Throughout many generations and decades of influential movements, the environment has been at the core of each one. But how? Many believe that social or political movements just have a focus on that one ad hoc topic, but through a better understanding of the history of nature and our part in its continuous impact, we can fully comprehend the interconnectedness between all things and ideologies.
Ecofeminism is the ideology that sees climate change, gender equality, and social injustices as broadly related issues, all linked together through masculine dominance within society. In simplest terms, it examines the fundamental connection between women and nature. It holds the thought that every environmental phenomenon traces back to the global prioritization of masculinity and the toxicity that follows.
Ecofeminism was born from a series of conferences and workshops held by influential academic and professional women from the 1970s to 1980s. They brought the discussion of feminism and environmentalism to the table and how they could be combined to promote respect for both women and the natural world. Upon thorough conversations, an epiphany happened; they collectively discovered and concluded that in order to destructure society's viewpoint of both women and men, it would require unraveling the social status of both.
In nature, women are often depicted as chaotic, emotional, irrational, or have the need to find structure, while the men are depicted as orderly, of high status, rational, and capable of holding leadership positions. These ecofeminists conceptualized the idea that this now stereotypical arrangement of thought has resulted from the hierarchical structure that grants power to the man and gives them allowance to exploit women and their capabilities. The term "ecofeminism" was coined by French feminist Françoise d'Eaubonne, upon her thinking that the oppression of all women, BIPOC, and those in poverty are linked to the degradation of the natural world.
By the 1980s, ecofeminism branched out into two subsidiaries – radical and cultural. Radical contended that in order to degrade the association between women and nature, there needs to be a detailed study of the "why" in the patriarchal dominance influence. Specifically, the ways in which women and nature have been associated with negative attributes. Cultural ecofeminism encourages the association between women and nature, ultimately prizing their given biology and sensitivity. These characteristics add to the needed sanctity and direct connectedness to the environment, leading to the conclusion that humans must coexist and that sensitivity must be accepted.
Society's current understanding of the female gender lies in two different extremes – one side pushing for equality and the gaining traction of mainstreaming and normalizing female health and wellness, and the other pushing back against the needed progression, whether through media, news, legislation, or microaggressive speech. According to Sara Regan, a Spiritual and Relationships Editor, there are four main ecofeminist principles – all forms of oppression are interconnected by cause, transition into ethics of care, the understanding of these connections are necessary for the needed change, and those most affected should be the ones to lead the movement.
There are many sub-movements umbrellaed underneath – vegetarian ecofeminism, spiritual ecofeminism, and materialist ecofeminism, all with the underlying belief that masculine dominance has led to the disconnect between nature and culture – advertently affecting marginalized groups and nature itself. One of the main criticisms of ecofeminism derives from the idea of essentialism; by equating women to nature, it reaffirms the gender norms that many feminist movements sought to avoid.
Many groups of women, particularly in developing countries, believe that there are limits and exclusions to the movement. The lifestyles, traditions, and possible religious traditions lead these groups into further degradation, stopping the movement from branching out and globally progressing. Women from these developing countries have pointed out that sweat labor conditions, poverty within families, and commercial food production are some of the main points of effect. These groups have accused Caucasian women, or those in first-world countries, of disregarding or staying oblivious to these inequities by purchasing goods produced in those conditions.
Now, moving forward, in order for ecofeminism to be considered "feminist," all groups of women need to be heard and included in the equalities. Society has to acknowledge the real effects of race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, and geographical location on the social position and status of women. When these are dissected, embraced, and empowered, the disassociation from patriarchal dominance can begin.
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