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Ecofeminism: Back to the Future

Welcome and lets start chatting!, Eco-feminism starting topic
Bridget Noonan
Posted: 03 Mar - 02:35 am  


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My name is Bridget Noonan and I'm going to be the convenor of this discussion on Eco-feminism. Unfortunatly Jo Durand is unable to participate due to illness.
Bridget Noonan has a herstory as an environmental and human rights activist and is one of the women who started the volunteer run Australian Women, Earth & Change ( WEC) Network in 2001. WEC holds yearly conferences for eco-feminist women and publishes web based zines. Bridget has written a thesis on eco-feminist activism while studying at UWS and is currently working in community development in Penrith, NSW.


Eco-feminism appears to be a strand of feminism which suffers from a PR image problem. It often conjures up images of women dancing naked in the moonlight, women saving their menstrual blood for their favourite indoor plant and general apolitical activities which have little relevance to political structures. While there is nothing wrong with a little moonlight dancing, the strong association of eco-feminism with 1970's cultural/spiritual feminism has lead many feminists to dismiss the insights of eco-feminism as a whole.

Somewhere in the herstory of strongly political eco-feminist women's movements of the 1970's and 1980's an enduring stereotype has emerged and remained that liberal and socialist feminists often draw on to attack eco-feminism as both a theory and a movement. Attacks often centre around essentialism and the apparent lack of a united movement with clear strategies for change.

When discussing eco-feminism it is important to define what type of eco-feminism one is talking about. Now in the 21st century there is an emerging strand of political eco-feminist theory which has it's roots in socialism, post-colonialism, environmentalism and which builds on the insights of second wave feminism's. This theory is seen in the writing of women such as Vandana Shiva, Maria Mies and Ariel Salleh. It is an eco-feminism which draws on the spiritual insights of cultural feminism but also intergrates socialist concerns about class, indigenous concerns about , land, racism and colonisation, environmentalist concerns about ecological destruction and animal abuse and womanist concerns about the status of women and children.

Many eco-feminist's are concerned about the devaluing of what is seen as women's labour by economic systems which revolve around the accumulation of capital. The emphasis of capitalism on building corporations to make huge profits for small groups of people ( usually men) is an economic culture which is at odds with the way the majority of the world's women live.
Eco-feminist's are not reformists we do not believe that women will be liberated through participating in greater numbers in patriachal, capitalist institutions. The white liberal feminist agenda of 'feminising' western corporations is clearly not addressing the environmental destruction and economic deprivation that women and children face in the majority of the world's countries.

Eco-feminist's make the link between the destruction of the environment and the status of the world's women. Rather than being essentialist, this view acknowledges the reality that the majority of the world's women are engaged in labours that Ariel Salleh terms 'reproductive labours', such as bearing and raising children, growing and preparing food, looking after animals, maintaining homes, building community and relationships. While these labours can be done by men they often are not. Women undertaking reproductive labours rely heavily on being able to directly access clean water, healthy housing, fresh food and maintaining individual and family health. This is especially true of indigenous women and women of the third world.

As Ynestra King says- " We believe a culture against nature is a culture against women"

Eco-feminism like any feminism is impossible to sum up in a short space. Feel free to post other ideas about what eco-feminism is.
An idea for the direction of the discussion is to explore what are current eco-feminists doing and how does this build on what eco-feminists have done in the past?

Posted: 06 Mar - 10:18 pm  


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It's scary that so many young people think feminism is a shameful word.I have found that many young people feel that women have equal rights to men and they have nothing to complain about - let alone trying to describe the connection between the domination of nature and the domination of women. On the other hand many young women identify more with eco-fem than other types of feminism that can be seen to contribute to the economic growth model - many young women feel disillusioned with the capitalist world order and want to go beyond it- men on the other hand find these connections of domination impossible to comprehend. Although i am speaking generally it is so frustrating that these models of domination keep perputating themselves with men and for that matter women who deny that any forms of gender domination still exist! perhaps these forms of domination have become more subtle - allowing people to feel as though they are being freed yet being oppressed through these denials. these are the issues that i am battling in my personal life at the moment. What do others think?
Bridget Noonan
Posted: 09 Mar - 08:36 pm  


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Joined: 3-March 04

hi bushpixi,

I'm hoping others will join this discussion too but we can have a good chat in the meantime! I really relate to your concerns about young women believing they are not oppressed. It is important to identify what social group these women belong to in order to understand their relationship to feminism. It seems fair to say that young white middle class/upper class women in australia are unlikely to have experienced significant gender barriers to achieving their personal education/career/social goals. Although all women may have experienced sexual or physical abuse as these issues appear to cut across class/race divides.

