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Ecofeminism is a term that links feminism with ecology. Its advocates claim that paternalistic/capitalistic society has led to a harmful split between nature and culture that can only be healed by the feminine instinct for nurture and holistic knowledge of nature's processes.
Ecofeminism describes movements and philosophies that link feminism with ecology. The term is believed to have been coined by the French writer Françoise d'Eaubonne in her book Le Féminisme ou la Mort (1974). From arguments that there are particular and significant connections between women and nature, ecofeminism interprets their repression and exploitation in terms of the repression and exploitation of the environment. Ecofeminists believe that these connections are illustrated through traditionally "feminine" values such as reciprocity, nurturing and cooperation, which are present both among women and in nature. Women and nature are also united through their shared history of oppression by a patriarchal Western society.
In the 1993 essay entitled "Ecofeminism: Toward Global Justice and Planetary Health" authors Greta Gaard and Lori Gruen outline what they call the "ecofeminist framework." The essay provides a wealth of data and statistics in addition to laying out the theoretical aspects of the ecofeminist critique. The framework described is intended to establish ways of viewing and understanding our current global situations so that we are better able to understand how we arrived at this point and what may be done to ameliorate the ills. The four sides of the frame are: the mechanistic materialist model of the universe that resulted from the scientific revolution and the subsequent reduction of all things into mere resources to be optimized, dead inert matter to be used; the rise of patriarchal religions and their establishment of gender hierarchies along with their denial of immanent divinity; self and other dualisms and the inherent power and domination ethic it entails; and capitalism and its intrinsic need for the exploitation, destruction and instrumentalization of animals, earth and people for the sole purpose of creating wealth. They hold that these four factors have brought us to what ecofeminists see as a "separation between nature and culture" that is the root source of our planetary ills.
Vandana Shiva claims that women have a special connection to the environment through their daily interactions and this connection has been ignored. She says that women in subsistence economies who produce "wealth in partnership with nature, have been experts in their own right of holistic and ecological knowledge of nature's processes." However she makes the point that "these alternative modes of knowing, which are oriented to the social benefits and sustenance needs are not recognized by the capitalist reductionist paradigm, because it fails to perceive the interconnectedness of nature, or the connection of women's lives, work and knowledge with the creation of wealth."
Feminist and social ecologist Janet Biehl has criticized ecofeminism for focusing too much on a mystical connection between women and nature and not enough on the actual conditions of women. Rosemary Radford Ruether joins Janet Biehl in critiquing this focus on mysticism over work that focuses on helping women, but argues that spirituality and activism can be combined effectively in ecofeminism.
Ecofeminism was coined as a term in the 1970s. Women participated in the environmental movements, specifically preservation and conservation, much earlier than this. Beginning in the late 20th century, women worked in efforts to protect wildlife, food, air and water. Susan A. Mann an eco-feminist and professor of sociological and feminist theory considers the roles women played in these activisms to be the starter for ecofeminism in later centuries. Mann associates the beginning of ecofeminism not with feminists but with women of different race and class backgrounds who made connections among gender, race, class and environmental issues. This ideal is upheld through the notion that in activist and theory circles marginalized groups must be included in the discussion. In early environmental and women’s movements, issues of varying races and classes were often separated.
1980s & 1990s
After the beginning of the environmental movement in the early 1970s intersections among feminists and other social justice movements emerged. The feminists that took interests in these movements explored how oppressions were linked through gender, race, class and ecology, as well as species and ideas of nationhood. These feminists developed texts, such as Women and Nature (Susan Griffin 1978), The Death of Nature (Carolyn Merchant 1980) and Gyn/Ecology (Mary Daly 1978). These texts helped to propel the association between domination by man on women and the domination of culture on nature. From these texts feminist activism of the 1980s linked ideas of ecology and the environment. For example, conferences for women devoted to living on the earth and protests against nuclear testing and other militarism that oppresses femininity. At the culmination of the decade ecofeminism had spread to both coasts and articulated an intersectional analysis of women and the environment. Eventually, challenging ideas of environmental classism and racism, resisting toxic dumping and other threats to the impoverished.
However, in the 1990s the advancing theories in ecofeminism began to be seen as essentialist. Through analysis done by post structural and third wave feminists it was argued that ecofeminism equated women with nature. The essentialist argument views Eco feminists as goddess worshippers, who are anti-intellectual.
Ecofeminisms in the 1990s dealt with a lot of criticism. The view that ecofeminism was essentialist and continued to reinforce patriarchal dominance continued to grow. Feminist thoughts surrounding ecofeminism grew in some areas as it was criticized, vegetarian ecofeminism contributed intersectional analysis, and ecofeminisms that analyzed animal rights, labor rights and activisms as they could draw lines among oppressed groups. However, the inclusion of non-human animals also became to be viewed as essentialist. Ecofeminism as it propelled into the 21st century became aware of the criticisms and ecofeminisms with a materialist lens began doing research and renaming the topic, i.e. queer ecologies, global feminist environmental justice and gender and the environment.
