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The term Ecofeminism is used to describe a "feminist approach to understanding "ecology. Ecofeminist thinkers draw on the concept of "gender to theorize on the relationship between humans and the natural world.[1] The term was coined by the French writer "Françoise d'Eaubonne in her book Le Féminisme ou la Mort (1974).[2][3] Today, there are many intepretations of ecofeminism and how it might be applied to social thought, including: "ecofeminist art, ecofeminist theory, social justice and political philosophy, religion, contemporary feminism and poetry. As there are several different types of feminism and different beliefs held by feminists, there are different versions of ecofeminism.

"Charlene Spretnak has offered one way of categorizing ecofeminist work: 1) through the study of political theory as well as history; 2) through the belief and study of nature-based religions; 3) through environmentalism.[4]



According to "Françoise d'Eaubonne in her book Le Féminisme ou la Mort (1974, Ecofeminism relates the oppression and domination of all subordinate groups (women, people of color, children, the poor) to the oppression and domination of nature (animals, land, water, air, etc.). In the book, the author argues that oppression, domination, exploitation, and colonization from the Western patriarchal society has directly caused irreversible environmental damage.[5] "Françoise d'Eaubonne was an activist and organizer, and her writing encouraged the eradication of all social injustice, not just injustice against women and the environment.[5]

This tradition includes a number of influential texts including: Women and Nature (Susan Griffin 1978), The Death of Nature (Carolyn Merchant 1980) and Gyn/Ecology (Mary Daly 1978). These texts helped to propel the association between domination by man on women and the domination of culture on nature. From these texts feminist activism of the 1980s linked ideas of ecology and the environment. For example, conferences for women devoted to living on the earth and protests against nuclear testing and other militarism that oppresses femininity. Writing in this circle discussed ecofeminism drawing from Green Party politics, peace movements, and direct action movements.[6]

Modern ecofeminism, or feminist eco-criticism, eschews such "essentialism and instead focuses more on "intersectional questions, such as how the nature-culture split enables the oppression of female and nonhuman bodies. It is also an activist and academic movement that sees critical connections between the exploitation of nature and the domination over women both caused by men.

Gendering Nature[edit]

One ecofeminist theory is that "capitalist values reflect "paternalistic and gendered values. In this interpretation effects of capitalism has led to a harmful split between "nature and "culture. In the 1970s, early ecofeminists discussed that the split can only be healed by the feminine instinct for nurture and "holistic knowledge of nature's processes.

Several feminists make the distinction that it is not because women are female or "feminine" that they relate to nature, but because of their similar states of oppression by the same male-dominant forces. The marginalization is evident in the gendered language used to describe nature and the animalized language used to describe women. Some discourses link women specifically to the environment because of their traditional social role as a nurturer and caregiver.[7] Ecofeminists following in this line of thought believe that these connections are illustrated through the coherence of socially-labeled values associated with 'femininity' such as nurturing, which are present both among women and in nature.

"Vandana Shiva says that women have a special connection to the environment through their daily interactions and this connection has been ignored. She says that women in subsistence economies who produce "wealth in partnership with nature, have been experts in their own right of holistic and ecological knowledge of nature's processes". She makes the point that "these alternative modes of knowing, which are oriented to the social benefits and sustenance needs are not recognized by the "capitalist "reductionist paradigm, because it fails to perceive the interconnectedness of nature, or the connection of women's lives, work and knowledge with the creation of wealth (23)".[8]  Shiva blames this failure on the West's "patriarchy, and the patriarchal idea of what development is. According to Shiva, patriarchy has labeled women, nature, and other groups not growing the economy as "unproductive".[9]

An "Ecofeminist Framework"[edit]

In the 1993 essay entitled "Ecofeminism: Toward Global Justice and Planetary Health" authors "Greta Gaard and "Lori Gruen outline what they call the "ecofeminist framework". The essay provides a wealth of data and statistics in addition to laying out the theoretical aspects of the ecofeminist critique. The framework described is intended to establish ways of viewing and understanding our current global situations so that we are better able to understand how we arrived at this point and what may be done to ameliorate the ills.