Having a feminist analysis of gendered power abuses in our society and across the world is something that needs to be learn't and many young women may not have been exposed to these perspectives in their lives. As society is stacked in favour of the status quo most people hold onto their learn't beliefs about the nature of society. It can be hard to espouse a feminist perspective and some women choose to avoid 'fighting the good fight' as it can bring stress into their life. Other women believe strongly that women are not oppressed any more. Either way these women appear to be expressing they do not need feminism in their lives.

This raises the issue of what do women see feminism as being? It has so many negative connotations these days, unless you are willing to look beyond the negative patriachal PR job that the media has done for the past 3 decades, many women believe the biased hype.

Feminism has lost it's focus and liberal mainstream feminism has no strategy for dismantling global economic structures.It has no comments on environmental degradation and the threat of this to our kids. It's great that femocrats are fighting for more childcare spaces so women can work more in paid work, but how does the paid work we do in society contribute to the good of all? Can we say women are equal when we are able to all work 5 full days and have affordable childcare but our lifestyle along with men's is contributing to global warming, indigenous disposession, de-forestation, third world poverty, wars ect ect....
I don't want my liberation to come at the expense of women who are economically worse off then me. It makes me ashamed to be a feminist when i read and hear some white women's understandings of 'women's liberation'. If you are a white women in a first world country and you don't care about the status of women of colour, the world's indigenous people's, low income women and kids or lesbians then you probably will think women no longer need a movement for women's liberation.

This is why it is so important our feminism's incorporate awareness raising about racism,classism and homophobia. The impacts of patriachal capitalism run so deep in the lives of people who have been colonised, controlled and shut out of paid work. We cannot say we are feminist's and ignore these realities.

If we ignore these realities are we really being feminist?

Trudy Moore
Posted: 22 Mar - 06:18 pm  

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Hi Bridget

Eco-feminism is a somwhat new idea to me and, when I mentioned the topic to a couple of people recently, the typical response was 'Oh, that's about recycling isn't it?'. Obviously the concept is much broader and deeper than that, so I'm interested in your comment 'When discussing eco-feminism it is important to define what type of eco-feminism one is talking about'. For a newcomer here, could you expand on the different types of eco-feminism, how these have evolved, and is it possible to draw all together.

I've always been a bit of a 'greenie' by trying to grow my own herbs, fruit and vegies, and by avoiding the use of pesticides and chemicals in both the house and garden, if possible. I also have an interest in alternative therapies. But I haven't seen any of this as more than a personal attempt to conserve the environment.

So this brings me to the question of whether it's possible to package eco-feminism in a way that makes the concept accessible and understandable to the 'ordinary' woman.

Bridget Noonan
Posted: 26 Mar - 06:24 pm  


Group: Members
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Member No.: 79
Joined: 3-March 04

Here's some very quick crude definitions-
Different kinds of eco-feminism-

spiritual eco-feminism- coming primarily from the view that women have a special spiritual connection with the earth that arises from their biology and that the root cause of western soceities problems is that people are split off from their spiritual connection with the rest of the planet-eg. 'ecological self', goddess, mother earth. Based on individual and group empowerment/spiritual self-actualisation. This is an essentialist position.

political eco-feminism- based in a material socialist perspective about the kind of labour that women do in the world and the kind of labour that capitalist patriachy devalues. women's labour tends to be based in sustainable activities and this shapes the consciousness of women to be more ecological.Based on changing the economic system. This is not an essentialist position.

liberal eco-feminism (?)- not sure if this is an official title, but it is urban women who are involved in personal reformist environmental strategies such as recycling
and buying organic food. Based on changing the individual rather than society.

In reality most eco-feminist women would draw on aspects of these examples. for example I primarily come from a political eco-feminist perspective but I also agree with aspects of spiritual eco-feminism- eg the need for us whities to be more in touch with nature.

Can someone else post?? Lots of women are reading this and not posting? Feel free to ramble on, ask questions, make jokes-
PARTICIPATE ( a highly eco-feminist concept)


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