Under the Umbrella: Women In the Food Chain


            In the 1940’s Norman Borlaug began to research different agricultural aspects, revolving around resistants for new diseases and different varieties for wheat. He began to explore his theories in Mexico, and was able to produce a surplus of wheat that not only fed all the citizens, but allowed the government to create an international market in it. (geography.com) Due to the success of these new technologies in Mexico, technology exploded in various countries, which is what we call the era of the Green Revolution. Looking through a narrow lens, the Green Revolution looks to have positive impacts on the countries that it applied to; correct? As Vandana Shiva explains in Staying Alive, this revolution led to a shift to a patriarchal paradigm that may have had some influence on issues women are facing today, such as dowries along with their consequences and infanticides/feticides.


Before the Green Revolution, women were in charge of the production and consumption of crops. They grew, picked, and made meals out of these products,  usually by themselves while their spouses were away obtaining sources of income. These women invented things such as work tools (hoe, spades, and shovels), crop rotations, mulching and irrigation and basic plowing. (Shiva) Women were, “…credited with the discovery of domestication and cultivation of plants and animals.” (Shiva 104) When the Green Revolution occurred, these accreditation (s) were no longer significant. Scholars have reported that this revolution was a shift towards a masculine view. This is because there was a change from just providing for one family to profits by mass production. Providing food was a woman’s job, but making a profit off the goods was the man’s (seeing that the green revolution was intended for Profit margins off of food production). Because of this shift women became inferior in the production of food products. As some of us may have seen, when women become inferior to men in society, they usually suffer economically, socially, verbally, mentally and physically.


In the Green Revolution era, the ‘big people’ (ie rich) continued to get richer and the poor continued to get poorer. This led to not only struggles in the home place, but with food and job shortages. Since farmers were now producing cash crops, they did not have enough food to support themselves. This is because they had to take loans out from the state/ country in order to get new seeds, and pesticides that were regulated under this ‘new’ technology.  When there is a shortage in food, who do you think is the last to eat? Yep, you are probably correct, women, usually the female child last. This struggle for survival also lead (s) to other issues, such as infanticide/ feticide and dowry increases/ deaths. (Shiva 119)


I want to focus on the remainder of this blog to talk about why there is this direct correlation between the food chain that we all know and women’s issues, including dowry and infanticide. Dowry is the payment of cash, or gifts in exchange of a man marrying a family’s daughter (I understand this may sound degrading, but in my head dowries are). This commonly happens in India, however is does occur within various other places. In 1960, dowries were actually prohibited by law in India, yet we all know they still continue in many rurally communities. (indianchild.com) Since dowries are now illegal, many families will have the husbands physically and mentally abuse the bride and her family until a payment has been met to his families standards. This causes tension not only between the husband and wife, but between both families.  I also mentioned dowry deaths in the previous paragraph; in case you aren’t aware these are usually caused by fires. Most burnings of the wives are done because the dowry was not paid in full, on time, or was not what the husband’s family actually wanted. Ironically enough the governments statistics state that the deaths are accidents ninety percent of the time. (indianchild.com) Infanticide is the practice of killing your child shortly after birth, while feticide is the killing of the unborn child, usually after gender is determined. I think that many people do not think that either of these crimes occur, just so we are clear they happen everywhere, even in the United States, however not as much as ‘poorer civilizations’. (infanticide.org)

Looking at both of these points, you can kind of sense why both might occur more often as a result of the Green Revolution. When food because scarce, people begin rationing out their portions to family members. Since women are already looked at as the inferior gender (to some, not all), they usually either go without food or with the smallest portion. When this shortage occurs, many families are not willing to take women ‘in’ unless there is something beneficial for them. This causes dowry to increase, which at often times becomes impossible. And as Vandana Shiva stated there is this ‘umbrella’ like model with the Green Revolution as the cover or top of the umbrella, dowry under it followed by infanticide. So this pressure of increasing dowry leads directly to infanticides because of the risk of having a female is so heavily negated. When a female is born in places such as China and India, the pressures of having enough for dowry or having another mouth to feed with ‘no benefit’ is so great that parents find the easy way out by killing the child. Horrible I know, but time to come out from underneath our sheltered first world ideals.

            As you can see this first world ‘improvement’ on surplus crops may have been a great ideal in theory, however it has developed into a monstrous system that is hurting more and more women and female children daily. Taking a step back to look at our future, if we continue this method of food production, will the ratios of female to male drop significantly? Or do you think societies will go back to self producing where food products only go to each individual family?











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One Response to Under the Umbrella: Women In the Food Chain

  1. The practice of infant child killings is scary. It makes one think about how females are so disregarded in society. It explains the higher ratio of males to females all over Asia and how being male usually means that you are wanted more over female children.

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