ecofeminism

Ecofeminism with Western Roots

As mentioned in my last post about Ecofeminism, these philosophies can be divided into three different categories. This post will cover the first of the three.

Western Philosophy

It wasn’t until destructive human-nature relationships were truly revealed in the 1970’s that topics about the environment entered Western philosophy. Questions were bubbling up about whether or not humans are superior to other animals and if our culture/”needs” (wants) were to take priority over nature. Both feminist and non-feminist Western environmental philosophies emerged during this time.

Environmental ethics is an important conversation behind the Western philosophy of ecofeminism. Western environmental ethics says that humans are morally responsible to nonhuman animals and nature, although they disagree on any number of things beyond this point.

Some argue that nature (including nonhuman animals) have more value than what they provide to humans. Like human beings, they have intrinsic and inherent value. This ecofeminism perspective is one that uses key concepts and theories of Western philosophy, but extends them to include nonhuman animals in the moral community. Personally, I agree with this.

Ecofeminist ethics goes beyond general animal and environmental ethics in the following ways:

  • It emphasizes that canonical Western philosophy’s view of humans as rational agents, who are separate from and superior to nature, fails to acknowledge that humans are also animals, therefore we are a part of nature.
  • It makes visible the interconnections among violence against women, violence against nature, and pornography.
  • It demonstrates the role played by language in creating, maintaining, and perpetuating the exploitations of both women and nature.
  • The culture versus nature argument has not been gender-neutral in the past and still isn’t. The argument is associating men with superior culture and both women and animals with “inferior” nature.
  • It locates the exploitation of women and animals in mutually reinforcing systems of unjustified domination, particularly sexism, racism, and speciesism.
  • It raises the question of whether or not the absence of a gendered perspective in traditional animal ethics makes those positions on the mistreatment of nonhuman animals incomplete or inadequate.

The Land Ethic

Aldo Leopold’s view was published as an essay, “The Land Ethic,” in his 1949 book The Sand County Almanac. Leopold’s land ethic was the first genuinely environmental ethic as opposed to an animal ethic. We continue to draw on Leopold’s land ethic in ecofeminism today. Leopold’s land ethic advances four key claims:

  1. The moral community should include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or, what Leopold calls, collectively, “the land”
  2. The role of people should shift from conqueror to an equal member of the land community
  3. We can be moral only in relation to something we can see, feel, understand, love, respect, admire, or otherwise have faith in
  4. “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community; it is wrong when it tends otherwise” is Leopold’s ultimate moral maxim.
Ego VS Eco

Making the Shift

Whether an action is right or wrong is determined by reference to the consequences of those actions. This is rooted in Utilitarianism, a tradition stemming from the late 18th- and 19th-century English philosophers and economists Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. However, for Leopold, the relevant consequences are in nature. Leopold introduces these four moral concepts that go beyond those made by either Western philosophy or  ethics that emerge later such as animal ethics.

Leopold believed that an ecological interpretation of history shows that “the rich diversity of the world’s cultures reflects a corresponding diversity in the wilds that gave them birth.” Cultural diversity reflects ecological diversity. The preservation of cultural diversity and biodiversity are key to maintaining a balanced society and Earth.

As we say where I’m from, “Y’all means all!”

It is important to care for all people and all animals and all of our Earth!


Which part of the graphic do you resemble: Ego, Eco, or somewhere in between? Is it because you haven’t really thought about it or what are your reasons? I love to hear from y’all!

Nature is a Feminist Issue

“Nature is a Feminist Issue” is a common slogan for Ecofeminism, which is “a term used for an ancient wisdom” within the intersection of feminism and environmental studies. It first came to prominence in the early 1980s, based off of feminist philosophy, environmental activism, and the peace movements of the late 1970s.

The first ecofeminist conference, the 1980 ‘Women and Life on Earth: A Conference on Eco-Feminism’ focused on the connections between feminism, militarization, healing, and ecology.

The early perspective of ecofeminism from the 80’s focused on the ethics of the connections between women, nonhuman animals, and nature. Ecofeminism has grown into an umbrella term for a variety of different and often incompatible, perspectives on the connections among women (and other marginalized groups) of diverse races, ethnicities, ages, education level, socioeconomic statuses, state of employment, and geographic locations versus nature (including nonhuman animals).

“Nature is a feminist issue” is an accurate slogan because an understanding of nature and environmental problems often helps us understand how oppression is linked with the unjustified domination of nature. Poor, rural women in less developed countries who are heads of households suffer disproportionately harms caused by environmental problems such as deforestation, water pollution, and environmental toxins.

There are three distinct kinds of perspectives within ecofeminist philosophy.

  1. Positions whose historical beginnings are located in non-feminist Western environmental philosophies
  2. Positions that were initially identified with the original meaning of ecofeminism
  3. New positions on “women-nature connections” that are not identified with either of the first two perspectives

I will go through each of these in individual posts soon!

Western rationality, as opposed to ecofeminism, stresses that the basis of human civilization consists in a progressive detachment from nature. The more women and other people were associated with their bodies’ natural processes as well as the entire natural world, the more inferior and barbaric they are considered.

 

pyramid1

The pyramid of importance underlying many societal norms. Ecofeminism stands in direct opposition to this. (graphic from heart-head-hands.com)

 

Ecofeminism, however, stresses the connectedness of the Earth itself and how it can lead to healing of natural systems as well as our relationships within our own species. Humans, as a part of this community depend on earth and sea, and the life this generates for survival, but they are even more fundamentally a part of nature, one part of the whole.  Ecofeminists reject the idea that freedom and happiness depend on an ongoing process of emancipation from nature and the natural state of humanity.

pyramid

The new proposed “pyramid”. Importance is shown Top to Bottom and not Left to Right. I shuffled them so there is no illusion of an order.

The Earth itself is often referred to as a female parental figure of all living things on Earth. Like with women, Western societies have/had an obsession with conquering and taming the Earth.

 

 

I hope y’all continue to re-establish a sense of connection with nature, as well as treat all of the human species and parts of nature as equally important and worthy.