The major criticism of ecofeminism is that it is essentialist. The ascribed essentialism appears two main areas:
- Adherence to strict dichotomy between men and women: Some eco-feminist critiques are that the dichotomy between women and men and nature and culture creates a dualism that is too stringent and focused in the difference of women and men. That eco-feminism too strongly correlates the social status of women with the social status of nature, rather than the non-essentialist view that women along with nature both have masculine and feminine qualities, and that just like feminine qualities have often been seen as less worthy, nature is also seen as having lesser value than culture, or the qualities involved in these concepts.
- Divergent view regarding participation in oppressive structures: As opposed to radical and liberation-based feminist movements, mainstream feminism (that most tightly bound with hegemonic social status) strives to promote equality within the existing social and political structure, such as making it possible for women to occupy positions of power in business, industry and politics, using direct involvement as the main tactic for achieving pay equity and influence. In contrast, many ecofeminists would stand in opposition to active engagement in these arenas, as these are the very structures that the movement intends to dismantle.
In Ecofeminism (1993) authors Vandana Shiva, Maria Mies and Evan Bondi ponder modern science and its acceptance as a universal and value-free system. Instead, they view the dominant stream of modern science as a projection of Western men's values. The privilege of determining what is considered scientific knowledge has been controlled by men, and for the most part of history restricted to men. Bondi and Miles list examples including the medicalization of childbirth and the industrialization of plant reproduction.
Bondi argues that the medicalization of childbirth has marginalized midwife knowledge and changed the natural process of childbirth into a procedure dependent on specialized technologies and appropriated expertise. A common claim within ecofeminist literature is that patriarchal structures justify their dominance through binary opposition, these include but are not limited to: heaven/earth, mind/body, male/female, human/animal, spirit/matter, culture/nature and white/non-white. Oppression is reinforced by assuming truth in these binaries and instilling them as 'marvelous to behold' through religious and scientific constructs.
The application of ecofeminism to animal rights has established vegetarian ecofeminism, which asserts that "omitting the oppression of animals from feminist and ecofeminist analyses […] is inconsistent with the activist and philosophical foundations of both feminism (as a "movement to end all forms of oppression") and ecofeminism." It puts into practice "the personal is political" for it believes that “meat-eating is a form of patriarchal domination…that suggests a link between male violence and a meat-based diet.” Vegetarian ecofeminism combines sympathy with the analysis of culture and politics to refine a system of ethics and action.
Ecofeminism as materialist is another common theme in ecofeminism. A materialist view connects some institutions such as labor, power and property as the source of domination over women and nature. There are connections made between these subjects because similarly there are varying values in production and reproduction.
- Karen Warren – received her B.A. in philosophy from the University of Minnesota (1970) and her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1978. Before her long tenure at Macalester College, which began in 1985, Warren was Professor of Philosophy at St. Olaf College in the early 1980s. Warren was the Ecofeminist-Scholar-in-Residence at Murdoch University in Australia. In 2003, she served as an Oxford University Round Table Scholar and as Women's Chair in Humanistic Studies at Marquette University in 2004. She has spoken widely on environmental issues, feminism, critical thinking skills and peace studies in many international locations including Buenos Aires, Gothenburg, Helsinki, Oslo, Manitoba, Melbourne, Moscow, Perth, the U.N. Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (1992), and San Jose.
- Françoise d'Eaubonne – Called upon women to lead an ecological revolution in order to save the planet. This entailed revolutionizing gender relations and human relations with the natural world.
- Sallie McFague – A prominent ecofeminist theologian, McFague uses the metaphor of God's body to represent the universe at large. This metaphor values inclusive, mutualistic and interdependent relations amongst all things.
- Rosemary Radford Ruether – Has written 36 books and over 600 articles exploring the intersections of feminism, theology, and creation care.
- Vandana Shiva – Shiva is a physicist, author, activist, feminist and philosopher from India. She was a participant in the Chipko movement of the 1970s, which used non-violent activism to protest and prevent deforestation in the Garhwal Himalayas of Uttarakhand, India then in Uttar Pradesh.
- Maria Mies – Mies is a German social critic who has been involved in feminist work throughout Europe and India. She works particularly on the intersections of patriarchy, poverty, and the environment on a local and global scale.
- Val Plumwood – Val Plumwood, formerly Val Routley, was an Australian ecofeminist intellectual and activist, who was prominent in the development of radical ecosophy from the early 1970s through the remainder of the 20th century. In her works "Feminism and the Mastery of Nature" she describes the relationship of mankind and the environment relating to an eco-feminist ideology.
