Ecofeminism: Why We Need It

Ecofeminism: Why We Need It.

By Marian Avila-Breach

What is ecofeminism?

Throughout the history of feminism, feminist theory has always been shaped by women’s lives around the world. Feminism and all theories that purport equality, look at the world and its governments and institutions and attempt to look further and look at how the world should be. Recently, with the women’s march in March and the scourge of sexual harassers in media and politics, the fight for women’s rights has risen another notch. Women are demanding an equal world. However, as women’s rights achieve progress, new legislation in the US breaks down environmental protection laws and deregulates environmentally harmful practices. What use are equal rights if there is no longer a healthy Earth in which to practice them? French feminist Françoise d’Eaubonne coined the term Ecofeminism in the 1970’s as a way to bring attention to the ways women and feminist theory could bring about an ecological revolution. Like feminist theory itself, ecofeminism is comprised of a rich diversity of sub-theories, many linked to other philosophies of government or economy. A broad definition of ecofeminism, however, would be the overarching idea of there being diverse interconnections between women, the fight for women’s rights, and environmental protection.

Why should women care about Ecofeminism?

In the United Nations (UN) Environment page, the subsection on gender specifies that ecological devastation, pollution, and climate change are human-made disasters that disproportionately affect women. The majority of this world’s poor are women, who because of their overwhelming lack of rights and access to power, are not only affected by climate change disasters and pollution but are also unable to adequately address the issues. In women’s overall position as second-class citizens with limited rights, women result as among the most vulnerable to the aforementioned problems. In subsistence economies, women rely on the raw materials of their environments such as firewood and water to feed their families and maintain their homes. As deforestation expands and water pollution continues to be unaddressed in disadvantaged societies, women suffer the consequences. Women becoming more disadvantaged and more vulnerable hurt women everywhere as these vulnerable women become victims of exploitation. Ecofeminism recognizes that protecting the environment is closely linked to protecting and empowering women. By ensuring that women have access to their means of subsistence, women are less likely to fall victim to exploitation and extreme poverty.

Why should men care about ecofeminism?

Although ecofeminism focuses on women’s role in the environment, men stand to benefit from ecofeminist results. In a world where men dominate the majority of political parties, academic institutions, media, and corporate settings, the responsibility for the fight against climate change and the protection of the environment falls largely to men. However, as Rachel Kyte CEO of SEforALL (Sustainable Energy for All) explained, “There is no way that we can solve this problem if we only do it with 50% of the talent and energy on this planet.” By fighting the fight alone men are engaging in a losing battle. In addition, ecological devastation and climate change will affect all living beings on this planet, regardless of gender. Protecting the environment should not be a gendered issue, but men supporting women’s rights ensures that the fight against climate change isn’t gendered either. With everyone able to take action against environmental crises, we may yet leave a better future for all people.

Women are uniquely positioned to fight climate change

Beyond calling for the advancement of women’s rights as a way to fight global warming and environmental degradation, ecofeminism understands that bringing women to the fight helps further ecological goals in a way a “men-only” approach would not. Since we live in a gendered world, the majority of men and women engage in gendered occupations. Although the duties differ from society to society, women are still overwhelmingly the primary caretakers and homemakers. Usually these occupations will include gathering basic natural resources for the home, supplying food and water, and doing household chores such as bathing children and washing clothing. Although these skills are often undervalued in many societies, they are skills that tie into a vast amount of knowledge of their surroundings. In a small village in India, researchers asked the local men to describe the uses of a local tree; the men provided on average 12 different uses. Later, the researchers went into homes and asked women; women on average recited 32. Because of their unique position, women become well-versed in the importance of their ecosystem and are more likely to perceive disastrous effects resulting from the decimation of ecosystems. Through their knowledge, women can help preserve environments around the world. Conversely, disadvantaged women have also been known to further the pollution of their environment. In the mountainous region of northern Mexico, women pour noxious chemicals into their local river when washing clothes. By not knowing better, the women are contributing to the pollution of their only source of water. Ecofeminism focuses on educating and empowering the women discussed so as to ensure that they can protect their environments and become active participants in ensuring the planet’s health.

Stronger together…

Both environmentalists and feminists are often vilified and attacked by traditional opinion outlets and groups of people that do not want to see the global status quo change. However, the world is changing regardless of who wants it or not. Climate change is a current phenomena that is already affecting diverse global societies and will keep affecting them in the future. Separately, feminist and ecological movements address and garner support for issues that can positively impact humanity as a whole. Nonetheless, the cross section of both issues, ecofeminism, stands to accomplish more on both fronts if these marginalized fights join forces. We all live on the same planet and all of our lives and decisions are interconnected through our bionetwork. Sustaining a clean environment and ensuring women’s rights and equal opportunity become one and the same in Ecofeminism. Possibly the most significant aspect of ecofeminist theory is what it represents, the joining to two powerfully human and important issues and exposing the reality that humans are not objective causal observers on Earth but rather deeply involved participants. We, women and men alike, need to fight for women’s rights to help save our home, because it’s truly the only one we’ve got.

