Bodies and Lands: Scenes of Struggle

By Ana Cofiño, Editor of the Antigua-based feminist magazine La Cuerda

Members of women’s movements speak of our bodies as territories where crucial power struggles take place over the existence and reproduction of patriarchy and capitalism. Women’s sexuality, labor, and creative and intellectual potential are coveted as sources of wealth to be exploited for the benefit of the system and specifically men. Women’s bodies are used like machines for sexual reproduction and women as objects to possess for the service of others. Women’s bodies are territories where the culture that justifies and executes this exploitation begins and expands.

Speaking of bodies as territories births a comprehensive perspective that brings together the natural and the social to better visualize interactions between people and their environment. From this perspective, we seek to construct holistic concepts that help us understand the complex interconnections of the web of life, and create a more peaceful and harmonious society.

Prolonged, and often silent, peaceful resistance has allowed us not to be defeated. For women, resistance has often been based in resilience, or the capacity to overcome abusive situations. Sometimes, it’s been based in strategic organization to make social decisions and take political action to make our social projects reality. We have sometimes been forced to take extreme measures, like armed resistance, by the closure of democratic channels of change.

When an extractive industry company installs itself in a village or its surroundings, it is a settlement that feels to the village like the penetration of a stake. In San Rafael Las Flores, for example, where a mining operation transformed the country landscape into a workplace gash, the quality of the environment is being permanently damaged, not only through various kinds of pollution, but through the social conflicts that the mine brought with it. In a short time it’s left great harm that will have long-term consequences.

Women are used like gasoline for the engines of “development.”

At the global level, climate change is provoked by an economic system that seeks permanent profit and power. We speak of the destruction of ecosystems and our social fabric. We see the call to simply adapt to climate change as an absurd farce. It leads people to ensure their own well-being, instead of confronting the true problem: the injustice and unlimited greed of capitalism.

Women from communities affected by the extractive industry uniquely suffer the effects of its operations, since they’re the pillars of their homes. Guaranteeing access to water for their families is a common problem, given that extractive industry companies use immense quantities in their operations, depleting its quality and quantity and making it harder to access for the rest. The contamination makes the most vulnerable, children and the elderly, suffer, and caring for them generally falls to women, as this is a responsibility the system gives to women by virtue of their “nature.” The extermination of animal and plant species is one more part of a complex problem for women who must confront shortages, risks and threats, and manage emergencies.

Violence is inherent to the extractive economy, given that without violence it would not function. This is why it so often resorts to armed men and open oppression to impose itself as it faces community rejection. This causes instability and danger as women become more prone to threats of violence.

What one realizes when speaking of bodies as territories in conflict is that women are used like gasoline for the engines of “development.” Those who fight for a dignified life must fight also for women’s rights if they seek to build territories truly free of violence where harmony can cease to be but a dream.