Why Ecofeminism Will Change the World

Fairies, elves and other supernatural entities like Gaia are historically portrayed as women, hinting to femininity’s link to nature. When a patriarchal society was fabricated and started to poison the Earth with industrialized cities and smoke stacks, women were not the only beings suppressed.

The environment has suffered a great blow by advocating a male-dominated world. Ecofeminism is the philosophy that ties the freedom of women with the overall health of the planet and calls upon women to unite and cooperate with nature to regain balance.

The background

Before getting into what ecofeminism is, let’s take a look at how it began. The philosophy came into focus during the 1980s, though many will say that the idea of tying ecology and feminism together started way before then.

An example of an earlier occurrence would be in the 1960s during a demonstrations where women assembled to fight nuclear power plants, the north India Chipko movement of the 1970s (where woman fought to preserve natural environment and changed how modern day India protests), and the green belt movement in Kenya that was founded in 1977.

The 1980s solidified the idea of the ecofeminist school of thought. Instances of this happened during the ‘Women and Life on Earth: A Conference on Eco-Feminism in the Eighties’ convention in Amherst, Massachusetts and the ‘Antinuclear Clamshell Alliance’ that happened on both American coastlines.

Since the 1990s, ecofeminists have gotten a lot of criticism for promoting “essentialism” tendencies. Divergent philosophies also began to appear, blending several other ideas and cloud the intention of ecofeminism. The West Coast Ecofeminist Conference, currently sponsored by top feminists Julia Orr and Charlotte Cressey, is still going strong.

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There is no single definition that seems to cover every single facet of the philosophy. The term has been used as something of an umbrella to encompass the issues of women rights and equality alongside environmental preservation.

Probably the greatest principle of ecofeminism is that, while equality to men is sought after, it is not be to be seen as the same entity. Women should be allowed to be women – naturally. In other words, childbirth, domestic care, nurturing activities and other maternal and womanly aspects of the gender should not be repressed or scrutinized. Ecofeminism also ‘aims to reveal the internal link between natural domination and gender domination’ (Chen).

From this main idea comes varying schools of thought:

  • Cultural – In this perspective, the subservience of women and nature are caused by the temperament of femininity, as in service and nurturing rather than domination. Culturally speaking, the control of women and nature has been brought about by patriarchal societies.
  • Spiritual – This view was introduced when archaeological discoveries revealed there used to be matriarchal cultures and more nature-oriented religions. The worship of nature, and also of goddesses, is advocated. However, this form of ecofeminism is considered by others as an ‘escape route,’ by which women escape into fantasy rather than tackling sexist issues directly.
  • Social – A combination of pure feminism and ecology, this variant looks into the political and economic climate. To the social ecofeminist, there is no use in denying the power of the patriarchy and how it has become a form of social hierarchy. What social ecofeminism calls for is the readjustment of social and economic components to balance out the roles of men and women.
  • Socialist – Not to be confused with the previous school of thought, the socialist goes much farther. In this perspective, private ownership (capitalism) has led to dual oppression. Capitalism fortifies men’s classes, thus allowing for the direct suppression of women.

Whichever school of thought you find yourself leaning towards, each one shares basic principles – feminism and ecology. Ecofeminism was introduced from a feminist mind-set. It explores how women have been culturally objectified and discrimination against in social settings.

Also accepted is how women are not the same around the world. Thinking of women as the same would be identifying and simplifying them based on a single trait – their gender – and that is exactly what feminists do not want.

Women want to be seen for their unique traits and capabilities.

The second principle is ecology. By definition, ecology is the study of a natural ecosystem and the relationships of organisms within that environment and integration of mutual dependence. On an organic level, everything in nature is linked – and ecofeminism accepts that. It also accepts diversity, growth, and multi-dimensional, creative thought while rejecting one-sided, mechanical utilitarianism.

Other implied principles include:

  • Everything on this planet has worth.
  • All life should be treated democratically.
  • Every living thing deserves to have its natural needs (shelter, food) fulfilled.
  • Living economies are built on the immediate community.
  • A balanced Earth is based on democracy.
  • Democracy cannot exist without living culture.
  • Such cultures are nourished by nature and find balance in the natural world.

(Adapted from the 10 Principles of Earth Democracy, written by Vandana Shiva in 2005)

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Getting involved

You might find yourself nodding your head and agreeing to some of the opinions an ecofeminist would regularly have.

First, put into practice the idea that we, people, are directly affecting the overall wellness of the world. Incorporate eco-friendly routines to lessen deleterious actions. Recycle, buy organic and local produce, and support environmental justice.

Next, check out some reading material and organization websites. One of the most highly regarded is Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (wilpf.org) which began in 1915. On the website you can find research sources, conference dates and the latest news in the ecofeminist movement.

PeaceWomen is a group that has been around since 2000 and operates beneath WILPF. These ladies travel the world, hold meetings, and rally together women around the group to support their sisters.

Another recommended site belongs to the International Society for Environmental Ethics (enviroethics.org). MADRE is a worldwide women’s rights organization that seeks to aid those in disaster and war stricken regions and promote global peace.

Be the change

Because ecofeminism has long been a rather unspoken movement, there have been limitations to how much can be done. The more the idea is supported, the greater the influence feminism and eco-friendly practices will become. What is more, with the acknowledgement of how women are treated globally, we can begin to realize the faults in our own actions.

How have your personal clothing and grocery purchases promoted the suffering of those labouring in factories or struggling with poverty? How has our ignorance harmed the planet?

By educating yourself on these matters, regardless of how you perceive ecofeminism, you will surely discover that women are still be oppressed and exploited. We are not free or equal just yet – and that fact is extremely sobering.

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Whether you are an active ecofeminist or simply searching for another reason to reduce and reuse, the philosophy behind ecofeminism is undoubtedly thought-provoking. Basic principles include the link between humans and nature, as well as how a patriarchal society has dominated the female culture and natural world.

That said, women have the ability to fight back. Supporting other cultures, living sustainability, and empowering femininity has already provided wonderful results. But we can go farther and see to the end of a male dominated, mechanical world.