Ecofeminism (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
A theoretical philosophy and an activist stance, ecofeminism understands that all oppression is linked by a shared logic and that historical, theoretical, and practical relationships exist between gender discrimination and environmental degradation. Ecofeminists assert that in order to address environmental harm, human beings need to attend to power-laden gender relationships; in order to address gender inequity, humans need to understand the logic that enacts hierarchical relationships. Ecofeminists argue that the feminine has long been associated with the natural, the body, and emotion, symbolized in metaphors such as the nurturing image of Mother Nature. Alternately, the masculine is tied to traits such as rationality and civilized (nonnatural) progress. Shared logic perpetuates these dualisms—female/male, nature/culture, body/mind—which are overlaid with corresponding value judgments: Rationality, male traits, and culture are good; expressions of the body, female traits, and nature are bad. Ecofeminism seeks to understand and address these dualisms.
Activist ecofeminism emerged during the 1970’s with women-led groups who performed acts of civil disobedience to protest harms against nature such as nuclear proliferation, deforestation, and widespread pollution. These gatherings provoked reaction from academic feminists, who explored the theoretical relationships among multiple forms of degradation. Early ecofeminism was tied closely...
(The entire section is 682 words.)
Further Reading (Encyclopedia of Environmental Issues, Revised Edition)
Kheel, Marti. Nature Ethics: An Ecofeminist Perspective. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.
Sturgeon, Noël. Ecofeminist Natures: Race, Gender, Feminist Theory, and Political Action. New York: Routledge, 1997.
Warren, Karen J. Ecofeminist Philosophy: A Western Perspective on What It Is and Why It Matters. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000.
(The entire section is 48 words.)
Ecofeminism (Encyclopedia of Science and Religion)
The term ecofeminism was first used by French radical feminist Françoise d'Eaubonne (b. 1920) in 1974 to synthesize two movements previously thought of as separate: ecology and feminism. D'Eaubonne saw clear interconnections between the domination of women and that of nature, and she hoped, by making these interconnections explicit, to rescue the planet from the destructive effects of "the male system" and restore it for the benefit of humanity's future.
Ecofeminism offers a range of theoretical positions in which the prefix eco signifies the whole household of life. These positions include stringent critiques of reductionist ecological science because of its destructive effects on the whole. Ecofeminism is defined, however, by politically and socially multivalent feminist analyses that seek a positive understanding of the dialectic between nature and humanity in order to move beyond masculine domination of both women and nature.
The relationship between nature and human culture remains problematic for ecofeminists because the feminization of nature has contributed conceptually to downgrading women's cultural role and status. Ecofeminists reject a male elite model of human culture that inferiorizes and excludes groups of people, as well as nature. Within industrially developed societies, ecofeminists debate the issue of gender difference within cultures in dialogue with movements such as deep ecology, antimilitarism, animal liberation, antiracism, and environmental justice. Globally, ecofeminists consistently critique the environmental effects of gendered science and resource management, together with economic development models that have a disproportionate and often disastrous impact on women.
Ecofeminism also offers a potentially transformative philosophy of the self and of society. Influenced by process thought and Gaia science, every entity is seen as internally related to all aspects of its environment, with that relationship as part of what the entity is in itself. This awareness of ecological interdependence calls for an essentially nonviolent ethic of care within societies. It includes care for the fundamental elements of life in recognition of their limits, as well as attention to their present and future ecological and social costs.
Worldwide, ecofeminism focuses on relationships between global economic policies and global ecological crises, arguing that addressing the first in the form of a radical transformation of capitalist production, from an overwhelmingly competitive system to a cooperative one, benefits the global environment. Therefore ecofeminists unite with social justice organizations in order to reach out and care for those statistically most at risk from, but powerless to avert, environmental degradation: the poor, women, children, and indigenous peoples.
Ecofeminism encourages, indeed, requires a reshaping of the image of God from a hierarchical God above and beyond Earth to one continuously involved with, while not confined by, the evolutionary history of life on Earth. Therefore, ecofeminism fosters a sense of our belonging within, rather than being in control of, the community of life. The insights of process theology, feminist theology, non-traditional spiritualities, and the spiritualities of indigenous communities with a strong matriarchal tradition are used to highlight ecological interdependence and the value of biodiversity in all its forms. Many of these insights demonstrate a diversity of response to what is called sacred or divine.
See also ANIMAL RIGHTS; DEEP ECOLOGY; ECOLOGY; ECOLOGY, ETHICS OF; ECOLOGY, RELIGIOUS AND PHILOSOPHICAL ASPECTS; ECOLOGY, SCIENCE OF; ECOTHEOLOGY; FEMINISMS AND SCIENCE; FEMINIST COSMOLOGY; FEMINIST THEOLOGY; GAIA HYPOTHESIS; WOMANIST THEOLOGY
d'Eaubonne, Françoise. "The Time for Ecofeminism," trans. Ruth Hottell. In Ecology: Key Concepts in Critical Theory, eds. Carolyn Merchant and Roger S. Gottlieb. Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press International, 1994.
Merchant, Carolyn. Earthcare: Women and the Environment. London and New York: Routledge, 1996.
Mies, Maria, and Shiva, Vandana. Ecofeminism. London and Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Zed Books, 1993.
Plumwood, Val. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. London and New York: Routledge, 1993.
Primavesi, Anne. Sacred Gaia: Holistic Theology and Earth System Science. London and New York: Routledge, 2000.
Sturgeon, Noël. Ecofeminist Natures: Race, Gender, Feminist Theory, and Political Action. London and New York: Routledge, 1997.
Warren, Karen, ed. Ecological Feminism. London and New York: Routledge, 1994.