||An umbrella term for a wide variety of approaches to environmental analysis that integrate feminist and environmental perspectives. Ecofeminism is both theory and praxis, built on the intellectual foundations of ecology and feminism, and on the populist strength of women\'s rights and women\'s health movements, peace, anti-nuclear, socialist, labour, ecological, environmental justice, and animal rights movements. There are varying claims about the origin of the term itself, although most attribute it to French author FranÃ§oise D\'Eaubonne (1980).
A wide range of scholarly and popular writing is often designated as ecofeminist; there is, however, some ambivalence about the use of this term and not all feminists working on ecological or environmental matters identify their work as ecofeminism, many employing instead designations such as ecological feminism (Warren, 1994), feminist political ecology (Rocheleau et al., 1996), or simply feminist environmentalism (Seager, 1993a).
The (putative) woman-nature connection is a thematic backdrop that shapes much ecofeminist discourse and may be used as a touchstone for distinguishing among schools of thought in ecofeminism. The notion that women are \'closer\' to nature is woven into the intellectual, religious and social fabric of many cultures. But there is considerable disagreement on how this association is to be interpreted. Much of the academic writing on ecofeminism argues that this association is an artifice of patriarchal ideology, designed primarily to distance women from cultural loci of power and to prop up male domination of both women and nature. Much of the populist and more spiritually grounded ecofeminist writing, in contrast, embraces a woman-nature connection, interpreting this as a distinctively \'womanist\' claim to strength, a connection perhaps to a long historical lineage of matriarchal power, which also gives women a distinctive voice and position from which to critique the dominant male culture. (See Griffin, 1978; Merchant, 1980; Warren, 1994; cf. phallocentrism.) A corollary debate among ecofeminists is the extent to which consideration of a woman-nature connection presumes (and promotes) an essentialized view of \'women\'. An emerging middle ground between these schools of thought may be glimpsed in the renewed appreciation among feminist theorists of the uses of \'strategic essentialism\'; there is more and more agreement that politically motivated feminist theory perhaps can accommodate \'contingent foundations\', moments of toleration for certain universalisms and essentialisms (Sturgeon, 1997, p. 10).
Differences aside, there are common analytical and conceptual interests that cut across the plurality of ecofeminist positions, and that frame much of the feminist scholarship and activism in this field. These include:
First, a commitment to illuminating the ways in which gender, class and race mediate the ways in which people live in and with local environments. Because ecofeminism is both a political stance and an academic inquiry, much of the literature â€” even the most theoretical writings â€” pivot around a central interest in the \'real\' lives of women and their relationships to the environment. Women everywhere have a different relationship to resources and environmental technics from their male counterparts: because of their social location and socially assigned gender roles, women and men seldom have the same environmental relationships or responsibilities, nor do they enjoy the same access to environmentally constituted power and wealth; women and men live differently in their environments, and are affected differently by ecological change and crisis; large-scale \'development\' processes or decisions that affect environmental sustainability reverberate differently in women\'s and men\'s lives, and among women and men across divides of class and race.
It was primarily Third World feminist theorists and activists who forged, in the 1980s, a unified ecofeminist theory and praxis around questions such as: \'How are resources defined?\'; \'Who controls them?\'; \'How does ecologic crisis manifest itself ?\'; \'What are the relationships between local environments and global processes, and who controls them?\'; \'How is environmental activism defined?\'; \'How does women\'s involvement in environmental movements change them, change the movements and change the definition of what an environmental problem is?\'; and \'Who speaks for the environment?\' Because environmental matters are survival matters â€” literally â€” these ecofeminist questions take on a certain urgency. The lived environment ecofeminist literature overlaps to some extent with the women in development literature, but the emphasis on environmental relations is distinctive. (See Rocheleau et al., 1996; Shiva, 1989; Agarwal, 1992.)