- Greta Gaard – Greta Gaard is an American ecofeminist scholar and activist. Her major contributions to the field connect ideas of queer theory, vegetarianism, and animal liberation. Her major theories also include ecocriticism which works to include literary criticism and composition to inform ecofeminism and other feminist theories to address wider range of social issues within ecofeminism. Additionally, Gaard is an ecological activists and a leader in the Green Party, and the Green Movement, groups of political activist that are extremely liberal in activism for environmental and social justice.
- Charlene Spretnak – Spretnak is an American writer largely known for her writing on ecology, politics and spirituality. Through these writings Spretnak has become a prominent ecofeminist. She has written many books which discuss ecological issues in terms of effects with social criticisms, including feminism. Spretnak works had a major influence in the development of the Green Party. She has also won awards based on her visions on ecology and social issues as well as feminist thinking.
- Starhawk – An American writer and activist Starhawk is known for her work in spiritualism and ecofeminism. She advocates for social justice in issues surrounding nature and spirit. These social justice issues fall under the scope of feminism and ecofeminism. She believes in fighting oppression through intersectionality and the importance of spirituality, eco consciousness and sexual and gender liberation.
- Judi Bari – Bari was a member of the Earth First! movement and claims she was targeted due to her womanhood.
- Carolyn Merchant – Historian of science who taught at Berkeley for many years. Her book The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution is a classic ecofeminist text.
- Mary Mellor – UK sociologist who moved to ecofeminist ideas from an interest in cooperatives. Her books - Breaking the Boundaries and Feminism and Ecology are grounded in a materialist analysis.
- Ariel Salleh – Australian ecofeminist with a global perspective; a founding editor of the journal Capitalism Nature Socialism; author of two books and some 200 articles examining links with deep and social ecology, green politics and eco-socialism.
- Chipko movement
- Deep ecology
- Deep Green Resistance
- Ecofeminist art
- Green syndicalism
- List of ecofeminist authors
- Social ecology
- Spiritual ecology
- Vegetarian ecofeminism
- Women and the environment through history
- MacGregor, Sherilyn (2006). Beyond mothering earth: ecological citizenship and the politics of care. Vancouver: UBC Press. p. 286. ISBN 0-7748-1201-X.
- (Merchant, Carolyn. "Chapter 8." In Radical ecology: the search for a livable world. New York: Routledge, 1992. 184)
- Shiva, Vandana (1988). Staying alive: women, ecology and development. London: Zed Books. ISBN 978-0-86232-823-8.
- Biehl, Janet (1991). Rethinking eco-feminist politics. Boston, Massachusetts: South End Press. ISBN 978-0-89608-392-9.
- Ruether, Rosemary Radford (2003). Heather Eaton & Lois Ann Lorentzen, ed. Ecofeminism and Globalization. Lanham, Boulder, New York, Toronto, Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield. pp. vii – xi. ISBN 0-7425-2697-6.
- Mann, Susan A (2011). "Pioneers of U.S. Ecofeminism and Environmental Justice". Feminist Formations 23 (2): 1–25.
- Gaard, Greta (2011). "Ecofeminism Revisited: Rejecting Essentialism and Re-Placing Species in a Material Feminist Environmentalism". Feminist Formations 23 (2): 26–53.
- "Ecofeminism: Is the Movement Still Relevant?". Gender Across Borders.
- "Ecofeminism Critique". The Green Fuse.
- hooks, bell. "Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center" Cambridge, MA: South End Press 1984
- (Mies, Maria, and Vandana Shiva. Ecofeminism. Halifax, N.S. : Fernwood Publications; 1993. 24.)
- Laura Hobgood-Oster. "Ecofeminism: Historic and International Evolution" (PDF). Retrieved March 17, 2012.
- Gaard, Greta Claire. (2002) Vegetarian ecofeminism: A review essay. Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, 23(2). Retrieved from http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/frontiers/v023/23.3gaard.html
- Gaard, Greta (2002). "Vegetarian Ecofeminism: A Review Essay". Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies.
- (Ralte, Lalrinawmi . "The World as the Body of God Ecofeminist Theological Discourse with Special Reference to Tribal Women in India. Www. rethinkingmission.org.uk/articles/The%20World%20as%20the%20body%20of%20God%20article.pdf (accessed March 24, 2012))
- LaRosa, Patricia. "Finding Aid for Rosemary Radford Ruether Papers, 1954-2002" (PDF). Retrieved 15 March 2013.
- "Who's Who of Women and the Environment". Retrieved 15 March 2013.
- Charlene Spretnak, "The Early Years of the Green Movement in the United States", in Zelko and Brinkmann, eds., Green Parties, p. 48.
