Let’s Redefine Ecofeminism

Nicole Fragala
Aug 3, 2020 · 4 min read
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Photo: Liana Mikah

Ecofeminism was titled by French feminist Francoise d’Eaubonne in 1974. It was inspired by the parallels drawn between how government officials (primarily men of privilege) mishandle our environmental issues and ways in which they mishandle women. Back in the 70‘s, this was a radical but impactful accusation to make. Now, in 2020 we’re long overdue to admit that oppression comes in many shapes and sizes. As feminists and ecological activists, we can remain loyal allies to the entire spectrum by empathizing, listening and learning while working together to eliminate oppression at the source (got that, J.K. Rowling?).

So what is the source? For centuries, the world has been a control-room operated by white-identifying males. Men of power and privilege have been raised to take risks, get messy, assert dominance, and show little emotion in the process. (After all, emotions could be mistaken for weakness, and weakness can result in submission.) Let’s add another layer of extremes. In the eyes of supremacists or misogynists, a threat to dominance could inevitably lead to hyperbolic, venomous tantrums for control (ie. domestic, racial, and animal abuse). Raising our children with a mindset of entitlement programs them to lash out on who or whatever challenges their supposed “right to authority”. Pretty ironic that the goal is machismo-strength but the pure, primary response is fragility.

So what does this have to do with environmental abuse? First… let me be clear: the term is NOT for comparing human oppression to plant oppression. Rather, take the word “environment.” It doesn’t always pertain to the green grasses and blue oceans. The environment is also the home. It’s the neighborhood. We can even consider it a metaphor for the womb. Like the natural biomes, these are places that require nourishing, compassion and discipline. It’s also the DIVERSITY within our ecosystems that allow it to function and thrive at peak capacity. Unfortunately, most capitalist men currently in power cannot formulate converting nature into financial gain, so they pay little attention to it. Rather, they manifest fracking systems and economic empires, and defund our children’s educational systems before we defund the police. (See where I’m going with this?)

If we were to keep going at the same rate for the next five years, we are looking at a world consumed by inevitable mass migrations, climate wars, race wars, extinctions within ecosystems, disease outbreaks and more. It is just as much a humanitarian crisis as it is an environmental crisis.

We also must take responsibility for where environmentalism has gone wrong. For generations, there have been countless instances of racism and oppression when it comes to ecological employment. Back when the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was first developed by FDR in 1933, Roosevelt submitted to the racist demands of the Democrats in exchange for their support politically and financially. He made a compromise by segregating the programs; Whites from Blacks from Native Americans, while excluding women from employment entirely. The CCC flourished and was responsible for the planting of nearly 2 billion trees, but at the cost of basic civil rights, which earned them a well-deserved, deeply rooted resentment by Black and Indigenous communities. Today, we see a mirrored version of systemic racism within mass corporations like Amazon, currently boasting with cable advertisements about the billion dollar donations they’re making towards sustainability, but somehow cannot manage fair salaries for employees. At the rate Jeff Bezos is absorbing daily salary, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Luckily, we now have a drafted Green New Deal that demands “to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing the historic oppression of impoverished communities left helpless at the frontlines of disaster.” If we can place these policies into activation, it is the first step of many we can take in order to omit the bad taste that ecological activism has left in the mouths of those oppressed. But we must choose now, as we are running out of time to act.

The goal is to make any steps toward environmental change, which begins with a massive system change, and the vocabulary and ideological practices we use to educate going forward. In the book The Future We Choose , Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac state that the steps towards a massive system change begins with our own personal shifts of consciousness. They explain; “For a long time, Western societies have tended to prize self-interest over the well-being of the whole. We need to enlarge our understanding of ourselves and our relationships with others, and certainly with the natural systems that enable human life on Earth.” The real definition of ecofeminism lies in its ability to normalize strength in femininity, nurture, empathy and compassion. When we release the stigma of shame surrounding accountability, inclusivity, and acceptance, the real work can begin.

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