The fact that men exploit women’s reproductive labour has has practically become a meme. Yes they certainly do and have done historically. But it’s usually phrased in a way that makes it sound like as though women do reproductive labour, and men do other labour, perhaps even more important labour.
I’ve discussed the historical and ongoing landgrabs that men have carried out. Women have always done all the labour, not just the reproductive labour. And men have thieved and parasited off women, and that’s basically the sum of their contribution. They’ve stolen our children and our bodies, yes. But they’ve also stolen our work as we laboured on the land, growing food. Men’s “labor” has been to prevent women from getting on with things. Construction is just work they’ve invented. It’s unnecessary. Plenty of people live without roads and hotels and large buildings. Nobody can live without food– which is women’s work. Maria Mies and Marilyn Frye have written extensively about the control of women’s manual labour by men.
And this is what’s making me think that although PIV and childrearing consolidated patriarchy, and make it a lot easier for men to control us, those factors might not be the root of it. Women’s manual labour plays a large part of shoring up male power.
Just because we accept that men are
mutants very different from us, doesn’t mean we must accept the inevitability of patriarchy. It might be that patriarchy is a social construct. Men know it’s natural for women to kill their would-be rapist, which is why they expend a lot of energy making sure males are protected from consequences. They get a show trial and no sentencing. It’s most likely biologically sound for a woman to kill her would-be rapist too, so that she reproduces only with a male she has hand picked. Men created society and civilization, true. But natural Law is ours.
I wouldn’t even call patriarchy civilization. I would call it a political regime. The reason I’m certain it’s a political regime is because of the fact it’s absolutely forbidden for women to speak about certain issues and they receive death threats and rape threats and doxxing for speaking and writing. Censorship, and it is the cornerstone of all political regimes. For a long time women weren’t allowed to write and would publish their work under a male name. When I lived in Russia my teacher told me about tiny books that were passed around in secret during the Communist regime, which could only be read using a magnifying glass. It was a way to criticize the regime itself without facing any consequences (unless you were caught with the little book). It is the same for women. Women aren’t allowed to criticize men because male dominance is fragile. They let us criticize a few things, but then they draw a line. We’re definitely not supposed to say “Men have caused all the problems” (they hate that one.)
My posts on food are going to look at how men go about stealing from women in different parts of the world, just so that we can keep track of what they’re up to and look out for any cracks in their armor.
Seed-keeping is women’s work. What is seed-keeping?
Seed-keeping is a way of creating genetically resilient seeds by breeding desired traits. It’s a way of yielding crops that are resistant to disease, require less water, and more suitable to the local climate. The knowledge has been passed down over the centuries from female ancestors to the women alive today. It’s done entirely naturally of course. For hundreds or years or more, women have been manipulating the seed gene pool to create better outcomes and better yields.
“Women are conservers of seeds and know when each grain has to be sown,” says Patricia Mukhim, a prominent Khasi journalist and editor of The Shillong Times. “They exchange seeds, and if today we are able to conserve the indigenous seed species, which are hardy and can resist the vagaries of climate change and its extreme temperatures, then women are singularly responsible for that conservation effort.”
For years, Chamnibai and her family have preserved dozens of local varieties of seeds. She has now passed on her knowledge to her daughters-in-law. “Women save seeds better,” she said. “They care for them, and remember to replenish them. This process is all about the details.”
Several years ago, the family started a seed saving and swapping initiative, which allowed them to share the dying varieties of seeds with local farmers.
The family uses large mud and clay vessels for storage. These vessels, made from natural and local materials, keep the seeds cool.
“Most of the other farmers in the village ask me why we don’t take the free seeds or fertilisers offered by the government. They call me a fool. But those crops are not the same. We don’t eat them at home,” said her son, Kesaram Meena.
Women are beginning to lose their knowledge of seeds. As they moved away from the practice of saving and exchanging seeds with their neighbors and families, to buying seeds from the market, their own indigenous knowledge systems related to farming and seed saving slowly became irrelevant. Crop diversity is suffering. ( I mentioned in my previous post that western patriarchy insists on monocrops– one crop over a large expanse of land. Completely backward and unsustainable) In a land that once had 100,000 varieties of rice, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything outside a few popular varieties in the country’s urban markets today.
In other words, women have traditionally been doing what men claim GMO seeds can do. It was women’s idea. Quelle suprise. But manipulating genes to create better yields by studying and exchanging seeds is not the same as destroying DNA, which is how GMO FrankenSeeds are “created”.
So what did men decide to do about these women seed-keepers? Specifically western men? Well they decided to fuck with the seeds of course! What else!
And now there’s the increasing threat of genetically modified food crop seeds (GMOs) entering the Indian markets. US chemical giant Monsanto’s BTCotton already dominates the cottonseed market and has been linked with farmer suicides in western India. Genetic engineering experiments are underway for food crops like maize, mustard, chickpeas, potato and bananas. Many environmentalists and farmers’ groups are worried about the impact of GMO food crops on the biological diversity of indigenous varieties, as well health concerns associated with its consumption.
Following massive protests, the Indian government has deferred the commercial cultivation of its first genetically modified vegetable, BT Brinjal (eggplant), a product of Monsanto partner, Mahyco. (Incidentally, India is one of the world’s largest brinjal producers and grows over 4,000 varieties.)
These days women in India are less likely to keep seeds. They buy seeds from companies by Monsanto. And get this, Monsanto has patented its seeds. Oh and just for good measure, they’ve created a FrankenSeed that grows a crop which cannot produces any seeds naturally. So the farmers now have to buy seeds from Monsanto every single year, rather than preserving them the way Indian women are used to doing.
The saddest part about their interference with seeds is that what Monsanto men don’t know is that seeds are magical and this is recognized by the seed-keepers. And they should know better than anyone, considering how long they’ve been working with seeds historically. In India, seeds are an integral part of many rituals, ceremonies and festivals that celebrate the cycle of birth, life and death. They’re not just a group of cells to be poked and prodded and pricked by the probers, but magic.