At the heart of eco-feminism is the idea that there is a connection between the western and patriarchal domination of nature and women (MacSwain 24).  The argument along those lines maintains that the same societal constructs that oppress women also serve to undervalue environmental resource.  To elaborate on the connection, eco-feminists point to militarization, feminism, ecology and healing.   One of the lines of reasoning is as follows:  the same process of militarization and corporate dictates that attack nature should be compared to the aggression against the female body.  Both war and traditional sexual relationship evolved through the same stages:  aggression, conquest, possession, and control.  The argument concludes that based on their natures and experiences woman have a “particularly” deep understanding of both nature and the aggression directed at it.

     No one can dispute the fact that for thousands of years, the earth has suffered greatly.  The development of agriculture, the industrial revolution, the medical revolution and the green revolution all created damaging, lasting environmental problems (Wright, R.T., Boorse, D.F. 194).  The changes that were procured by each of the revolutions were for the betterment of mankind.  Better methods of agriculture gave us more reliable food supply.  The discovery of medicine and improvements in sanitary conditions gave us healthier, longer lives.  The search for solutions to combat starvation and premature death caused by illness could hardly be considered a gross attack on nature. 

     Nor can we dispute the fact that many of the practices that deplete our natural resources and wipe out entire eco-systems are a result of insatiable consumerism in today’s “modern” culture.  This taking of resources can be categorized as a ruthless attack; a “raping” of nature.  In this, the eco-feminist’s assessment seems to be adequate. However, with modern times came modern science, which led to a deeper of understanding of the ramifications. 

     With new technological breakthroughs (such as the internet, computers, nanotechnology, robotics, and solar technologies) many are looking to see how these can be put to use to affect a real “green” revolution – an environmental revolution (Wright, R.T., Boorse, D.F.  197). More efficient technologies, better urban and regional planning, policy and industrial changes are driving this revolution.  The scientific community is banning together to look at strategies for better informing the public and more importantly, getting the public to effect change based on the knowledge (Ehrlich 6).  We now see a trend where big corporations are focusing on sustainability and stewardship (MWV headquartered in Richmond, VA is an excellent of a global company gone “green”).  

     The discussion of the environmental revolution and the strides made to help protect the environment are done to underscore an important point: there is a new sensitivity towards nature and a greater desire to stop its abuses.  Men and women both share in the journey towards a better future.  To say that women have a better understanding of nature because of biological, reproductive and maternal roles and; therefore, are more concerned about the environment is both misleading and divisive. 

     Studies show that empathy, the capacity to experience the same emotions that someone else is experiencing is a result of awareness to gender stereotypes and expectations (Hetherington & Parke 645).   Also, prosocial reasoning has a modest biological component.  Influences such as parental behavior (through teaching and modeling), cultural customs and practices, and the media all have a greater impact on thinking and making judgments about prosocial issues.  This would seem to indicate that the traits we associate with being female (such as empathy, prosocial behavior, and nurturing) are not inborn, but have their roots in socialization.  The implication here is that women are not born empathic or maternal.  The characteristics are learned from socialization and gender expectations.  Therefore, males too can be nurturing and empathic. 

      In fairness to eco-feminism, female essence or essentialism is only part of what the movement is about.  Eco-feminism has varying strands of thoughts, which do not include the essentialism as part of its narrative (MacSwain 25).  Some eco-feminists use the conceptual framework (and not essentialism) to explore issues.  A good example is Chircop’s (2008) work on environmental health inequities.  In her work, Chircop explores the link between gender and urban environmental health.  Chircop’s insight contributes to a better understanding of the things that drive gendered environmental health inequities.  It also details healthy public policy that is supports urban environmental health, especially for low income mothers. 

     With all of its good intentions, eco-feminism seems to lack cohesiveness.  Its essentialist component, which seems to be widely accepted by most eco-feminists, often, leads to marginalization (MacSwain 2000).  After all the recent accomplishments, being relegated to a “woman’s group” is hardly what any feminist wants.  Furthermore, the environmentalist movement is comprised by individuals who deeply care about their environment; men and women/boys and girls.  All working together to effect change.  If choosing a label, then let it be that of environmentalist.

 

 

Works Cited

 Chicrop, A.  (2008).  An ecofeminist conceptual framework to explore gendered environmental health inequities in urban setting and to inform health public policy.  Nursing Inquiry, 15(2), 135-147.

 

Ehrlich, P.R.  (2011). Seeking environmental solutions in the social sciences.  Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 67 (5), 1-8.

Hetherington, E.M., Parke, R. D.  (1999). Child Psychology: a contemporary view point, 5th Ed.  Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill College.

MacSwain, K. (2009).  Dirty words: essentialism and eco-feminism.  Undercurrent  Journal,  6 (1),  23-27.

                Moore, N.  (2008). Eco/Feminism, non-violence and the future of feminism.  International

 

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