Ecofeminism: What About It?

Lyndi Weener is a Women’s Studies major at Hope College and a staff writer for The WMEAC Blog.   In collaboration with WMEAC, she is researching the topic of ecofeminism.  This is the first in a series exploring the connections between feminism and environmentalism.

As is the case with most branches of feminism, the exact definition of ecofeminism is hard to pin down.  Manifesting itself in a variety of theories and practices, the term originated in 1974 with French feminist Francoise d’Eaubonne.

Born out of two pre-existing movements, the ecofeminist movement is a social movement that acknowledges the parallel relationship between ecological interests and feminist interests. According to d’Eaubonne, the oppression of women and the oppression of the earth are intimately connected and centrally rooted in dualistic thinking and unequal power relationships.  Therefore, this thinking extends not only to sexist oppression, but other systems of oppression including racism, heterosexism, ableism, and specieism to name a few.

Many feminists believe that patriarchy, the social system in which men hold primary authority, originated with the invention of agriculture.  Hunter-gatherer societies were considered rather egalitarian, but as more families undertook agriculture, women’s inability to own property put them on an unequal playing field with men.

Therefore, ecofeminists believe that man’s relationship to land as domesticator and owner bled into his relationship with women.  Entitlement to and oppression of the land developed attitudes of domination within land-owners and helped to further justify oppression within other relationships of unequal power.  For this reason, ecofeminists claim that true healing of the oppression of the earth cannot be maintained without jointly striving for healing within oppressive relationships, whether they be sexist, speciest, heterosexist, racist, ableist or otherwise.

To learn more about ecofeminism in action, check out the website of Navdanya, a “women-centred movement for the protection of biological and cultural diversity” founded by activist, scholar, and ecofeminist Vandana Shiva.

Stay tuned for future posts on ecofeminism and its relevancy to West Michigan.

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