Secondly, there is an interest in examining the ways in which human-environment perceptions and values may be mediated through \'gendered\' lenses and shaped by gender roles and assumptions. Among feminist geographers, this interest has been explored primarily in an extensive scholarship on the gendered dimensions of environmental perception, landscape assessment and Wiegman, and hazards assessment (Norwood and Monk, 1987; Gutteling and Wiegman, 1993). A related scholarship explores the extent to which human theorizing about nature, ecology and environment may reflect gendered imprints. It can be argued that the dominant (western) discourse about nature, including the discourse of environmental ethics and rights, reflects a gender-embedded consciousness, if only opaquely; as many eco feminists point out, \'a heavily masculine presence has inhabited most accounts of environmental philosophy\' (Plumwood, 1993, p. 3; cf. ethics, geography and). The very distinction between human and non-human realms, the creation of the chasm between human and nature, has been interpreted by some ecofeminists as a product of a distinctly \'masculinst\' culture. More broadly, much of the (western, contemporary) ethical and philosophical environmental writing is steeped in a masculinist worldview about the hierarchical and utilitarian relationship of humans and nature, or about the role of \'management\' of nature and wildlife; much environmental and nature writing presents views of environmental history that reflect only or mostly male activities, thoughts, and priorities; similarly, priorities and assumptions embedded in the ethos, policies and activities of many of the large environmental organizations show a gendered imprint.
Among the more provocative ecofeminist analyses of the insidiousness of \'the masculinist worldview\' in environmental analysis are deconstructions of the imagery of the planet (see, for example, Garb, 1990). That such imagery is \'gendered\' might be demonstrated by the wide appeal of representations of earth as \'mother,\' and the representations of nature as, variously, a nurturing female or as a vengeful feminized out-of-control force. The most controversial of this literature explores the gendered dimensions of the popular earth-from-space imagery and the distant-view images of place made ubiquitous through geographical informational systems and satellite technologies (see remote sensing), which have been interpreted as products of a masculinist impulse, creating distanced, voyeuristic, almost pornographic representations of place (Garb, 1990; see also Cosgrove, 1994).
Third is an interest in examining the gendered nature of the constellation of political, economic and ecological power in institutions which are instrumental players in the state of the environment. Environmental relations are largely shaped by and mediated by bureaucracies and institutions: on a global scale by entities such as governments, militaries, multinational corporations, and multilateral organizations such as the World Bank (cf. globalization); on a smaller scale, by organizations such as, in the US for example, the Forestry Service and the Army Corps of Engineers. A gendered analysis of the institutional logic of, the \'culture\' of, and the exercise of power by these institutional entities can shed light on environmental agency, causality, and consequences (Seager, 1993a, 1993b; Shiva, 1993; Rocheleau et al., 1996).
Finally there is the interest in exploring the interconnectedness of systems of oppression and domination. One organizing premise of this ecofeminist literature is that the abuse and exploitation of natural environments may be read as being ideologically continuous with â€” even derivative of â€” structures of oppression and domination in human relations. Many authors argue, in particular, that the domination of women and the domination of nature are ideologically intertwined; the feminization of nature and the naturalization of women are linked conceptualizations that devalue both (see Merchant, 1980; Warren, 1994; Sturgeon, 1997). In the more self-consciously philosophical scholarship, this relationship is explored through analysis of the construction of the mutually referential \'meta-dualities\' of nature:culture and female:male (see Plumwood, 1993; Warren, 1994).
More broadly, ecofeminist analysis points to linkages between environmental oppressions of many kinds (such as species-ist hierarchies, for example, or the hierarchy of value established through the commodification of nature) and human social oppressions of many kinds (such as those based on class, or race-ist, gender and sexuality classifications, or judgements made about \'value\' as mediated by physical ability). The environmental justice movement derives, in part, from such an analysis of multiple and overlapping oppressions.
It is also at this analytical point that environmentalism, feminism and animal rights converge, including recent work by geographers (see Donovan, 1990; Gaard, 1993; Wolch and Emel, 1998). Over several centuries, at least in western Europe and North America, women have been the primary supporters of animal rights movements and among the most influential theorists of the rights of animals; most of this literature is grounded in an overlapping oppressions analysis (cf. animals, geography and).