Gaard and Gruen argue that there are four sides to this framework: the mechanistic materialist model of the universe that resulted from the scientific revolution and the subsequent reduction of all things into mere resources to be optimized, dead inert matter to be used; the rise of patriarchal religions and their establishment of gender hierarchies along with their denial of immanent divinity; self and other dualisms and the inherent power and domination ethic it entails; and capitalism and its intrinsic need for the exploitation, destruction and instrumentalization of animals, earth and people for the sole purpose of creating wealth. They hold that these four factors have brought us to what ecofeminists see as a "separation between nature and culture" that is the root source of our planetary ills.[10]

Environmental Movement[edit]

Women participated in the "environmental movements, specifically preservation and conservation, much earlier, beginning in the late nineteenth century and continuing into the early twentieth century, than this.[11] Beginning in the late 20th century, women worked in efforts to protect wildlife, food, air and water.[12] These efforts depended largely on new developments in the environmental movement from influential writers, such as "Henry David Thoreau, "Aldo Leopold, "John Muir, and "Rachel Carson.[13][14] Fundamental examples of women's efforts in the 20th century are the books "Silent Spring by Rachel Carson and Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams. These works truly opened American's eyes to the environmental harm they were perpetuating, and created a platform for change.

Ecofeminist author Karren Warren lists Aldo Leopold's essay ""Land Ethic" (1949) as a fundamental work to the ecofeminist conception, as Leopold was the first to pen an ethic for the land which understands all non-human parts of that community (animals, plants, land, air, water) as equal to and in a relationship with humans. This inclusive understanding of the environment launched the modern preservation movement and illustrated how issues can be viewed through a framework of caring.[5]

Susan A. Mann an eco-feminist and professor of sociological and feminist theory considers the roles women played in these activisms to be the starter for ecofeminism in later centuries. Mann associates the beginning of ecofeminism not with feminists but with women of different race and class backgrounds who made connections among gender, race, class and environmental issues. This ideal is upheld through the notion that in activist and theory circles marginalized groups must be included in the discussion. In early environmental and women's movements, issues of varying races and classes were often separated.[15]

Movements of the 1970s[edit]

In northern India in 1973, women took part in the "Chipko movement to protect forests from deforestation. Non-violent protest tactics were used to occupy trees so that loggers could not cut them down.[5]

In Kenya in 1977, the "Green Belt Movement was initiated by Professor "Wangari Maathai, environmental and political activist, and is ongoing today. It is rural tree planting program led by women, which Maathai designed to help prevent desertification in the area. The program created a 'green belt' of at least 1,000 trees around villages, and gives participants the ability to take charge in their communities. In later years, the Green Belt Movement was an advocate for informing and empowering citizens through seminars for civic and environmental education, as well as holding national leaders accountable for their actions and instilling agency in citizens.[16]

In 1978 in New York, mother and environmentalist "Lois Gibbs led her community in protest after discovering that their entire neighborhood, "Love Canal, was built on top of a toxic dump site. The toxins in the ground were causing illness among children and reproductive issues among women, as well as birth defects in babies born to pregnant women exposed to the toxins. The Love Canal movement eventually led to the evacuation and relocation of nearly 800 families by the federal government.[17]

In 1980 and 1981, members of such a conference organized a peaceful protest at the pentagon. Women stood, hand in hand, demanding equal rights (including social, economic, and reproductive rights) as well as an end to militaristic actions taken by the government and exploitation of the community (people and the environment). This movement is known as the Women's Pentagon Actions.[6]

In 1985, the Akwesasne Mother's Milk Project was launched by "Katsi Cook. This study was funded by the government, and investigated how the higher level of contaminants in water near the Mohawk reservation impacted babies. It revealed that through breast milk, Mohawk children were being exposed to 200% more toxins than children not on the reservation. Toxins contaminate water all over the world, but to due environmental racism, certain subversive groups are exposed to a much higher amount.[18]

The Greening of Harlem Coalition is another example of an ecofeminist movement. In 1989, "Bernadette Cozart founded the coalition, which is responsible for many urban gardens around Harlem. Cozart's goal is to turn vacant lots into community gardens.[19] This is economically beneficial, and also provides a way for very urban communities to be in touch with nature and each other. The majority of people interested in this project (as noted in 1990) were women. Through these gardens, they were able to participate in and become leaders of their communities. Urban greening exists in other places as well. Beginning in 1994, a group of African-American women in Detroit have developed city gardens, and call themselves the Gardening Angels. Similar garden movements have been occurring globally.[20]

