There are many social constructs that make up our society, some exist for reasons of practicality such as wearing clothes in public, but some are oppressive such as the gender roles imposed on men and women today. Ecological feminism is a movement that provides a distinctive framework both for reconceiving feminism and for developing an environmental ethic which takes seriously connections between the domination of women and the domination of nature.
According to Karen Warren, a philosopher and scholar of feminist theory, any environmental ethic that fails to take seriously the twin and interconnected domination of women and nature is at best incomplete and at worst simply inadequate. She advocates for Eco-Feminism because it encompasses these two values. As a stakeholder of an academic philosopher and feminist, she wants to maintain that natural relationships must occur but there must be an atmosphere of respect between humans and nature, as there should be between men and women. Eco-feminists extend this feminist philosophical concern to nature and argue that some of the most important connections between the domination of women and the domination of nature are conceptual.
Warren discusses the idea that Eco-Feminism should allow for difference in its expression, seeing eco-feminism as a flexible, evolving “quilt” being woven with “narratives,” “stakeholders,” and other voices. She is clear about the rule that there should be no sexism, anthropocentrism, etc in the “quilt,” and that eco-feminist ethics themselves are contextualist, thus relying upon their cultural background to be defined.
According to Warren worldview that is eco-feminist must also declare the difference between men and women and all human beings and a difference between human beings and the rest of nature as well, but principles of the movement must contain the loving, caring respect of differences between the humans and non-humans. It also directly opposes traditional patriarchal domination logic and values the tolerance of difference where a sharing, nurturing community, and a personal narrative even. Rules that including the respect of differences between human beings and between humans and non-humans and policies that reflect the above principles and values.
Eco-feminism also discusses problems such as the Western world’s subjugation over third world countries and how the “maldevelopment,” as Vandana Shiva calls it, results in real poverty and oppression while the believed poverty suffered by subsistence economies is not truly poverty. The West’s attitude of domination of market economies over subsistence economies is antithetical to the Eco-feminist idea of mutual respect and sharing and non-domination. It is in this same vein that women are often described with negative connotations being called wild and unreasonable, much like nature. According to Eco-feminism en are never typically put in this light. The domination of subsistence economies such as those in the Amazon also cause strife for the ecosystems involved. Thus a Western, patriarchal mindset applied to terms of nature domination are akin to the gender domination that women are put under in this patriarchal society.
Feminism needs to be involved with the environmental movement. There are so many examples of environmental crises that put women in poverty or subjugate them and then also wreak havoc on the ecosystems that they live in. Warren has it right when she says that both environmental ethics and feminism are incomplete without the other supporting ideology. If feminist ideals were included in environmental discussion then there would certainly be more nuanced and complex ethical arguments about women in patriarchal societies. How can we declare that animals and ecosystems have rights without further affirming the rights and equality of women? Logically, the movements will not work apart from one another.
I do not consider myself a feminist explicitly, but I understand the vital importance of feminism and the principles that it stands for. Rarely if ever do I see environmental issues discussed alongside feminist conversation or vice versa and I think that there is something to be acknowledged about that loss. Academic conversation and even everyday conversation must include this new dimension in order for it to cover all sides of the story. A Land ethic of some sort accompanied with Eco-feminism may help cover the bases in terms of rights. In the end, Ecological feminism is about equal rights regardless of gender, but also the rights of all organisms and ecosystems on Earth to not be subjugated. I think we need to remember the importance and equality of all creatures and environments in order for us to succeed as a society.