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Eco - Feminism

Author: Prawin Subash K

Industrial advancement and intellectual development in the 21st century have widespread the concept of Feminism, and the philosophy of rationality in many people around the world. You can see the Feminist ideas reflect in the legislations of governments and Judgments of courts too. A large number of people have changed progressively and kept out their subconscious prejudices on gender in contemporary society.

Here, we’ll discuss the term Eco-Feminism which is connected between women and nature.

The word Eco-feminism was first coined in the book Le Feminismeou la mort by Francoise d’Eaubonne, a French writer in 1974[1]. She was a spirited Feminist and a civil rights activist. In this book, she expresses how women and nature are suppressed, which brings more harm to society. This eco-feminist theory highlights a society of no hierarchy and no oppression where all lives are equal and are treated as common as Earth. Petra Kelly[2], a German politician and a strong advocate of eco-feminism co-founded a political party, the Green party of Germany, which was the first political party with an ecological and environmental stage to achieve national progress and importance. Eco-feminism says that the oppression and exploitation of women and nature are the outcomes of patriarchy and capitalism.

This movement had its perfect shape after the 1970s, where a society of professional and academic women held several conferences to address feminism and environmentalism. They discussed that both could be consolidated to promote respect for both, as they both are oppressed. They also noted that women and nature are always depicted as irrational and chaotic, while for men the society instituted an image of rationality, order, and respect.

One of the earliest founders of eco-feminism, Rosemary Reuther invited feminists and environmentalists to work together to end the oppression on both and the hierarchies which give control and power influencing the socio-economic statuses.

In 1980 a, two schools of eco-feminism arose; the social and cultural schools of eco-feminism.[3]

Cultural eco-feminists contend that there is a connection between women and nature, their biology has a close association to nature than the biology of men. Cultural eco-feminism also talks about the religions and culture, where nature and women are worshipped as goddesses. Some feminists argue the revival of pre-patriarchal religions, pagan and goddess worship.

Social Eco-feminists have a completely contrasting view. They also criticize cultural feminists for creating a -historical facts and assertions about women and nature. They argue that the patriarchy views both women and nature as equal, and this leads to exploitation. They plead that the identities are constructed socially based on ethnicity, race, age, orientation, and geography.[4]

Examples of Eco-feminism movements,

The Chipko Andolan Movement[5] in 1973, India began by the indigenous women in Uttarakhand to defend trees from deforestation. It was a non-violent movement where women hugged the trees and restricted the cutting of trees.

The Green belt Movement[6] was started by Professor Wangari Mathai in Kenya in 1977, which focused on planting trees in rural areas to avoid desertification in that area and to secure food supply. They built a green belt of trees around many villages, and it is active till today. This movement also conducts seminars educating people about environmental rights.

Women Pentagon actions in 1980, many eco-feminists like Ynestra King, planned a peaceful protest outside Pentagon necessitating equal socio-economic and reproductive rights and raised voice to stop, the exploitation of the environment and people by the state.[7]

Vegetarian Eco-feminism is active today, which advocates that all domination and oppression are linked and must be eradicated[8]. It also says through intersectionality, all classism, sexism, racism, and all types of oppression are connected. They have not only concerned for the environment but also the non-human animals[9]. They argue that there is a link between sexism and speciesism and says both are objectified by men and easily oppressed and abused. The dehumanization of equating humans and animals is extremely dangerous and it makes it simple to oppress or abuse them. So, they say, to end the oppression of humans, we should stop the oppression of non-humans. They believe that there is a very strong relationship between the domination of women and the domination of the environment and desires all sorts of domination to be eradicated


The major criticism of eco-feminism began in the 1970s itself, critics viewed eco-feminism to be a form of essentialism. They considered this could bring the old patriarchal dominance back. Even feminists argued that this dichotomy in eco-feminism equates and compares women and nature, grouping all women into a particular category which feminism is striving to break.

Some argue that eco-feminism grouped and equated the social status of both women and nature, which is in contradiction to the view that nature along with women has both male and female characteristics[10].

Janet Biehl, a feminist and copyeditor, who is also a social ecologist criticizes eco feminism for concentrating very much on the mystical relationship between women and nature and not focusing on the actual problems. She also strongly criticizes it to be an anti-progressive women's movement[11].

All feminists do not favour or approve of the development of eco-feminism or support it. They feel it could bring a gender stereotype which can lead to more extra prejudice and exploitation.

This feminist philosophy and environmentalist ideas are relevant in all societies all over the globe. But equating women and nature or attempting to find a mystical connection between them, as criticized by Janet Biehl is a point where I accept. Some possibilities are there that this concept may be misguided. Some people hold women to be a possession or a trophy, so this concept may be misinterpreted by them in such a way, equating her to land or property, as it is too a part of nature. But women empowerment and preserving nature are the need of the age, and it should be progressively taken into consideration and not by relying on establishing mystical connections. Women’s connection with nature should be studied with material objects and actualities such as gender, caste, class, and division of labour. This helps us to understand the realities of environmental degradation, women empowerment, and the interaction between them.

Ultimately, all these theories and schools bring out the relevance between environment and women and are against the domination oppressing both. Environmental issues, women empowerment, and gender problems are the necessities which need to be discussed and resolved, as it determines where humanity is heading.


[1], book Le Feminismeou la mort by Francoise d’Eaubonne [2] [3], Schools of Eco Feminism [4] , Social, radical cultural eco feminism [5], Chipko Andolan,India [6], Prof. Wangai Mathai’s Green belt movement [7], Women Pentagon Actions, 1980 [8], Vegetarian Ecofeminism [9]Gaard, Greta. "Vegetarian Ecofeminism: A Review Essay." Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies. (2002): 117-146. Web. 2 October 2015 [10] [11]Biehl, Janet (1991). Rethinking eco-feminist politics. Boston, Massachusetts: South End Press. ISBN 978-0-89608-392-9.

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