Politics & Policy

University Lecture: ‘Fracking Is a Feminist Issue’

What does "feminist" even mean at this point?

Not only is fracking destroying the environment — it’s sexist, too.

At least that’s the idea that ecologist/social-justice hero Sandra Steingraber presented to more than 100 students at the University of Pittsburgh on Monday during a lecture titled “Fracking Is a Feminist Issue: Women Confronting Fossil Fuels and Petrochemicals in an Age of Climate Uncertainty.”

“This is a feminist issue because [the chemicals used and released in the fracking process] are largely reproductive toxins,” Steingraber said, according to an article in the Pitt News, the school’s official student newspaper.

“Are we using women and their infants as nonconsenting subjects in an uncontrolled human experiment?” she asked.

But here’s the thing: Regardless of what the actual impacts of fracking may be, designating it as a “feminist issue” makes zero sense — and that’s especially true according to Steingraber’s own beliefs. After all, not only has she claimed that fracking is linked to several gender-neutral problems (such as asthma and drunk driving), but she’s also claimed it can cause reproductive damage in males, too, such as testicular cancer.

And Steingraber is not alone. In 2013, SLC Feminist paraphrased a Ms. Magazine article on “feminist fracking” this way:

“Hydraulic fracturing isn’t happening in areas without people, and where there are people, there is feminism [emphasis in original].”

#related#If every issue that exists where people do is automatically a “feminist” one, if you can call something a “feminist issue” based on the fact that it affects the reproductive systems of women even though you also believe it does the same thing to men, what meaning would the word “feminist” even have at that point? 

Steingraber is also a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Ithaca College, which recently made headlines for its students’ plans to implement an online microaggression-reporting service. 

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