly than those with male names because people do not take them as seriously. Do you believe this to be true? More masculine names produce more fear and the idea that it is more powerful. Adding masculine traits onto a storm causes society to view it as more destructive. Society does not associate characteristics such as powerful and aggressive with femininity, or female names. When they asked people how they would react to a storm with the female name, compared to a male named storm, people were less likely to seek shelter in the case of the female storm. Although this study failed to account for many other variables, the data was clear that sexism exists within the context of nature.

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One thought on “What does sex have to do with nature?

  1. I’ve studied Spanish for most of my life, and I’ve always been interested in the gendered endings of different nouns. You’re right– the words for “nature,” “war” and “violence” have feminine endings, but forces of nature, like tornadoes and hurricanes, have a masculine ending in Spanish. Just as “Mother Nature” can be destructive, so can “Father Time”. Because of this, I don’t think that there’s a very direct negative correlation between feminine words and bad occurrences.
    However, I think it’s interesting that you bring up the idea that our subconscious could associate traditionally female names with a more delicate storm– NOAA does switch evenly between male and female names for hurricanes, etc., so it’s very possible that that study has legitimacy to it.

    Like

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