Gender, nature and small-scale farming : women’s narratives about gender and view of nature in relation to its impact on organic farming
Abstract: Agroecology is both the science, the practice and the movement of sustainable food systems whose meaning includes several dimensions. In this thesis, the social aspect of agroecology is in focus, with emphasis on gendering and gender equality. This, because male domination for a long time has imbued the agricultural sector, and lately, this patriarchal structure has also become a part of, and gained support among capitalistic and misogynic forces. In agriculture and within the world’s food supply, there are imbalances of power relations where only a few voices have monopoly on how food is to be produced and how nature is supposed to be used by humans, as well as for whom. Within the agriculture there are structures of both racism, classism and sexism, as well as ample space for these oppressions to be constantly recreated as a result of, among other things, social constructions. People talk in terms of “women’s-do” in contrast to “being a man”. Likewise, some argue that organic agriculture if unsustainable for the economy and for the food supply, while environmentally friendly approaches often are valued lower than conventional. On the other hand, supporters of agroecological, ecological and gender sciences are critical of the unsustainable methods used in modern agriculture and strive thus for a change. That means, in short terms, to protect and maintain the agriculture’s environmental, economic and social aspects of sustainability. In Sweden, conventional agriculture today is the normal way of farming and the stereotypical image of the male farmer still exist in people’s perception of who manages farms. However, the number of female farmers increases while the number of farmers in general decreases. In addition, the demand for ecologically grown food is growing in line with people’s increased interest in health, lifestyle and the care for the environment. In this study, seven women who own and operate ecological farms have been interviewed. They have told about themselves, their farm and their experiences and thoughts about the sector, which has been in relation to their understanding of, and attitude towards, gender and their view on environment and nature. It has been of interest to see how their business and motivation may have been affected by their experiences in relation to their standpoints. As well as to analyze the processes behind recreation of gender applied on agriculture. A thematic analysis of the interview illustrated different themes and conclusions that determine in what the majority of the women have in common in their narratives. These themes are in turn compared to specific processes within which gendered structures are recreated in organizations. The theories used in the analysis, a part from the elements of agroecology, are systems thinking and feminist standpoint theory. Within the theory of feminist standpoint theory, other concepts are also described as tools to understand the result and conduct an analysis. The analysis illuminates the following conclusions: Firstly, the stories that the women directly, or indirectly, tell, testify to gendered structures in the sector that are linked to the distribution and division of both expectations, labor and skills; to the interaction between men and women; as well as self-identification. Secondly, the agricultural sector, conventional as organic, is very much imbued by processes that creates gendered. This becomes visible in the relationship between the two farming types, which is affecting, and effected by, gender coding. This, in turn have an indirect impact on both women and men within farming. However, the women in this study express that they do not allow any potential inequalities, thus claiming their agency. This is in line with the third conclusion: The women’s work is driven by their huge conviction of “doing right” according to ecological principles, which can also be derived from gendered structures in processes that include norms and ideals that affect creation of identity. The conviction of choosing a lifestyle that includes environmentally sustainable principles compensates for the backside of the profession such as poor profitability and long working days. This, although their profession and lifestyle require the following, and fourth, conclusion: A complementary activity to the farming itself is necessary for the vast majority in the study. This need is also partly linked to gendered structures in the sector, where female coded methods are valued lower, thus negatively affecting the conditions for organic farmers.
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