Sources:

Feminist Environmental Philosophy

First published Fri Aug 29, 2014; substantive revision Mon Apr 27, 2015

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-environmental/

http://unfccc.int/gender_and_climate_change/items/7516.php

https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/gender/why-does-gender-matter

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on December 14, 2017, in feminism and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Excellent article dear Georgia.
    “Feminism and all theories that purport equality, look at the world and its governments and institutions and attempt to look further and look at how the world should be”: I agree with that statement and I see why women’s rights are linked to portectiong the environment.
    Clearly, in a major scale women are in charge of the house and the real thing is that most resources come from nature.
    In that sense, the example provided by the end of the article is eloquent.
    “In a small village in India, researchers asked the local men to describe the uses of a local tree; the men provided on average 12 different uses. Later, the researchers went into homes and asked women; women on average recited 32”.
    It absolutey makes sense. Productive means are linked to productive uses… And even to language (I was thinking of the Eskimos who have lots of words to refer to different types of color White, simply because white is the color that monopolizes their immediate surroundings… But this is just a side note)…
    Love & best wishes. Merry Christmas 😀

  2. The people who are happiest in the world are those from strong democratic socialist countries: Denmark, Wweden, Norway, Iceland. They are always in the top 10, and largely in the top five happiest countries. And I think their culture helps to make that happen. So I think you need cultural evolution which supports caring for everyone in the community. (And these democratic socialists are different from communist countries. They are a mix of market/individualism and caring for one another.)”

    Well Sweden was set up to be good, but that got too liberal and didn’t want to look racist and worried too much about that, than what they can actually handle and Sweden women might not be happy as they used to be because of the huge population of men with fundamentalist views, which is more mysognist and there have been more violence against women since this. Hopefully Denmark, Norway, and Iceland learn from Sweden. And caring for others, but that’s tough because while people who aren’t that selfish want to share. Many people work hard for their money and their success, while there are others who choose to not work hard or complacent with where they work and could work somewhere else but decide to stay at a low paying, dead end job. I’m not talking about people having a hard life and poor for such reasons or disability or you know where a woman gets knocked up young so can’t go to college and like in a city or town that is poor.

    But many whom perhaps should be more motivated so you’re sharing your wealth, hard earned $ with people whom I’d not have a problem helping a little, but sometimes people who are like the latter, they become dependent when they know they’ll keep getting help and not push themselves out of it or try. Like I said this is about that, it’s hard to probably dissect the two. Like people who are trying to better themselves but like I said, just life hitting them hard, that’s one thing. But others whom just aren’t trying more that’s another. In a country like that it seems like everyone is paying for each other so some people have a reason to be lazy right?

  3. Right off the bat the term, “ecofeminism” intrigued me and interested me in this post. The reason for this is the lack of mainstream awareness about ecofeminism. The notion of equal rights for women relating to better regulation and protection for our environment seems unrelated, yet by using my sociological imagination it shines more light on the lives of individual women being affected by the environment more than men. In your section about why women should care about ecofeminism, the evidence was strong and clear that women’s rights will help the destruction of the environment, and environmental protection will assure better lives for women across the world. Another point in your article is that men should care about a healthy environment because it’ll benefit all life on Earth. Through the shifting of lenses that men see the world in, hopefully a majority, if not all, of men grow a more conscientious mindset because then they hopefully will care about the rights of women as much as they do for the rights of the environment. One of the most powerful points in your post is how women are contributing to pollution through a lack of education, shining light on how cyclic the world is and how destructive humans are when people are uneducated. Your post is eyeopening on how women and the environment are dependent on the other one to a certain extent. What I learned is that order to truly help the world we live in it is necessary to both stand up for the rights, especially education, of women, the protection of the environment, and that it is important to stress the relationship between women and the environment so more people are aware and willing to help the only world and our human race survive.

    • Good point. A domination mindset underlies sexism, racism, homophobia, domination of the environment… instead of living in harmony with it. So it all goes together.

      • Is it the culture that exaggerates bad human aspects and fosters it or this comes from the bad or imperfect side of human beings? The reason I ask is because you know the 7 deadly sins right? Greed is one of them. Everybody or most people can have a part of their personality where they have moments of selfishness and greed. It’s just that others who are more selfish lack empathy and can take from others and care less. A lot of domination mindset comes from greed.

        You want it all, you need to keep up the high pedestal and find ways to keep others down right? When others can be kept down, then you can keep your riches and keep it up. Pride is there too. So women, people of color, lgbt community, poor, and it;s just take, take, take. Which is why the environment gets harmed and also because of selfishness. That asshole CEOs probably know they are hurting the environment, but what does it matter to them since they’ll be dead before they see the effect of it to where it hurts them? It’s the future generation and people who are not wealthy, thus not protected who will hurt the most from the environment. You said partnership, but the cultures you know of partnership were small communities. That’s easy to work and does for a small population, but a huge country with 300 million like America. There’s a balance with the economy and idealistic things don’t alway work.

        We’ve seen the failure of communism. You know equal and people getting paid the same, but there are people with different skills and abilities and whom work harder than others. Like ideally it would be nice but it seems to show the flaws of human beings and people aren’t “that good and maybe it’s not all culture? A lot of things need some hierarchy and partnership doesn’t work. Think of work an occupations. Think of it every worker had equal authority. Nothing would get done ha. People wouldn’t be working together as egos would get involved and everyone is right and then some could be bossy. It’ why there is a system where depending on the business. There’s an owner or Ceo at top, then executive people, then regional operation and then district manager, then tore manger, then assistant manager or assistant managers, then some have staff managers, then department manager, and then coordinator or supervisors an then the regular employee. A chain of command.

      • My personal belief is that everyone of us has both positive and negative sides to our personality. Some emphasize one side more than others. But whether the conflict is within you or within the culture, it gives us all an opportunity to grow.

        The people who are happiest in the world are those from strong democratic socialist countries: Denmark, Wweden, Norway, Iceland. They are always in the top 10, and largely in the top five happiest countries. And I think their culture helps to make that happen. So I think you need cultural evolution which supports caring for everyone in the community. (And these democratic socialists are different from communist countries. They are a mix of market/individualism and caring for one another.)

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