Historically, mothers and fathers have been especially scrutinizing their female offspring. Traditionally, women have been raised to be afraid. To fear the world. To fear their fathers. But most of all, to fear themselves. “Close your legs”, “don’t anger him”, “dress modestly so you don’t provoke him”, “don’t attract too much attention to yourself”, “stay home”, “don’t go outside after dark”, “don’t be alone with a boy”, “respect your husband” and much more, are very common phrases female children hear growing up. These phrases are most instilled with the intention to protect the child from the atrocities the world can subjugate them to. These atrocities are unfortunately predominantly committed by men. Not any men, but men who have been socialized to believe in hierarchy, entitlement, and misappropriated and selective human rights. Through repeated gendered socialization, women grow into adults with fear and terror enshrined. Men, socialized to believe in equality and equity or to believe in gendered and classist rights and hierarchies, both benefit from that fear.
Te Fiti from Moana © Disney, 2016
Early peoples the world over have a common thread running through their mythologies: their connection to nature. That is to say, they have at the heart of their creation myths some version of a primordial being or couple that created the earth and all the inhabitants upon it (Yakar, 2018) (Sepie, 2017). In many, this connection between nature and man becomes both a point of synergy and competition as they struggle for resources in an oftentimes semi-hospitable world (Hakluyt Society, 2020). A situation of growing importance in this world of rapid climate change and environmental uncertainty, especially to island and coastal peoples who are on the front lines of this seemingly unbeatable war, aka. climate refugees (UNHCR, 2021).
For the many ethnic groups that make up Oceania, and Polynesia specifically, this synergistic cohabitation takes the form of both a religious and cultural connectivity to nature that is passed down culturally and states that man, animals and the environment are all siblings, or at least distant cousins we still need to look out for. In this way, a theme of environmentalism crops up again and again in the mythologies, but unlike many western mythologies, this thread is woven into the daily lives of the various island peoples: from cultural taboos and political activism, all the way to the silver screen.Continue reading “Searching for the heart of Te Fiti: Environmentalism in Polynesian mythology”
Welcome to the new SAPD PGRA blog! We will be featuring stories written by our Post-Graduate Researchers at the University of Reading covering everything from animal science to zoonotic diseases and all the letters in between, so keep and eye out for new and exciting research as we move forward.