by Kali Nelson
Have you ever wondered if there was a way to combine your environmental activism with your feminist work? Does it seem to be never ending, running from one protest to another? If this is your problem, think about becoming an ecofeminist.
What is ecofeminism about?
Ecofeminism has four principal belief according to Ynestra King in The Ecology of Feminism:
The first one is that the building of western civilization by making it in opposition of nature, reinforces the subjugation of women.
The second belief is that life is a web, not a hierarchy.
The third is that a healthy ecosystem must maintain diversity to survive.
The last belief is that our survival depends on our understanding of our relationship with nature.
While these are the four beliefs put forth by King that does not mean that ecofeminism cannot have some variation between people.
Explanation of four principal beliefs
The first belief is that western civilization went wrong at the beginning: when it decided that nature was the enemy, it set itself on a path for ruin. Women have been perceived as closer to nature than men. Society has a mindset that nature is below men. It has been a common belief that women are closer to nature and since the patriarchy decided that nature needs to be dominated, it stands that they decided that women must need to be also. The Patriarchy liked women to nature to group them both together as the “other” that needed to be controlled. It is an ecofeminist belief that women cannot overcome their oppression without nature also overcoming its oppression. King also notes that women and nature have been reduced to the other in the eyes of civilization, meaning that they need to be dominated over instead of treated like equals. Ecofeminism seeks to right this wrong, with the second belief of ecofeminism, that life is a web not a hierarchy.
In biology we learn about food webs and how ecosystems rely on each other in the ecosystem to do their part so that the system can survive. Nature works in interconnected webs based on support, humanity is the one who tried to impart a hierarchy. If we accept the first belief, we accept that western civilization is inherently flawed. It is based on a hierarchy which in the most general sense puts men on top, women as second, animals, and then nature. If we can now accept that nature works in a web, why not take it a step further and believe that all life needs to stand on equal ground to survive. We are only part of the bigger ecosystem that is the planet. Our planet is not the ‘other’ that it has been painted on like women have felt. We cannot be truly free unless we get rid of the feeling that man must dominate something.
In biology, we also learned about how diversity is important to an ecosystems survival. So, it is a logical conclusion to jump to that, if life is a web not a hierarchy, then it must also need diversity. Making a place homogeneous (all the same), does not help a species in fact, it hurts it. When a species is all the same it makes it harder to cope with a new problem or in the following example, disease. Let’s look at the plague, it was terrible, it killed at least a third of the population, but because of diversity in our genes, some survived. Our species could live on because of this difference. But if there was no diversity, if we had been homogenous, everyone would have been wiped out. I would not be writing this, you would not be reading it, and nature would be free of oppression. This thinking does not apply only to our genes, it also applies to people. Diversity is what grows us as people. To deny a group because of who they are is to revert to the hierarchy that does not belong. While some hierarchy might be necessary, i.e. the government, a hierarchy of people is not.
The last belief is that if man needs to reevaluate our relationship with nature if we want to survive. Humanity has become increasingly dependent on nuclear energy. Our new president has flip flopped on the topic of . The world could be irreversibly destroyed in just a few thousand nuclear bombs. There are more than 20,000 on the planet. There is also the dependency on oil and natural gas. These also pollute our atmosphere and destroy our planet. We are degrading this planet, how can we expect to live on it when we make our oceans more acidic, increase the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, and degrade the overall health of the planet. We are the planet’s worst enemy and we can fix this if we stop using fossil fuels, go for renewable resources, and reevaluate where we are with our planet. We have likened her to our mother for centuries, now we need to treat her like it.
Ecofeminism is the idea that the oppression of women is linked to the oppression of nature. Without liberating both we cannot liberate ourselves. Ecofeminism is about freeing everyone and making it so we are not shifting the “other” label to nature instead of another group of people. So, think about it, and if this fits you, think about becoming an ecofeminist today! It’s not hard, just add the environment to the list of things we protest for.