Eco-feminism is Not What You Think

Ecology and Feminism combined, right? Wrong.

Being a woman and a minority, I relate very closely with the feminist movement and the search for equality. However, some branches of feminism have left me feeling confused and unsatisfied, Ecofeminism being a prime example of this. Of course I support the basic principles of Ecofeminism, such as becoming more in tune with nature in order to maintain a sustainable environment. However, Ecofeminism almost seems to contradict the basic principles which feminism presents about equality and the unity of men and women. Let me explain.

Practice What You Preach:

Ecofeminism is not what it is drawn out to be. Ecofeminism, as the name implies, combines ecology with feminism to solidify the intimate relationship humans must have with nature in order to provide a better future, but more significantly, it focuses on how women are themselves more connected to the land than men. This important concept is presented in Aneel Salman’s “Ecofeminist Movements — from the North to the South”. The foundation of Ecofeminism is the notion that a woman’s ethics are more closely related to the environment in comparison to those of a man. For example, the female tendency to be a giver and gentle is echoed in nature’s qualities to provide everything necessary for survival. While arguably this can be seen as true, the differentiation between feminine qualities and masculine qualities presented in Ecofeminism play right into the notion of patriarchy. By presenting men as conquerors and women as gentle givers it undoubtedly creates a divide between men and women, contradicting the feminist movement of equality. By creating a divide between men and women, it supports the concept of dualism. Dualism aims at separating related elements from each other, such as good versus evil, nature versus industrialism, north versus south, mind versus body, and surely men versus women.

The link between women and nature in relation to men is extremely similar and worthy of being noted. Women, much like the land, are pillaged and are expected to work without proper compensation (a housewife can be an example of this). However, Ecofeminism only builds off the concepts of dualism and patriarchy which give men a superior role in our society. Ecofeminism creates a natural association between the degradation of nature and the abuse and suppression of women. By presenting nature as an extension of womanhood, it allows men to construct a hierarchical exchange with the land.

A Flawed Origin:

To better understand how Ecofeminism ultimately undermines the feminist movement and supports patriarchal systems, we must break down the word. Ecology is a branch of science concerned with the relationships between living things and their environment. Ecology focuses on the balance between the land and those who inhabit the land; the ability to take only what is needed and not deplete our resources. Similarly, feminism focuses on the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. It looks to find a balance between male and female, to wear down the constructs that make men better for one job rather than a woman, that make one quality more feminine than another, that make one gender more submissive than the other. This relationship between male and female, which feminism aims to dissolve, is echoed in the relationship between humans and nature that is presented in ecology. We can see how nature is bent at the will of humanity and taken advantage of for humanity’s selfish desires. Both ideologies revolve around unity and a symbiotic relationship between their two respective elements, but something went wrong in their unity as Ecofeminism.

Both ecology and feminism aim to break down the hierarchical systems of humans over nature or male over females and end the dualistic mentality. However, while the idea of Ecofeminism is compelling and definitely headed in the right direction, the consideration of feminine qualities as more in tune with nature as compared to those of men is contributing to the dualist ideologies which feminism and ecology both aim to change. Additionally, Ecofeminism helps support the gender binary system by creating a notable difference between the sexes.

Now What:

While it may seem that women are more connected to the Earth, Ecofeminism should take away its focus from the differences between men and women and focus more of its attention on why it is important for humanity to collectively create a better relationship with our environment. Instead of adding or instilling more feminine qualities into men, Ecofeminist should consider these so called feminine qualities as neither feminine nor masculine in order to better represent the overall unity of men and women as well as nature and humanity.

Overall, Ecofeminism is an important ideology as well as a social movement for the betterment of humanity’s relationship with the environment. However, it is important to move away from the dualist concepts and hierarchical systems embedded into Ecofeminist thought to better enforce a livable relationship with the land.