The development of "vegetarian ecofeminism can be traced to the mid-80s and 90s, where it first appeared in writing. However, the roots of a vegetarian ecofeminist view can be traced back further by looking at sympathy for non-humans and counterculture movements of the 1960s and 1970s.[21] At the culmination of the decade ecofeminism had spread to both coasts and articulated an intersectional analysis of women and the environment. Eventually, challenging ideas of environmental classism and racism, resisting toxic dumping and other threats to the impoverished.[22]

In the 1980s and 1990s some began to see the advancing theories in ecofeminism as essentialist. Through analysis done by post structural and third wave feminists it was argued that ecofeminism equated women with nature. This dichotomy is dangerous because it groups all women into one category and enforces the very societal norms that feminism is trying to break. Out of this critique rose the anti-essentialist argument. Ecofeminist and author Noel Sturgeon says in an interview that what anti-essentialists are critiquing is a strategy used to mobilize large and diverse groups of both theorists and activists.[23]


Coming out of the 90s, ecofeminism met a lot of criticism from anti-essentialist feminism, which heavily critiqued what they viewed as "essentialism. The essentialist view saw ecofeminism as reinforcing and growing patriarchal dominance and norms.[24] Feminist thoughts surrounding ecofeminism grew in some areas as it was criticized; vegetarian ecofeminism contributed intersectional analysis; and ecofeminisms that analyzed animal rights, labor rights and activisms as they could draw lines among oppressed groups. To some, the inclusion of non-human animals also became to be viewed as essentialist. According to ecofeminist and author Charlene Spretnak, modern ecofeminism is concerned about a variety of issues, including reproductive technology, equal pay and equal rights, toxic poisoning, "Third World development, and more.[4]

Ecofeminism as it propelled into the 21st century became aware of the criticisms, and in response ecofeminists with a materialist lens began doing research and renaming the topic, i.e. queer ecologies, global feminist "environmental justice, and "gender and the environment.[22]

Major critiques[edit]

The major criticism of ecofeminism is that it is essentialist.[25] The ascribed essentialism appears in two main areas:

"Social ecologist and feminist "Janet Biehl has criticized ecofeminism for focusing too much on a "mystical connection between women and nature and not enough on the actual conditions of women.[28] She has also stated that rather than being a forward-moving theory, ecofeminism is an anti-progressive movement for women.[28]

"Rosemary Radford Ruether also critiques this focus on mysticism over work that focuses on helping women, but argues that spirituality and activism can be combined effectively in ecofeminism.[29]

A.E. Kings has criticized ecofeminism for limiting itself to focusing only on gender and the environment, and neglecting to take an intersectional approach. Kings says that ecofeminists claim to be intersectional, however have fallen short on their commitment until recently.[30]


In Ecofeminism (1993) authors "Vandana Shiva, Maria Mies and Evan Bondi ponder "modern science and its acceptance as a universal and value-free system. Instead, they view the dominant stream of modern science as a projection of Western men's values.[31] The privilege of determining what is considered scientific knowledge has been controlled by men, and for the most part of history restricted to men. Bondi and Miles list examples including the medicalization of "childbirth and the industrialization of "plant reproduction.[31]

Bondi argues that the medicalization of childbirth has marginalized "midwife knowledge and changed the natural process of childbirth into a procedure dependent on specialized technologies and appropriated expertise. A common claim within ecofeminist literature is that patriarchal structures justify their dominance through binary opposition, these include but are not limited to: "heaven/earth, mind/body, "male/"female, human/animal, spirit/matter, culture/nature and "white"/non-white.[32] Oppression is reinforced by assuming truth in these binaries and instilling them as 'marvelous to behold' through religious and scientific constructs.[32]

The application of ecofeminism to animal rights has established vegetarian ecofeminism, which asserts that "omitting the oppression of animals from feminist and ecofeminist analyses […] is inconsistent with the activist and philosophical foundations of both feminism (as a "movement to end all forms of oppression") and ecofeminism."[21] It puts into practice "the personal is political" for it believes that "meat-eating is a form of patriarchal domination…that suggests a link between male violence and a meat-based diet."[21] Vegetarian ecofeminism combines sympathy with the analysis of culture and politics to refine a system of ethics and action.[21]

