Most of the world’s food is produced by women– who are farmers in everything but name. Though they labor like any other farmer, because they are women they are not accorded respect as food producers.
“90% of women in the developing world, where most of the planet’s biological wealth is found, depend on their land for survival.”( Schultz, I.)
After men stole women’s land from them in Europe during the witch craze, everything fell apart in terms of food production. As usual, women’s work had been devalued and underestimated and once women were no longer allowed to grow their own food, mass hunger ensued. Communities in Western Europe lost the cultural knowledge specific to their environment. Most children these days in the U.K have never eaten anything that hasn’t been bought in a shop. Women don’t have knowledge of herbs– but that doesn’t matter anyway because most of the herbs have now all gone too.
This severance from land didn’t happen in quite the same way in Asia and other continents, and I’ll address that in another post.
In the U.S there was no mass land grab because women didn’t have the same connections to the land that European women had accumulated over centuries. Land of course was grabbed from the Native Americans by the incoming Europeans and therefore local knowledge and understanding of food was similarly underestimated and ignored.
Means of production was fully transferred into the hands of men on a mass scale for possibly the first time in history.
But because what they replaced older systems with–monocrops–was unsustainable, Western men began to look elsewhere for food supplies.
The history of slavery and colonialism is intertwined and that topic is too vast for me to address here. But what was at first a gradual but steady accumulation of capital has become, over the past two decades, a frantic hunt for MORE land. The males at the helm of western male supremacy have been searching for the means to sustain their empire in ever more unsustainable ways.
Since the mid 90s, Western governments have collaborated with companies such as TESCO to grab land from women all over the world, in what has culminated in mass exploitation of third world people, but more specifically, third world women.
Men in local councils in third world countries have gleefully collaborated with western companies to shore up their own power against their own women. In other words, Western involvement in poor countries is disastrous for women. Nobody is saving women over there. Not rich celebs nor rich governments. They’re actively harming women by teaching the local men that the means of production should be taken out of women’s hands. This destroys local economies and forces women to rely on men.
Women who were self-reliant no longer are because of western involvement.
Local men therefore collaborated with white western men to remove local women from their sustainable plots.
Women who had for centuries made a living selling their wares and providing food for the local community, have found themselves in the past two decades becoming seasonal workers for food conglomerates.
What Western men, and the local men of these countries didn’t (or did?) understand, was that women’s food production was sustaining their families and extended families. White men also exported the idea that women should rely on men for income and food. This notion has never been the case for most of the world. It is a fairly new invention. Once their land was gotten rid of, and women were forced to pick green beans all day for a paid wage, they and their families became dependent on western companies for survival.
A typical example of a seasonal worker is a woman who was forced to give up the plot of land that she used to grow foodstuffs to eat and trade with, and who is then employed by a company for 6 months of the year to pick whichever crop is needed in the supermarkets in the West. For the rest of the year she is unemployed and has to turn to prostitution to feed her family during those empty months.
Her crop is then flown halfway across the world to the rich countries, using up oil and “air miles.” so that it arrives at the supermarket still fresh. The process of transferring the vegetables from the African field to the UK supermarket is called “Supply Chain Management”.
Since I began researching this topic in 2002, I have found many examples of third world women suing TESCO for their poor treatment, but mostly for the fact they have no job for the majority of the year and now the local economy has been destroyed.
A quick google finds you all the info on this topic that you need, but as an example, a Guardian article from 2009:
In 2006, in an unusual act of defiance, a female fruit picker from South Africa condemned Tesco’s labour practices in person at the company’s annual general meeting, claiming that workers such as herself were receiving “breadline” wages.
South Africa supplies most of its deciduous fruit – apples, pears, plums and peaches – to Europe, especially the UK. Total exports from South Africa are valued at close to 1bn rand [£86m] a year, with around a third going to the UK.
The shit icing on the shit cake for these women is they don’t even recognize the food they’re picking. They don’t know what it is, and they don’t know how to cook it. And it doesn’t even grow very well in their country and usually requires vast amounts of water because the crop is not native to their soil. Sometimes surplus food is dumped into the community, under the guise of “Food Aid” but this makes things worse because the people who are still managing to make a living then have to compete with “free” food, and it further undercuts the local economy.
So any separatists who tell me they’re not dependent on these women, many of whom are mothers, mothers of boys no less, I would dearly like to see your fully sustainable ranches that provide all the food you need for yourselves and for other separatist women, all year round.
Because if you buy any food from a supermarket or a restaurant, ever, then you’re by proxy exploiting the labour of third world mothers. And I haven’t even got to clothes, flowers, shoes, household goods. Nor have I looked into female factory labor in the west and which percentage of those workers are mothers and so on. It’s endless.
Which isn’t a problem in itself, because it’s not your fault that you are the beneficiaries of global patriarchy. But don’t shit on them and expect me to say nothing.
The entire system is propped up by military violence at the ready. Do you think the military and police are not there to keep women in line? If it weren’t, we would just take our land back. Get together and reclaim our stolen land. But the violence would be global and they would annihilate us.
So separatist women are in the mud with the rest of us, unfortunately. Not to say separatism isn’t good. It’s great. But direct your anger towards men, not mothers.