what is ecofeminism?
If I had a penny for every time I’ve been asked what exactly is ecofeminism, I’d have…well, about 6p, to be honest – it’s a bit of a niche conversation starter… Ecofeminism isn’t a hugely popular topic in mainstream feminism anymore but, broadly speaking, it does two things:
- Makes a connection between social attitudes towards women and social attitudes towards the natural world
- Includes the natural world and non-human animals in conversations surrounding injustice
As is often the case with feminism, there is more to it than that. I could write a whole dissertation about ecofeminist theory and still have more to say (in fact, I DID write a whole dissertation about it for my masters degree, which you can read here if you like!) but that’s the general idea.
There are different types of ecofeminism and a lot of dense theory that goes with each branch of it but some things that ecofeminists write, think and talk about include (but are not limited to):
- How women are impacted by issues like climate change, environmental disasters and armed conflict in different ways than men are
- The ways in which women have been represented as being somehow “closer to nature”, how nature is depicted as feminine (as in the concept of Mother Earth, Gaia etc) and whether this is empowering or restrictive
- How violence against women may or may not be connected to the violence committed against non-human animals and planet Earth
The ecofeminist movement has a long history of either knowingly or accidentally maintaining stereotypes of women as somehow more ‘connected’ to nature and the Earth, often through images of goddesses, voluptuous pregnant women frolicking in meadows and the like. These stereotypes are, I believe, one of the reasons radical ecofeminism in particular has gone out of fashion in recent years.
The other main reason (or at least this is what I concluded in my dissertation) is that, since the postmodernist feminist theory that gender and even biological sex are ‘social constructs’ took over the feminist narrative, it’s difficult to see how something as visceral and immediate as the natural world can be a part of feminism.
In other words, once feminism sees nature as simply a ‘social construct’, there’s no room in feminism for saving planet Earth.
I align myself with the principles of ecofeminism because, for me, my support for women’s empowerment goes hand-in-hand with my environmentalism which goes hand-in-hand with my pacifism which goes hand-in-hand with my plant-based nutrition: it all comes down to ethical behaviour as far as I’m concerned.
I don’t see the point of feminism if it doesn’t try to make the world a slightly better place, which is why I place my personal focus on our wider ecology rather than issues of personal identity. Plenty of people disagree with me and argue for equality of outcome as the be all and end all, but to me that just means having the right to be equally able to do whatever crappy things to the planet, animals and each other that (#notall) men can do.
Also (and don’t tell the Feminist Twitterati I said this) I happen to believe in supporting men in becoming their best selves too, and I’m not entirely convinced that we’re all living under an oppressive tyranny of capitalist patriarchy.
I suspect, instead, that we all just need to get our individual acts together a bit better and start cooperating with each other as a species in order to improve the lives of those we love, our local communities and (eventually) our global community. But yeah, don’t tell the liberal feminists I said that!
Although ecofeminism used to be a huge part of the feminist movement from the 1970s up to the early 1990s, the arrival of the third wave of feminism and people like Judith Butler turning the focus onto gender as a ‘social construct’ left ecofeminists behind. I think it’s time for an ecofeminist revival though, in particular and ecofeminist revolution among mothers.
As mothers we are in a unique position of raising the next generation and, whilst I acknowledge that there are plenty of fathers (and people who identify simply as ‘parents’) who perform the role of primary carers, I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of primary carers are mothers, and the role of a birth mother in a child’s life is profound whether we take care of them full time or not. We provide the foundation of our children’s understanding of and response to the world.
We also make many of the day to day decisions around what products our family uses and consumes, and therefore have a huge influence on the marketplace and how sustainable a world our children are going to grow up in. That’s why I wanted to create this website, as a one-stop resource for women (with female bodies*) who care about going through pregnancy, childbirth and parenting in a socially-conscious way.
I hope you’ll join me on the journey and get as excited as I am to participate in a new ecofeminist movement in whatever way feels appropriate to you.
* For what should be obvious reasons, trans women don’t fall into my chosen audience of mothers who are going through pregnancy, birth and the experience of baby-raising and motherhood that comes afterwards. To my knowledge there is not yet an eco-friendly parenting resource that is targeted to pregnant trans men but I will be more than happy to recommend one if I come across one.
what is an ecofeminist mama?
Obviously I’m not the boss of ecofeminism and this is purely my opinion, but this is my handle and blog name so I probably get some say! To me an ecofeminist mama is a mama who trying to be both ethical about her parenting techniques and consumerist choices.
She is critical and wary of perpetuating harmful gender stereotypes, whilst being respectful of the different experiences of the world that people have as a result of biological realities such as hormones and sex characteristics.
She is probably either practising or interested in practising some or all of these things:
- Natural childbirth
- Attachment parenting or other gentle/responsive parenting techniques
- Ethical and biologically normative feeding practices
- Baby-led weaning
- Plant-based diet
- Cloth nappies or diapers
- Sustainable consumerism
- Ungendered clothing and toy choices
- Empowering motherhood, fighting for the rights of mothers and elevating mother’s voices
- Any other pregnancy, birth or parenting choices that align with ethical, eco-friendly ideals
That’s a daunting list and a tall order to practise all of these things 100% or even just 70% of the time. Ultimately ecofeminist mamas are human beings trying to do their best just like everybody else!
Let me know what ecofeminism topics you’d like me to cover on my blogs. I have a lot of topics already that I want to cover including the ones above, but I’d love to hear from you and find out what blog posts would be interesting, helpful and valuable to you.
Fill in this Google Form and I’ll let you know when you can find your topic online!