Ecofeminism as materialist is another common theme in ecofeminism. A materialist view connects some institutions such as labor, power and property as the source of domination over women and nature. There are connections made between these subjects because similarly there are varying values in production and reproduction.[24]

Spiritual ecofeminism is another branch of ecofeminism, and is popular among ecofeminist authors such as Starhawk, Riane Eisler, Carol J. Adams, and more. Starhawk calls this an earth-based spirituality, which recognizes that the Earth is alive, that we are interconnected, as well as a community.[33] Spiritual ecofeminism is not linked to one specific religion, but is centered around values of caring, compassion, and non-violence.[34] Often, ecofeminists refer to more ancient traditions, such as the worship of Gaia, the Goddess of nature and spirituality (also known as Mother Earth).[34]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b MacGregor, Sherilyn (2006). Beyond mothering earth: ecological citizenship and the politics of care. Vancouver: UBC Press. p. 286. "ISBN "0-7748-1201-X. 
  2. ^ a b (Merchant, Carolyn. "Chapter 8." In Radical ecology: the search for a livable world. New York: Routledge, 1992. 184)
  3. ^ Warren, Karen (September 2002). "Karen Warren's Ecofeminism". Ethics & The Environment. 7: 12. 
  4. ^ a b Spretnak, Charlene. "Ecofeminism: Our Roots and Flowering." Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Feminism, edited by Irene Diamond and Gloria Ornstein, Sierra Club Books, 1990, pp. 3-14.
  5. ^ a b c d Warren, Karen J. (2000). Ecofeminist Philosophy: A Western Perspective on What It Is and Why It Matters. Lanham, Maryland: Roman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. "ISBN "9780847692996. 
  6. ^ a b Lamar, Stephanie (1991). "Ecofeminist Theory and Grassroots Politics". Hypatia. 6 (1): 28–45. "doi:10.1111/j.1527-2001.1991.tb00207.x. 
  7. ^ Stoddart, Mark; Tindall, D. B. (2011). "Ecofeminism, Hegemonic Masculinity, And Environmental Movement Participation In British Columbia, Canada, 1998-2007: "Women Always Clean Up The Mess"". Sociological Spectrum. 31 (3): 342–368. "doi:10.1080/02732173.2011.557065. 
  8. ^ Shiva, Vandana (1988). Staying alive: women, ecology and development. London: Zed Books. "ISBN "978-0-86232-823-8. 
  9. ^ Shiva, Vandana. "Development as a New Project of Western Patriarchy." Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Feminism, edited by Irene Diamond and Gloria Ornstein, Sierra Club Books, 1990, pp. 189-200.
  10. ^ Gaard, Greta and, Gruen, Lori (1993). "Ecofeminism: Toward Global Justice and Planetary Health". Society and Nature. 2: 1–35. 
  11. ^ Mann, Susan A. (2011). "Pioneers of U.S. Ecofeminism and Environmental Justice". Feminist Formations. 23 (2): 1–25. "doi:10.1353/ff.2011.0028. 
  12. ^ Glazebrook, Trish (Autumn 2002). "Karen Warren's Ecofeminism". Ethics & the Environment. 7: 12–27. "doi:10.2979/ete.2002.7.2.12. 
  13. ^ Norlock, Kathryn J. (December 2011). "Building Receptivity: Leopold's Land Ethic and Critical Feminist Interpretation". Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature & Culture. 5: 491–509. "doi:10.1558/jsrnc.v5i4.491. 
  14. ^ Seager, Joni (Spring 2003). "Rachel Carson Died of Breast Cancer: The Coming of Age of Feminist Environmentalism". Signs: Journal of Women in Culture & Society. 28: 945–973. "doi:10.1086/345456. 
  15. ^ Mann, Susan A (2011). "Pioneers of U.S. Ecofeminism and Environmental Justice". Feminist Formations. 23 (2): 1–25. "doi:10.1353/ff.2011.0028. 
  16. ^ "Our History". The Green Belt Movement. Retrieved October 8, 2016. 
  17. ^ "Love Canal". Center for Health, Environment, & Justice. Retrieved October 8, 2016. 
  18. ^ Doverspike, Nicole (2012). "Mother's Milk Project". English 487W Blog: West of Everything. Retrieved October 9, 2016. 
