Written by Guest Writer Breanna Edwards
Breanna Edwards (she/her) is a high school student in Washington State, USA. She is passionate about politics, climate change, poverty relief, and human rights. In her spare time, she enjoys writing, reading, and learning dead languages. In the future, she hopes to attend college and major in a humanities field.
Edited by Annika Lilja
Ecofeminism is a small but growing community, and a relatively new branch of the feminist movement (so don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of it)! But what is it, and what future do ecofeminists envision?
What is Ecofeminism?
The word was first coined by French author and activist Françoise d'Eaubonne in 1974 in her book Le Féminisme. Ecofeminism is the belief that women and nature are connected, with specific regards to patriarchal oppression. As defined by professor Julia M. Mason, “Ecofeminism challenges us to think about the way that the social mentality that leads to the domination and oppression of women is directly connected to the social mentality that leads to the abuse of the environment."
Ecofeminist theory takes a deeper, more technical dive into the connection between women and Earth. Many women's studies majors who focus on ecofeminism look at history and literature to analyze how they believe society has feminized nature to normalize its destruction. Essentially, ecofeminist theory states that the patriarchal view of the world is that men are connected more with society, while women are connected more with Earth and nature. The Earth may be viewed as a loving, providing, matronly force; therefore being classified by some as inherently feminine. (We can trace this view to early literature in which nature is metaphorically compared to women, i.e. “Mother Earth” and similar cliches). Ecofeminists cite this as aiding in the development of patriarchy and allowing the climate to be destroyed. They argue that when the oppression of women was normalized, it became much easier to oppress or destroy nature. When women were forced to give up their dreams and careers and lives to serve men, it became easy to expect nature (a feminized force) to do the same. Ecofeminist theory also explores the connection between humans and nature, stating that we are in a continuous and unpreventable cycle with the Earth and that it is impossible to be separated from nature (as many of us believe ourselves to be). Ecofeminist Ariel Salleh states, “We are nature in embodied form.”
While ecofeminist theory is debated and explored in Western societies, it is less likely that you will find ecofeminists on the front lines of climate change giving it the same attention. Perhaps the most pertinent and universal aspect of ecofeminism is the belief that climate change will affect women more than men. While other parts of ecofeminist theory are arguably more philosophy than fiction, this has been backed by studies from reputable organizations such as the United Nations (UN). According to the UN, 70% of people living in poverty are women or girls. They also make up between 50% and 80% of the global food production workforce, making them more vulnerable to losing jobs as climate-driven drought and changing weather patterns upturn farming practices worldwide. Women statistically have less representation in government and political decision-making, meaning they may not have their concerns and situations represented on a political level. The United Nations also states that women are less likely to be able to flee climate disasters due to gender expectations, and that increasing climate disasters will cause more violence against women (which has been proven by past studies).
What are Ecofeminists Actually Doing to Address These Issues?
Dr. Vandana Shiva is an ecofeminist and scholar in India. She and her fellows have most notably advocated against The Green Revolution, an initiative that implemented an increase in pesticides and harmed natural biodiversity. She founded the organization Navdanya. According to its website, “Navdanya is an Earth Centric, Women-centric and Farmer-led movement for the protection of Biological and Cultural Diversity.” They invest in local farmers to preserve biodiversity, promote eco-friendly agricultural practices, and fight colonization, all while empowering women.
Mariama Sonko is a leader, ecofeminist activist, and famer in Senegal. In an interview with the website Holding Our Ground, she says, “During the harvest period in my community, it is women who take the lead.” She started a women’s group in the village where she lived, where women from the community met together, shared ideas and knowledge, made things to sell, and then used profits to attend an agricultural class. She is now the District President of the Niaguis Women's Promotion Groups, and advocates for traditional and sustainable agricultural practices.
Greta Gaard lives in the United States of America, where she is a professor and political activist. She has written numerous essays and studies on ecofeminism and its place in the world, ranging from queer ecoactivism to veganism to ecofeminism’s place in Indigenous communities. She is considered to be one of the most influential ecofeminists in the world, having edited four influential ecofeminist books, and having inspired many others through her work.
Understanding Ecofeminism and Politics
When combining two of the hottest topics in modern politics, you are guaranteed to find political involvement. Many ecofeminists also advocate for decolonization, de-globalization, and various types of socialism/communism, and view these causes as indirect involvement with the ecofeminist movement. Most ecofeminists like the ones mentioned above advocate for change at a political level, believing that this is the most effective way to deconstruct the systems oppressing women and nature. They fight to pass climate bills and work on projects to empower women to positively impact the environment.
What do you think about ecofeminism? Let us know in the comments below.
“Ariel Salleh, Ecofeminism as politics (interview).” YouTube, uploaded by Valentina Risaliti. 19 Jun. 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GI5TjFOIXes.
“Françoise d’Eaubonne.” Wikipedia. 18 Oct. 2021.
“Greta Gaard.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greta_Gaard. Accessed 2 Dec. 2021.
“Mariama Sonko.” Holding Our Ground. https://13africanfarmers.com/mariama. Accessed 2 Dec. 2021.
Miles, Katheryn. “Ecofeminism.” Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/ecofeminism. Accessed 2 Dec. 2021.
Navdanya. https://www.navdanya.org/site/. Accessed 2 Dec. 2021.
Osman-Elasha, Balgis. “Women…In The Shadow of Climate Change.” United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/chronicle/article/womenin-shadow-climate-change. Accessed 2 Dec. 2021.
“TEDxGrandValley - Julia Mason - An Ecofeminist Perspective.” YouTube, uploaded by TEDx Talks. 28 Jan. 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NQbMVyPzRg.
“Vandana Shiva.” Britannica. 1 Nov. 2021. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Vandana-Shiva.
“What is ecofeminism?” YouTube, uploaded by Women_attthe_Top. 24 Mar. 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rhhrPdsg8nk