Perhaps the first widely read piece I wrote was entitled “Peak Oil is a Women’s Issue” and focused on the ways that an energy decline might affect women. At the time it was written (the earliest version appeared in 2004) the peak oil movement was largely a group of men, mostly geologists, oil men, a few economists and journalists interested in a growing issue.
My argument (more refined variations of which I’ve continued making for years) was that women need to organize around energy and environmental issues, because they stand to lose a great deal in a society that has fewer resources to go around.
At least one critic accused me of writing a “handmaid’s tale” and raising an alarm about nothing, which I find sort of funny, because we all *know* that in hard times women and children tend to suffer the most. Assuming that won’t be true requires an argument for why this time will be different.
The UN has already described the ways that the first and most profound victims of climate change will be women. Energy depletion, and the end economic growth will be no different, unless we act to make them different. We need a new women’s movement that has a profound understanding of the ways that energy has shaped women’s expectations and experience, and that can respond to a radically changing society.
Thanks to reader Vickey, we can see that thus far, events aren’t different – women are paying the price again.. Consider what’s happening in Topeka as a more extreme version of decisions being made all over the country:
In Topeka, Kansas city officials are considering a controversial move to decriminalize domestic violence in the city after the Shawnee County government offloaded domestic violence enforcement on to city governments. Cities facing budget cuts and lost revenue are turning to many different cost-cutting measures, but this is perhaps the most extreme. Already, the county government has turned away at least 30 domestic violence cases.
We know that most domestic violence isn’t reported, that most battering victims are so ashamed and afraid that they won ‘t call the police, so the 30 + cases that were turned away are just the tip of the iceberg – we know that women will die unless batterers can be stopped.
Legal protections for women and children should be fundamental, but we live in a society that regards them as optional luxuries to be abandoned in hard times. Without a shift in the way we regard women’s issues, we are likely to see more of this horror.