Tables of Content
2. The construction of dualisms in patriarchal society and its ecofeminist critique
3. Ecofeminist vision of an alternative society
4. Conclusion: Implications for Feminism, Ecologism and Political theory
Feminism and Environmentalism are both recent phenomens in political theory. They both challenge mainstream politics as movements and as critical concepts. Thus they have in common that they are in themselves political and question the establishment. As concepts they can be applied in political theory to a variation of ideologies and interrupt the political scene. Andrew Dobson and Robyn Eckersley argue that there is a rising interest of the mainstream in environmental thoughts as they can contribute to major political concepts like democracy, justice and others. Herein they see a parallel to feminist theory which has a major impact on a broad range of aspects in political theory (Dobson/Eckersley. 2006: 3).
In ecofeminism both concepts merge together. Val Plumwood calls ecofeminism the 'hybrid area' „which aims at developing a feminism that is ecological and an ecology that is feminist“ (Plumwood. 2006: 51). Thus the question is how both concepts merge within ecofeminism and how they can contribute to each other and have a larger impact on political theory in general. As part of this essay I will examine the basic arguments of ecofeminism and its implications for both concepts as well as on political theory in general.
I will begin with a definition of the major terms: environmentalism/ecologism, feminism and ecofeminism.
Environmentalism / Ecologism
There are different understandings of environmentalism. In general it is a social movement based on the concern for the environment and the balance of nature. This concern is caused by environmental problems such as pollution, shortage of natural resources, the abuse of animals, climate change and many others. First concerns about nature emerged in parallel to the beginning of the industrial revolution as part of romanticism. Modern environmentalism appeared first in the 1960s in the USA and spread fast to other western countries (Park. 2007: environmentalism). There are different approaches in engaging with environmental issues. Andrew Dobson significantly distinguishes environmentalism from ecologism. Environmentalism refers stronger to reformist approaches, while ecologism is far more radical. Dobson argues that this distinction has ethical, social, political, economical and strategical implications. Ecologism1 is anthropocentric and thus believes that humans caused most of the environmental problems by their attitude towards nature. Ecologists argue that nature has an intrinsic value and must therefore be conserved as a whole. Society must therefore not only take measures of protection, but must change in itself towards a sustainable, decentralized one. We must limit economic growth, because environmental problems cannot be fixed by technological innovation. Therefore every human has to limit its own consumption and live according to nature. Ecologism demands an overall transformation of all aspects of society (Dobson. 2002).
The term feminism can be defined in various forms. A minimal definition of feminism is the uprise of women against their oppression, their marginalization and their exploitation aiming towards gender equality in society. The term came up first in the 19th century in France and became a symbol of women emancipation. Fast it spread all over Europe. Feminism summarizes today a feminist ideology, the women movement, feminist politics and women and gender research. Especially the latter one developed in the last 50 years. Time wise there is a classification of feminism in 'first wave feminism' which is the women movement in the 19th and early 20th century, 'second wave feminism' starting with the women movement in the 1960s and a contemporary 'third wave feminism' or postmodern feminism (Nusser. 2002). Women study programs and women research emerged at the universities during 'second wave feminism', but have been criticized for focusing only on women and therefore just on one side of the problem. Thus gender studies evolved from this critique. Feminist approaches in research are in general critical and emancipatory. They criticize and question the establishment and the mainstream (Krause. 2003). Thus every feminist research or theory is in itself also political (Rössler. 1996: 267).
Ecofeminism developed closely linked to radical feminism, the peace movement and grassroots environmental activism in the 1970s (Mellor. 2002: 144) and is considered as part of 'third wave feminism'. It rejects the idea of liberal second wave feminism to concentrate on women issues and unite all women in order to overcome sexism (King. 1997: 432). Ecofeminism is intrinsic; it recognizes and calls for solidarity among all forms of oppression. This includes the subordination of nature and animals (Adams. 1993: 3-4). Ecofeminism is based on the argument that humans are ecological beings and therefore part of nature. It draws on a strong relation between women and nature, although there are different opinions about how this link is constructed (Plumwood. 1993: 8). Early ecofeminism was much criticized as being reactionary as it was associated with pushing women back into 'natural' roles of motherhood (Mellor. 2002: 145). But this is, of course, in no way intended by ecofeminists. They rather see a mutual connection between the treatment of women and the treatment of nature by men (Warren. 1997: xi). All forms of oppressions function in the same way within a system of patriarchy. Women have been closely linked to nature in several ways like history, politics, ethics, religion, etc. (Warren. 1994: 1). This link is expressed within the dualisms on which patriarchal society is based. They oppose nature to culture, women to men, emotion to reason, etc. and entitle the side of nature/women/emotion inferior to culture/men/reason. Ecofeminism very much criticizes and challenges these dualism and tries to overcome them.
As part of this essay I will especially concentrate on the issue of dualisms. I will examine how these dualisms are constructed within a patriarchal society, how they are challenged and criticized by ecofeminists and what kind of vision ecofeminist create in order to overcome those dualisms and therefore all forms of oppression.
1 I will concentrate within this definition on ecologism as it relates stronger to Ecofeminism.