Graduation year: 2022
Semester/year area of interest proposed: Spring 2020
Major status: ENVS minor
Other major (if applicable): International Affairs
Minor(s) (if applicable): ENVS, FREN
In modern discourse of environmental justice, the inclusion of ecofeminist ideology has been increasingly prominent. The inception of the environmental movement in the United States in the 1960s and the 1970s called not only environmental ethics into question, but also the inclusion of marginalized people. Activists on the frontlines saw that there was an immense exclusion of voices and sought to blend sociological, scientific, and political thought (Islam 2017). Thus, environmental justice was propelled into the lexicon of many. Although ecofeminism does not have a concrete definition, it amalgamates feminist concerns with those of the environment. In recent decades, concern over representation of all gender minorities, and ethnicities have been included as well.
Anne Stephens (2013) argues that at the core of ecofeminism is a rejection to “an essentialist position that women are biologically linked to nature, which reinforces a dichotomy between man/woman and man/nature.” Jytte Nhanenge (2011) attributes the barrier for gender minorities in environmental justice to capitalism and patriarchal society, as they have created both the gender and man-nature divide. The patriarchy has excluded those who are not white, cisgendered males in major significant fields: science, economics, political and social organizations, and technological development (Nhanenge 2011). Because of this precedent, masculine characteristics like individualism, competition, egoism, and profit-maximization are valued in almost all societies, which leads to the exploitation of those who are perceived to be lower and the natural resources (Nhanenge 2011).
Women and marginalized groups in economically poor regions are put on the forefront of climate impacts (Buechler 2015). Social constructs of gender roles posit that women are caregivers of children and maintain households. In the Global South, women often travel to retrieve drinking water and fuel for their households. CARE International states that women produce half of the world’s food and work two-thirds of the world’s working hours (Gaard 2015). Climate change impacts are making this role increasingly difficult, as rural communities in the Global South are facing more droughts, floods, and desertification every year. This causes women to have volatile schedules and farther distances to travel, which reduces their ability to achieve other opportunities like education or entrepreneurship. (Gaard 2015). This can also put women and children into more danger such as their susceptibility to sexual violence or disease (Alvarez 2016). which inherently excludes them from political decisions about climate change and emission reduction.
Power dynamics in agriculture is a perfect location to see a lack of ecofeminism. In a case study of cooperative farming in Pennsylvania, Chaone Mallory (2013) conducted qualitative studies and ethnographic research to examine gender disparities in farming and locavorism. She argues that the masculinization of agriculture takes the form of “looking for the man in charge”– that although women do most of the labor, the man will always provide direction for them. Moreover, as the male farmers age, their land is taken over by the younger generation and the cycle continues. Concluding her study, she argues that if we are to have more ethical and aware methods of consumption, it is imperative that we implement ecofeminist perspectives into the work of the local foods movement as well as confront the issues head on. To combat this, feminist farming groups are emerging. For example, the Canadian Farm Women’s Network (CFWN) spreads awareness on exploitation, acknowledges the duality of rural life for women as homemakers and laborers (Shortall 1994).
Given the current state of environmental affairs, patriarchal society, and those in control, what can be done? Active and persistent participation in decision-making processes is a necessary step for women to influence institutional decisions and affect outcomes (Agarwal 2010).Gender rights groups tend to be more generous and egalitarian in decisions involving equity. (Dufwenberg and Muren 2006) In regards to ecofeminist ideological implementation into research, Stephens (2013) cites five specific principles that provide an overarching framework: being gender sensitive, centering the definition of nature, valuing marginalized voices, being mindful of social change, and selecting appropriate research methods. Additionally, harvesting gender and racial inclusivity lies in the approach to change. There is definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach to implementing ecofeminism in hopes for more just societies around the world. Buechler (2015) states that, “Gender inclusive participation must attend to the different norms and expectations at different levels of government, including the subtle differences that operate between them. Women’s varied expertise on local ecological and social conditions, and on the impacts of climate change, represent an important fount of resilience for low-income communities.”
Descriptive: What is ecofeminism and who are the contributors to this philosophy?
Explanatory: What is the accepted history as to why there is gender and racial inequality in environmental justice?
Evaluative: Who is affected by the lack of ecofeminism and what does it look like in agricultural spaces?
Instrumental: How can we improve institutional processes, such as providing more opportunities for women in science and politics, to help fight the structural inequalities of the Global South? The Global North?
GEOL 150 (Environmental Geology) Fall 2020. This class scientifically examines geological processes, anthropogenic shifts to land over time, and consequences.
HIST 261 (Global Environmental History) Fall 2021. This class discusses the changes in the perception of “nature” and the ecological, economical, and social impacts towards marginalized people.
IA 257 (Global Resource Dilemmas) Spring 2020. This class gives insight of the current controversies surrounding global resource consumption for human development. Additionally, this class offers in-depth analysis of contending international affairs perspectives and ties them to attitudes towards environmental issues.
Here are the required breadth courses I will include in my ENVS major/minor: GEOL 150, IA 257, HIST 261. These are in addition to my ENVS core courses, and the area of interest courses I propose above.
Feedback to date
- Jessica Kleiss (March 10, 2020): Touch ecofeminism down into a space and clearly define what it is.
- Jessica (March 2020): I conducted research about ecofeminism in agricultural spaces
- Bob Mandel (March 8, 2020): Find readings about the global south and how women are affected by climate change.
- Bob (March 2020): I found a multitude of readings on what exactly occurs when landscapes change in rural areas of the Global South.
Revisions to date
- Agarwal, Bina. 2010. Gender and Green Governance: The Political Economy of Women’s Presence within and beyond Community Forestry. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press. pp.4-13
- Alvarez, Isis, and Simone Lovera. 2016. “New Times for Women and Gender Issues in Biodiversity Conservation and Climate Justice.” Development 59 (3–4): 263–265.
- Buechler, Stephanie, and Anne-Marie S. Hanson. 2015. A Political Ecology of Women, Water and Global Environmental Change. Routledge International Studies of Women and Place 15. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, NY: Routledge. pp.xi-10
- Dufwenberg and Muren. 2006. “Generosity, anonymity, gender.” Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 61 (1): pp. 42-49
- Gaard, Greta. 2015. “Ecofeminism and Climate Change.” Women’s Studies International Forum 49: 20–33.
- Md Saidul Islam. 2017. “Sustainability through the Lens of Environmental Sociology: An Introduction.” Sustainability 9 (3): 474.
- Mallory, Chaone. 2013. “Locating Ecofeminism in Encounters with Food and Place.” Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 26 (1): 171–189.
- Nhanenge, Jytte. 2011. Ecofeminism towards Integrating the Concerns of Women, Poor People, and Nature into Development. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, Inc. pp. 430-440
- Shortall, Sally. 1994. “Farm Women’s Groups: Feminist or Farming or Community Groups, or New Social Movements?” Sociology 28 (1): 279–291.
- Stephens, Anne. 2013. Ecofeminism and Systems Thinking. Routledge Research in Gender and Society 36. New York ; Oxfordshire, England: Routledge.