The critical feminist scholarship on the construction of science has exerted a strong influence on much of the ecofeminist literature (see for example Harding, 1986; Shiva, 1989, 1993; Sardar, 1988; Merchant, 1980). The intellectual history of western science is intertwined with the development of ideologies and technologies for achieving \'mastery\' over nature. The widespread export of these technologies and ideologies, whether as part of an eighteenth-century colonial enterprise or a twentieth-century export of resource management and \'development\' strategies, has been a strong determinant of the state of the global environment. Around the world, challenges to destructive technologies and to the scientific rationality of environmental \'management\' have sparked a robust environmental activism, and especially women\'s and ecofeminist activism (see Sardar, 1988; Shiva, 1989, 1993; Agarwal, 1992).
Ecofeminist activism typically takes the form of small-scale, grassroots-led movements informed by an analysis of the role of patriarchy in establishing fragmented and exploitative relationships between humans and their environment. Many ecofeminists focus particularly on the contradictions between production (especially the imperatives of capitalist industrialism) and reproduction (the necessity for environments that can sustain healthy life), since it is in women\'s bodies and women\'s social roles that these contradictions become the most apparent. (See also body, geography and; feminist geographies: gender and geography.)Â (JS)
References Agarwal, B. 1992. The gender and environment debate: lessons from India. Feminist Studies 18 (1).Â Cosgrove, D. 1994. Contested global visions: one-world, whole-earth, and the Apollo space photographs. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 84 (2): 270-94.Â D\'Eaubonne, F. 1980: Feminism or death. In E. Marks, and I. de Courtivron, eds, New French feminisms: an anthology. Amherst: Amherst University Press.Â Donovan, J. 1990: Animal rights and feminist theory. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 15 (2): 350-75.Â Gaard, G., ed., 1993: Ecofeminism: women, animals, nature. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Â Garb, Y.J. 1990: Perspective or escape? Ecofeminist musings on contemporary earth imagery. In I. Diamond and G. Orenstein, eds, Reweaving the world: the emergence of ecofeminism. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 264-78.Â Griffin, S. 1978: Woman and nature.New York: Harper & Row.Â Gutteling, J. and Wiegman, O. 1993: Gender-specific reactions to environmental hazards in the Netherlands. Sex Roles 28 (7/8): 433-47.Â Harding, S. 1986: The science question in feminism. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Â Merchant, C. 1980: The death of nature: women, ecology, and the scientific revolution. New York: Harper & Row.Â Norwood, V. and Monk, J., eds, 1987: The Desert Is No Lady: Southwestern landscapes in women\'s writing and art. New Haven: Yale University Press.Â Plumwood, V. 1993: Feminism and the mastery of nature. New York and London: Routledge.Â Rocheleau, D., Thomas-Slayter, B. and Wangari, E., eds, 1996: Feminist political ecology: global issues and local experiences. New York and London: Routledge.Â Sardar, Z., ed., 1988: The revenge of Athena: science, exploitation and the Third World. London: Mansell Publishing; Seager, J. 1993a: Earth follies: coming to feminist terms with the global environmental crisis. New York and London: Routledge.Â Seager, J. 1993b: A not-so-natural disaster: militaries, technology and the floods of 1993. MS Magazine 4 (3): 26-7.Â Shiva, V. 1989: Staying alive: women, ecology & development. London: Zed Books.Â Shiva, V. 1993: Colonialism and the evolution of masculinist forestry. In S. Harding, ed., The racial economy of science. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Â Sturgeon, N. 1997: Ecofeminist natures. New York: Routledge.Â Warren, K.J., ed., 1994: Ecological feminism. London and New York: Rout\'ledge.Â Wolch, J. and Emel, J., eds, 1998: Animal geographies: place, politics and identity in the nature-culture borderlands. New York: Verso.
Suggested Reading Mies, M, and Shiva, V. 1993: Ecofeminism. London: Zed Books.Â Nesmith, C. and Radcliffe, S. 1993: (Re)mapping Mother Earth: a geographical perspective on environmental feminisms. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 11: 379-94.Â Rocheleau, Thomas-Slayter and Wangari (1996).Â Seager (1993a and b); Sturgeon (1997).