  19. ^ Bernstein, Emily (1993). "Neighborhood Report: Harlem; Sowing a Future With Green in It". The New York Times. Retrieved October 9, 2016. 
  20. ^ Hawthorne, Susan (2002). Wild Politics: Feminism, Globalisation, Bio/diversity. Melbourne, Australia: Spinifex Press. 
  21. ^ a b c d Gaard, Greta Claire (2002). "Vegetarian ecofeminism: A review essay". Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. 23 (2). 
  22. ^ a b Gaard, Greta (2011). "Ecofeminism Revisited: Rejecting Essentialism and Re-Placing Species in a Material Feminist Environmentalism". Feminist Formations. 23 (2): 26–53. "doi:10.1353/ff.2011.0017. 
  23. ^ Michiels, Nete. "Social Movements And Feminism." Women & Environments International Magazine, no. 92/93, 2013, pp. 15-17.
  24. ^ a b "Ecofeminism: Is the Movement Still Relevant?". Gender Across Borders. 
  25. ^ Gaard, Greta (Summer 2011). "Ecofeminism Revisited: Rejecting Essentialism and Re-Placing Species in a Material Feminist Environmentalism". Feminist Formations. 23: 26–53. "doi:10.1353/ff.2011.0017 – via EBSCOhost. 
  26. ^ a b "Ecofeminism Critique". The Green Fuse. 
  27. ^ hooks, bell. "Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center" Cambridge, MA: South End Press 1984
  28. ^ a b Biehl, Janet (1991). Rethinking eco-feminist politics. Boston, Massachusetts: "South End Press. "ISBN "978-0-89608-392-9. 
  29. ^ a b Ruether, Rosemary Radford (2003). Heather Eaton & Lois Ann Lorentzen, ed. Ecofeminism and Globalization. Lanham, Boulder, New York, Toronto, Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield. pp. vii – xi. "ISBN "0-7425-2697-6. 
  30. ^ Kings, A.E. (Spring 2017). "Intersectionality and the Changing Face of Ecofeminism". Ethics and the Environment. 22: 63–87. "doi:10.2979/ethicsenviro.22.1.04. 
  31. ^ a b (Mies, Maria, and Vandana Shiva. Ecofeminism. Halifax, N.S. : Fernwood Publications; 1993. 24.)
  32. ^ a b Laura Hobgood-Oster. "Ecofeminism: Historic and International Evolution" (PDF). Retrieved March 17, 2012. 
  33. ^ Starhawk. "Power, Authority, and Mystery: Ecofeminism and Earth-based Spirituality." Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism, edited by Irene Diamond and Gloria Orenstein, Sierra Club Books, 1990, pp. 73-86.
  34. ^ a b Eisler, Riane. "The Gaia Tradition & The Partnership Future: An Ecofeminist Manifesto." Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism, edited by Irene Diamond and Gloria Orenstein, Sierra Club Books, 1990, pp. 23-34.
  35. ^ Ralte, Lalrinawmi. The World as the Body of God Ecofeminist Theological Discourse with Special Reference to Tribal Women in India., rethinkingmission.org, accessed March 24, 2012
  36. ^ LaRosa, Patricia. "Finding Aid for Rosemary Radford Ruether Papers, 1954-2002" (PDF). Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  37. ^ "Who's Who of Women and the Environment". Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  38. ^ Charlene Spretnak, "The Early Years of the Green Movement in the United States", in Zelko and Brinkmann, eds., Green Parties, p. 48.
  39. ^ see "Starhawk
  40. ^ Vakoch, Douglas A (2011-01-01). Ecofeminism and rhetoric: critical perspectives on sex, technology, and discourse. New York: Berghahn Books. "ISBN "9780857451873. 
  41. ^ Vakoch, Douglas A (2012-01-01). Feminist ecocriticism: environment, women, and literature. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books. "ISBN "9780739176825. 
  42. ^ Vakoch, Douglas A.; Mickey, Sam (2018). Ecofeminism in Dialogue. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. "ISBN "9781498569279. 
  43. ^ Vakoch, Douglas A.; Mickey, Sam (2018). Literature and Ecofeminism: Intersectional and International Voices. London: Routledge. "ISBN "978-0815381723. 
  44. ^ Vakoch, Douglas; Mickey, Sam (2018). Women and Nature?: Beyond Dualism in Gender, Body, and Environment. London: Routledge. "ISBN "9781138053427. 

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