“I’m Not a Feminist, But . . .”: Ecofeminism

We hear people say this all of the time, and yet they often go on to express “feminist” ideas and could identify as a feminist. There are many reasons why people distance themselves from the feminist movement. I can’t possibly explain or guess them all. But I can explain the different types of feminism according to Rosemarie Tong’s book Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction (2009). There are many types of feminism, and we know that “all feminists do not think alike” (p. 1). However, labeling different schools of thought help us to “mark the range of different approaches, perspectives, and frameworks a variety of feminists have used to shape both their explanations for women’s oppression and their proposed solutions for its elimination” (p. 1).

This series will outline and define the many feminisms. Maybe you’ll be able to identify where you agree and disagree with feminist thought.

feminist thought cover

Today’s focus is Ecofeminism. Last week, I posted on Multicultural, Global, and Postcolonial Feminism.

Tong notes that “[b]ecause women are culturally tied to nature, ecofeminists argue there are conceptual, symbolic, and linguistic connections between feminist and ecological issues” (p. 237). She reviews the significant features of this framework of domination: value-hierarchical thinking, value dualisms, and logic of domination. “Patriarchy’s hierarchical, dualistic, and oppressive mode of thinking has harmed both women and nature . . . nature is ‘feminized when ‘she’ is raped, mastered, conquered, controlled, penetrated subdued, and mined by men. . . whatever man may do to nature, he may also do to woman” (P. 238).

Ecofeminism arose from environmental concerns, which have both human-centered practices and that of deep ecology, which focuses on “a unity in diversity” (p. 241).

There are some disagreements in ecofeminism. Some want to sever the woman-nature connection, others want to reaffirm that connection and promote the value in female culture. The last group wants to transform the connection. “[U]ltimately all forms of human oppression are rooted in those dichotomous conceptual schemes that privilege one member of a dyad over another” (p. 243).

Tong reviews the ideas of Simone de Beauvoir, Sherry B. Ortner, Mary Daly, and Susan Griffin. She also highlights spiritual ecofemininsm and includes a section on Starhawk and Carol Christ. Transformative ecofeminists include Dorothy Dinnerstein and Karen J. Warren.

Permaculture is one of my favorite ideas from ecofeminist Starhawk. She explains that her garden is a place of balance. If a pest comes in, she decides to deal with it by asking what is out of balance in her garden. This is permaculture. She also relates this to foreign policy, and posits that instead of killing others, we might ask what is out of balance that creates some of our worldwide problems.

Tong recognizes global ecofeminism and sees some tension in the white man trying to get away from his urban life. He “seeks to experience a more ‘exotic’ type of nature” (p. 262). This relates to “the space known as woman’s body. It, too, is wild terrain” (p. 262).

Overall, “Because nature is an exhaustible good, we must learn to conserve it by living as simply as possible and by consuming as little as possible” (p. 264).

Next week I’ll post about Postmodern and Third-Wave Feminism.

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15 thoughts on ““I’m Not a Feminist, But . . .”: Ecofeminism

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  1. I was looking forward to the ecofeminist post because I thought I’d relate to the topic but I think this sounds like the least helpful section of all. Perhaps because I don’t buy that women are natural and men are not or that women have some kind of preternatural connection to nature where men do not. I think we all, as human animals, dominate the nature in our habitat. That’s what apes do. SO I guess I’m in that third group you mentioned above. I am intrigued by the idea of permaculture, though. It’s an idea I haven’t heard of before so I’ll look into it a bit more. Thanks for this series. Are there more types of feminism still to come?

    1. I think you will still relate to this kind, because what these feminists are critiquing is the “natural” connection women are told they have to nature, and how that makes us vulnerable to being treated as badly as we often treat nature. Does that make more sense? I should’ve explained that a little better in this post. And yes, two more types to come that I’m planning, although I recently heard about another, which I will have to research about.

  2. I forgot about this aspect of feminism, but it’s a fascinating one. I’m not sure whether characterizing “Mother Nature” helps the feminist cause or not, but I can definitely see how nature & women have been negatively impacted by male-dominated systems like capitalism.

  3. Reblogged this on Top of JC's Mind and commented:
    Emily J has been doing a great series of posts based on Rosemarie Tong’s book on the different schools of feminist thought. This post is on ecofeminism. I find that I am a hybrid feminist and ecofeminism is one component of that.

    1. Thank you! And I hear what you’re saying about being a “hybrid.” I think we might all be, thanks to the fact that we live now and have the benefit of seeing all these forms in retrospect.

  4. This series of posts is so interesting. I had no idea that there are so many different labels for different types of feminism! My central tenet of feminism is that I believe men and women should be equal. I’m not sure that I subscribe to any one specific type.

    A name in this post jogged my memory: I have actually met Carol Christ when I was much, much younger (about 10)! My mother conducted research about women and tourism on a Greek island called Lesbos and she met Carol there. As I was home-schooled, my mum took me along with her when she went to Greece. I remember Carol quoting lines from a poem by Sappho when my mum and I went out for dinner with Carol and a group of other people: “The stars around the lovely moon/hide their brightness when it is full/and shines the clearest over all/the earth”.

    Even though it was a decade ago and I was so young, I can clearly remember that evening, sitting out at the taverna in the Greek night with the full moon shining down…. It makes me long to go to Greece again.

    1. What a cool experience and memory! I’m super super jealous, although I wouldn’t have appreciated it at ten years old. What a cool thing for you and for your mom to take you along. No wonder you turned out to be so awesome!

      1. Oh, I’m sure I didn’t appreciate the experience as much as I should have! I remember being grouchy and homesick sometimes! But I’m glad I got to accompany my mum, as I have lots of good memories too. 🙂

  5. this post for me was amazing at the first moment i read the title I new would be great… could be really frustraring when the people think that the concept “feminist” is the opposite pole to “maleness” concept and this post could be the answer to all that persons who can confuse these two terms . i liked so much your blog has really interesting things!! 😀

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