Ecofeminism pt. 1 illustration

(Marian Chin / Daily Titan)

Ecofeminism is the philosophical ideology that explores the connection between gender and the Earth. It examines the social constructions that pervade society. In ecofeminist thought, these social constructions include binaries, such as male versus female or culture versus nature. These binaries are ultimately harmful toward women and the environment. 

Understanding the interconnectivity of nature and gender through ecofeminism is essential for addressing issues of gender equality and environmental sustainability. 

Nicole Seymour, an associate professor of English and graduate advisor for environmental studies at Cal State Fullerton, laid out a definition of ecofeminism. 

“My understanding is that it is a philosophical framework that allows us to think about the relationship of gender and environment, but more specifically, how certain binaries that have been set up around gender also map up to binaries that have been set up around nature, and that those are harmful binary,” Seymour said. “Women are thought to be more untamed, or animalistic and less rational, for example, than men are and my understanding is some of the claims of ecofeminism is that throughout history, we can see how these binaries have created problems.” 

These strict binaries are harmful. Seymour gave an example from Annette Kolody, author of “The Lay of the Land.”

“She talks about the idea that these settlers when they discovered America, talked about the land in these ways, like talking about raping the land, they describe the land in feminine terms, like she is offering us all these fruits and we’re going to take them. The idea is that sort of patriarchal, as well as racist and colonial ideologies map onto how people treat the earth or how they treat nature,” Seymour said.  

This captures the duality of Earth and women being objects of desire only to be conquered and claimed by men. Referring to the Earth as a feminine figure reinforces misogynistic views which are paralleled by the experiences of women.

If we look at gender in terms of ecofeminism, the division between binaries can end through the recognition of understanding our connectivity. We are all connected, because of this our actions carry weight and consequences that affect other people.   

Seymour notes this as one of the benefits, recognizing the interconnectivity of Earth and gender. Gender expression is a part of this interconnectivity and she notes the cars we choose as an example. 

Gender expression through cars comes from the term petro-masculinity, which is a phrase coined by Cara Daggett. She attributes the increase in size of trucks to a more intense need for men to express masculinity through cars. 

“She talks about how there's been an increase in truck sizes over time, and especially in the U.S., men are buying these trucks as part of an expression of their masculinity,” Seymour said. “And again, to connect the sort of gender and nature and environment piece, these are gas guzzling vehicles. They're not buying Priuses, so these men are expressing their masculinity specifically through consuming fossil fuels.” 

This exemplifies perfectly how all of our decisions are connected. Our understanding of gender is reinforced through how we consume products, which, in turn, pollutes the environment and worsens the climate crisis, ultimately directly impacting the health and safety of everyone. 

Therefore, understanding these connections is going to be absolutely crucial to our future. We should all take the time to study ecofeminism philosophy to understand how our decisions can affect others. 

CSUF offers a variety of classes that implement environmental and feminist lenses. Eddy F. Alvarez in the department of Chicana/o Studies taught a class on Chicanx environmentalism through a queer and feminist perspective. 

Tala Khanmalek’s introduction to women’s studies course also includes a unit on Indigenous feminism, which covers themes of land, decolonization and sovereignty movements. Khanmalek’s feminist theory class engages with ecological justice through Gloria Anzaldúa’s writings about land, water and other geographical considerations. 

In order to break out of our binary views of the world, we must make connections wherever we can. We must interrogate our plastic use, the cars we buy and how we view people and our expressions of gender. 

The more we work to understand each other, the better society we could have. Studying and practicing ecofeminist philosophies is a radical act that is sure to bring positive outcomes in your life as well as the lives of others.

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