- see Starhawk
- Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, by Helena Norberg-Hodge
- The Body of God by Sallie McFague
- The Chalice & The Blade: Our History, Our Future, by Riane Eisler
- The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology, and the Scientific Revolution by Carolyn Merchant
- Ecofeminism by Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva
- Ecofeminism in Latin America by Mary Judith Ross
- Ecofeminist Philosophy by Karen J. Warren
- Environmental Culture by Val Plumwood
- Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, by Val Plumwood
- Gaia & God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing, by Rosemary Radford Ruether
- Integrating Ecofeminism, Globalization, and World Religions, by Rosemary Radford Ruether
- Neither Man Nor Beast by Carol J. Adams
- Refuge: A Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams
- The Resurgence of the Real: Body, Nature, and Place in a Hypermodern World by Charlene Spretnak
- Sacred Longings: Ecofeminist theology and Globalization by Mary Grey
- The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams
- Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
- The Spiral Dance by Starhawk
- Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development by Vandana Shiva
- Thinking Green! Essays on Environmentalism, Feminism, and Nonviolence, by Petra Kelly
- Tomorrow's Biodiversity by Vandana Shiva
- Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her, by Susan Griffin
- Breaking the Boundaries, by Mary Mellor
- Ecofeminism as Politics: nature, Marx, and the postmodern, by Ariel Salleh
- Animals and Women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations, edited by Carol J. Adams and Josephine Donovan
- Ecofeminism: Women, Animals, Nature, edited by Greta Gaard
- Ecofeminism: Women, Culture, Nature, edited by Karen J. Warren with editorial assistance from Nisvan Erkal
- EcoFeminism & Globalization: exploring culture, context and religion, edited by Heather Eaton & Lois Ann Lorentzen
- Ecofeminism and the Sacred, edited by Carol J. Adams
- The Politics of Women's Spirituality: Essays on the Rise of Spiritual Power within the Feminist Movement, edited by Charlene Spretnak
- Readings in Ecology and Feminist Theology, edited by Mary Heather MacKinnon and Moni McIntyre
- Reclaim the Earth, edited by Leonie Caldecott & Stephanie Leland
- Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism, edited by Irene Diamond and Gloria Feman Orenstein
- Women Healing Earth: Third World Women on Ecology, Feminism, and Religion, edited by Rosemary Radford Ruether
- Gaard, Greta Claire. 2011. Ecofeminism Revisited: Rejecting Essentialism and Re-Placing Species in a Material Feminist Environmentalism, Feminist Formations 23(2): 26-53.
- Huggan, Graham. 2004. "Greening" Postcolonialism: Ecocritical Perspectives, MFS Modern Fiction Studies 50(3):701-733.
- Mack-Canty, Colleen. 2004. Third-Wave Feminism and the Need to Reweave the Nature/ Culture Duality, NWSA Journal 16(3):154-179.
- MacGregor, Sherilyn. 2004. From care to citizenship: Calling ecofeminism back to politics, Ethics & the Environment 9(1):56-84.
- Mallory, Chaone. 2013. Locating Ecofeminism in Encounters with Food and Place, Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics 26(1): 171-189.
- Mann, Susan A. 2011. Pioneers of U.S. Ecofeminism and Environmental Justice, "Feminist Formations" 23(2): 1-25.
- Wildy, Jade. 2012. The Artistic Progressions of Ecofeminism: The Changing Focus of Women in Environmental Art, International Journal of the Arts in Society 6(1): 53-65.
- "Clementa" by Jim Martin
- A Door Into Ocean by Joan Slonczewski
- Always Coming Home by Ursula K. Le Guin
- Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight by Ursula K. Le Guin
- The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk
- The Gate to Women's Country by Sheri S. Tepper
- The Holdfast Chronicles by Suzy McKee Charnas
- Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin
- The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
- Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver
- Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
- The Wanderground by Sally Miller Gearhart
- Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
- The Kin of Ata are Waiting for You by Dorothy Bryant
- Bear by Marian Engel
- The Temple of My Familiar by Alice Walker
- A Bengali play, "NEELKANTHA DESH" (2010), by Supratim Roy
- The Sea of Affliction (1987, reprinted 2010) by Rosemarie Rowley
|Wikiversity has learning materials about Women's Studies|
- Ecofeminism: Toward global justice and planetary health Feminist Greta Gaard and Lori Gruen's ecofeminist framework
- ecofem.org Includes the regularly updated "Ecofeminism Bibliography"
- "An Ecology of Knowledge: Feminism, Ecology and the Science and Religion Discourse" Metanexus Institute by Lisa Stenmark
- "Ecofeminism and the Democracy of Creation" by Catherine Keller (2005) ; cf. Carol P. Christ, "Ecofeminism," in Michel Weber and Will Desmond (eds.), Handbook of Whiteheadian Process Thought, Frankfurt / Lancaster, ontos verlag, 2008, pp. 87–98.
- "Toward a Queer Ecofeminism" by Greta Gaard