Opinion: here are some ways in which gender and environmentalism are related

By Asmae OurkiyaMary Immaculate College Limerick

Just what is ecofeminism to begin with?

Ecofeminism stands for ecological feminism, and it is a branch of feminism that looks at the connections between the oppression of women and the domination of nature.

Is ecofeminism a social movement or a philosophical theory?

Both. Women in academia started looking at the relationship between the domination of women and that of nature in the 1970s and 1980s. On the other hand, some groups of activist women, who were mainly women of colour, from all over the world have led protests and activist movements to protect their environment.

Can women contribute to the ecological revolution our planet needs? 

Women are the revolution our planet needs! Without liberating women, especially women of colour, and without aiming at social justice in parallel with environmental justice, the revolution may never happen

Give me some examples of ecofeminist movements

One example is the Chipko Andolan movement in India, a forest conservation movement that was led by indigenous women who were affected the most by the rapid deforestation in the 1970s. Another example is the Green Belt Movement in Kenya. Founded by Wangari Maathai in 1977, this was set up to respond to the needs of women in rural areas of Kenya who reported that water supplies were drying up, food supplies were no longer secure and they had to walk further and further to get firewood for fuel and fencing.  

From BBC News Hindi, how the Chipko movement took root in Delhi

Women, indigenous people and nature: there seems to be a link

These three are always the first ones affected by climate change, environmental degradation and other kinds of oppression and exploitation. Ecofeminism believes that the same mindset that leads to gender-based violence and women's oppression leads to racism, colourism, sexism, homophobia and environmental damage.

Do ecofeminists believe that women and nature have similar characteristics? 

Some ecofeminists tend to see women as closer to nature because they see similarities between the two such as fertility, passivity, nurturing, femininity, prone to exploitation etc. Other ecofeminists reject these views of women and believe that as long as women are seen as sources for reproduction and exploitation, they will always be seen as inferior and weak.

What about minority groups? 

Ecofeminism's intersectionality doesn't leave anyone behind. Ecofeminists believe that people are equal regardless of their race, citizenship, status, gender, or sexuality. Ecofeminism calls for putting an end to hierarchy because it’s only when humanity unlearns oppression and domination that it will stop destroying its only habitat.

Heidi Hutner's TEDx talk on Eco-Grief and Ecofeminism

Who invented the term?

French feminist Françoise d'Eaubonne coined the name in her 1974 book Le Féminisme ou la Mort (Feminism or Death). While she coined the term, women all over the world have been defending the planet's rights before and after that book

What is the difference between ecofeminism and feminism? 

Ecofeminism looks not only at women, but also at other groups that are marginalised based on their ethnicity, race, sexuality, religion, and so on. It sees that the same oppressive system that marginalises these group is the same one that is ruining the environment. We are talking here about patriarchy, misogyny, and capitalism combined. A system that feeds on profit, hierarchy, and the oppression of the poor and the marginalised. This system can be a government, a company, an industry, a group of individuals, or even NGOs

Why combine gender, social and environmental issues? 

All these issues need to be viewed collectively as they're not separate. This is the main message that intersectional ecofeminists try to deliver: everything is connected to everything else.

From Our Changing Climate, is ecofeminism a viable lens through which to understand our current environmental and gender-related circumstances?

What is the best way to contribute? 

Be aware that being an environmentalist while holding racist or homophobic thoughts is not OK. Remember that being an environmentalist and thinking that women or other marginalised groups are inferior is not OK. Educate others and raise their awareness about the toxic mindset that led humanity to our current irreversible environmental state. Hierarchal thinking is our biggest flaw so let’s put an end to it.

Asmae Ourkiya is a PhD student in Ecofeminism at Mary Immaculate College Limerick


The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or reflect the views of RTÉ