Keeping the Eco in Feminism

Written By: Christiana Paradis

Published: January 19, 2021

Feminism: A movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression (bell hooks, 2000)

I am a feminist and though what this means to me has changed over time the one thing that has remained constant is my identification with ecofeminism.

Ecofeminists use the concept of gender to analyze the relationship that humans have to the natural world. It asks questions like “how has the domination of women’s bodies and women’s work by ruling class men been interconnected with the exploitation of land, of water, or animals? How does this colonization of women’s bodies and work function as the invisible and unrecognized substructure for the extraction of natural resources for the enrichments of the male ruling class? (Ruether, 2014).

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Photo Credit - sevenintentions.wordpress.com

To me, ecofeminism identifies the most important aspects of intersectional feminism. It not only recognizes the relationship between our many unique identities of race, gender, ability, citizenship, language, ethnicity, spirituality, sexual orientation, etc., but it identifies the clearest path towards dismantling the interconnectedness of these oppressions. By creating a world that is focused on climate justice we will also create a world that is more just for women and non-binary folx.

There are several ideations of ecofeminism including:

  • Modern Science & Ecofeminism

    • Ecofeminists Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies argue that the dominant stream of modern science is not wholly objective but rather a projection of Western men’s values. They argue in their 1993 book, Ecofeminism, that the privilege of determining what is considered scientific knowledge has been controlled by and restricted to men. They cite examples such as the medicalization of childbirth (shifting from midwives to hospitalization) to support these claims.

  • Vegetarian, Vegan Ecofeminism

    • Many ecofeminists believe that meat eating is a form of domination and cite links between male violence and a meat-based diet. In more recent times we have also seen the overlap of hypermasculinity and meat consumption (think: every Hungryman commercial you’ve ever seen). According to one of the founding mothers of ecofeminism Carol Adams, “We cannot work for justice and challenge the oppression of nature without understanding the most frequent way we interact with nature is by eating animals” (1995).

  • Materialist Ecofeminism

    • A materialist ecofeminist view connects institutions such as labor, power and property as the source of domination over women and nature. Ecofeminism seeks to eliminate social hierarchies which favor consumerism and the production of commodities (ie cheap goods and fast fashion), while overseeing and dominating women through forced or coerced abusive labor such as sweatshops.

  • Spiritual/Cultural Ecofeminism

    • Ecofeminists recognize that the Earth is alive, and we are all one interconnected community. It is not linked to one specific religion, but is centered around ideas and values of caring, compassion and non-violence.

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Like many feminist theories, ecofeminism sounds fantastic on paper, but what does it actually look like in practice? Read below to find out ways that I’ve incorporated ecofeminism into my life!

Plant Based. Carol Adams stated, “Feminists realize what it’s like to be exploited. Women as sex objects, animals as food. Women turned into patriarchal mothers; cows turned into milk machines. It’s the same things.” (1991). I transitioned to vegetarianism for environmental reasons; however, slowly the decision to go vegan became a clear ethical choice for me. I couldn’t disconnect what we do to animals (particularly female animals) to what we do to women. The forceful insemination of female cows and subsequent removal of her calves, the captivity of chickens particularly hens for the theft of their eggs, the list goes on and on. Bryan Stevenson says it best in Just Mercy, “The real question of capital punishment in this country, is do we deserve to kill?”

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Vegan Sesame Tofu with Brocoli and Coconut Cream Pie

Working towards zero-waste. Two years ago, I decided whenever I threw something out I would question whether or not I could upcycle it and/or how I could replace it with something more sustainable in the future. From the adoption of beeswax over plastic wrap, silicone sacks over Ziploc bags, shampoo bars, homemade cleaners and detergents most of the products I use on a daily basis are no longer single-use or disposable. Although we still have a long way to go in our household the result has been a transition from four trash bags a month to one! Furthermore, there is the satisfaction of not participating in a culture of consumerism that ultimately degrades our environment and particularly women.

Thrift. Aside from running shoes all of the clothes we buy in our house we buy from a thrift shop. Whether it’s your local Community Aid, Sal Val or an online thrift store like ThredUp.com, thrifting saves money and the environment!

Besides the shoes, this entire outfit is thrifted!

Learn and contribute to racial justice and decolonization work. When people talk about ecofeminism, they cite Françoise d'Eaubonne or Carol Adams (white, Western women) while ignoring powerhouses like Vandana Shiva. This is not an accident. It is ethnocentrism and white supremacy at work. We must constantly push ourselves to unlearn the behaviors of white supremacy we have adopted and work towards an anti-racist lifestyle, that includes a focus on decolonization. We must support businesses owned by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), Women, Queer, and/or Disabled folx. Purchase fair trade, sustainable goods, or products directly from their creators (Etsy) if possible, to avoid third party vendors who chisel profits. As students this could include analyzing: What do the demographics of the organizations I’m in look like? What events are we hosting? Who is featured? Where do we buy products for these events from? If you are fundraising, who are you fundraising for? How does(n’t) that agency contribute to historic systems of power and privilege?

Mindfulness: I try to find moments in the day for meditation and mindfulness. This could be sitting down for a 10 minute meditation or as simple as not looking on my phone when walking across campus. Just noticing what I see, hear, smell, and feel as I walk across campus.

There are many ways that you can practice ecofeminism. What actions will you take and how will those actions contribute to a healthier planet and one that advances the status of marginalized folx?  

Want to learn more about ecofeminism?