Speaking about the topic of “women and water” is really impossible. The conceptual category “woman” is a socially constructed and constructing set of ideas that varies from historical time period to time period and culture to culture.
This would of course mean that “women’s” (as a conceptual category) relationship with water changes throughout time and across cultures as well. There is no homogoneous category of “woman” into which all women at all times fit into.
That said, we shall try to address SOME women’s relationship to water in a few areas of the world with an eye towards using the element of water as an example of how other constructing categories such as class, ethnicity and nationality combine with gender to shape a woman’s lived material experience. As water is fluid, so are the social constructions which shape each individual woman’s life; gender, class, ethnicity and personal experiences flow into and out of one another, shaping the river of women’s lives, first one way, then another. From birth out of water, healthcare of children the sick and elderly, work in agriculture, feeding of families and the inevitability of death, the basic element of water is an apt material from which to come to a basic understanding of the variety of ways “women’s” lives are constructed across categories.
Professor Jody Bart