What is ecofeminism?

Dear Mom,

I will talk to you today about ecofeminism, a feminist movement that started between 70s and 80s. Ecofeminism was straight away a mixture of few different movements: feminist, ecological and pacifist. Ecofeminists believe that each living creature is equally important and have gathered to condemn the destruction of the environment and repeated ecological disasters. They remarked that in the places where there is an ecological disaster, there is not only the denigration of women but also of minorities and nature. That is why this feminist movement makes connection between women’s rights and justice for our environment.

You do not understand, Mom? The connection between the two? Well, ecofeminists believe that men have conquered at the same time women and nature and they recognized other inferior-superior models that implement on every aspect of our lives. It is about the organization not only of our society, but also economy and therefore influences the way we understand prosperity.


Vandana Shiva’s ecofeminism – Superior versus inferior

Mom, the first time I heard the term ecofeminism I was immediately drawn to it. All of a sudden, this new way of looking at the ecological crisis, so linked to the behavior towards women, made a lot of sense. I got a book called Ecofeminism from– Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva and was excited to discover their ideas.

According to them, our modern civilization is based on the model of structural division that opposes the divided parts in a hierarchical way. This means that as soon as parts, societies, nations are divided, there is straight away a thought of one being superior to the other. However, this hierarchy, that we have created, unfortunately also means that if one nation is prosperous, then the other one inevitably suffers. We might think that we can regard these ideas from another perspective; while one is doing great, the other one simply well. Whereas, if we find examples in the world today or throughout history, we will immediately see a huge gap between rich and poor.

Photo credit: centralillustration.com

We cannot but notice how much poverty there is and on the other hand how much wealth! Mom, you will understand better this profound division if you understand that the roots of this way of thinking are in the colonization, the consequences of it, the way we learn history at school and the way it is presented in media.

Let me explain further. The superior dominates the inferior and it makes its progress at their expense. People from the West wear clothes that have been made in who knows what conditions. In order to have magnificent cars and expensive smart phone that we change much more often than needed, we extract metals from the ‘’poor’’ countries and pollute their natural environment. One part of the world is being sacrificed so that the other one can live their best life! And best meaning – economically prosperous. On top of that, not only that the weaker one becomes and object but it also becomes an enemy.

But can our life be magnificent if it is constructed at the expense of others? The ecological disasters in the world, Mom, affect all of the planet’s habitants, sooner or later.

Not only that this model of superior-inferior is applied on a large scale, but Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies notice that this model is being translated to people within one country, and also more intimate and palpable parts of our lives. Women are inferior to men, upper class women superior to middle class women, lower class men to upper class men, elderly inferior to the young ones, etc…

Shiva Vandana

How do we measure progress?

The period of Enlightenment led us to believe that there is a constant progress. We, as society, strongly believe that we need to move forward without stopping. Going backwards is perceived as the destruction for the personal development and therefore for the civilization.

This way of thinking comes from the way we understand evolution. We believe that some parts of societies have changed by progressing and others have not. Certain societies have imposed the way the change needs to look like and established it as a measure for progress. If some do not comply with this system, then, according to the western way of thinking, imposed as dominant, that society is inferior and not worthy. Additionally, it is thought that there is something wrong with it and therefore people from that society and their system need to change.

Along with these ideas, freedom of people needed to go through the emancipation of nature, and that is why nature needed to be transformed. Suddenly, instead of perceiving nature, plants and animals as our equals, we saw them as objects that we can manipulate and exploit. Once again, we, humans, put ourselves on top of something else, in a superior position. However, as a consequence of this way of thinking, the progress of technologies and modern sciences in many cases meant the deterioration of nature. Men would not give enough time to nature to regenerate.

This being said, nature as well as we do, needs to rest from time to time. Nature is extremely intelligent and we oblige it to listen to us, when actually nature is the one that was here first and we are the ones that need to be humble, listen to it, respect it.

Vandana Shiva
Source: centralillustration.com

Instead of creating a dialogue with it, we have imposed on nature our way of looking at progress, prosperity and our personal freedom.

Can ecofeminism save my body?

The violence that certain companies have enforced on the environment is compared to men’s behavior towards women’s bodies. There is a close correlation between war and rape. And who is behind both? Men! Even in peaceful times, men project the same things on women as they do during wars: aggression, conquest, possession and control.

Ecofeminism Vandana Shiva

Mom, the ecofeminism of Vandana Shiva explains that we need to change our way of thinking radically if we want to preserve our environment. We, women sometimes believe that, if we want to be equal to men, we need to copy what they are doing because this model has shown as successful. But has it really? Look where we are at, Mom! At the point of the destruction of the planet and we are not even able to stop. We have well seen, men do not work for the benefit of all the habitants of this planet. That is why Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies propose women to build models that are different from the ones already established by men. We need a model that will include not only all genders, races and classes, but also the nature.

Technical development

Now, Mom, we are coming to the part that you might not like. Vandana Shiva and Maria Mies say in the book that women’s emancipation started with domestic technology that eased women’s lives, but that contained a lot of chemicals. The way technology in the middle of the previous century helped women, at the same time it polluted enormously the planet.

We might think that this is not fair since technology does ease all of our lives. It would be unimaginable to go backwards and wash again clothes in streams or only use washable dippers. However, if we realize how dangerous all of this is, we might simply find different solutions.

Proof? Menstrual protection. I, myself, was really angry when I saw the very first commercials for menstrual panties and menstrual cups. In many commercials, we, women, are convinced to use these alternatives because menstrual pads and tampons pollute our environment. And I was mad that women are being blamed once again for something that we do not have control over – our period. However, I started researching and found out that menstrual pads are filled with toxins, very dangerous for our bodies. As something made by men for women. No woman could ever put toxins inside of something that she uses on her intimate parts! That is when I understood that I needed to change my menstrual protection for my health, not because I was being blamed for pollution.

what is ecofeminism
Photo credits: Virginia Elena Patrone

This is where our health goes hand in hand with the general well-being of nature. No toxins in my body means at the same time no toxins released in the nature. Could women get emancipated in accordance to the nature? Definitely!

The solution would not be to reverse this structure and for women to become superior to men. That is like feminism, it is not about women being superior, as many think. No, it is genuinely about equality among genders. It is reorganization and evolution of the whole millennial system and way of thinking.

We have based our model of living on the destruction of others. Living freely should mean that we endanger the freedom of others. Since we have done it, does it mean that we have not really lived freely?

Can we really change?

Vandana Shiva ecofeminism

And I know that all of this may seem difficult since all the developing countries will say that they would like to live like West. They will insist on the fact that they have suffered long enough and that they also want that model of living. They do not want to give up the car that they finally managed to buy, the great house that they have dreamt of, the electrical supplies that help everyday life! Of course, they want some of that, because it would not seem fair for some people to have it all and others to have nothing!

The privileged do not want to give up on their privileges, while the ones in developing world do not to give up what has been promised to them. Prosperity and richer life sometime soon. Now that they are so close to it, they need to give up on it?.

The key to understanding all of these issues is to understand that our personal well-being goes hand in hand with the well-being of nature. If there are toxins in my body, they will be in nature and vice versa.

The key to significant changes in nature is gender equality. Ecofeminists are sure that our planet would not be in such trouble today if women were, at least equal to men. If not, the main leaders.

In order to succeed as a civilization and secure future for generations to come, we must change the way we view progress and include women in it.

We based our model of life on destroying others. It’s time to change.

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