Ecofeminism

The term "ecofeminism" is a contraction of the phrase "ecological feminism," which may be understood as an analysis of environmental issues and concerns from a feminist point of view and, vice versa, as an enrichment and complication of feminism with insights drawn from ecology. Ecofeminism is both an approach to environmental ethics and an alternative feminism.

An axiom of ecofeminism is that, both historically and globally, men have dominated women and "man" has dominated nature. Further, many male-centered, culture-defining texts, such as the epics of Homer and Hesiod, the works of the ancient philosophers, and so forth, have associated women with nature and personified the Earth and nature generally as female (Griffin). The domination of women and nature appears to stem from a single source: patriarchy (literally, father-rule). Criticize and overcome patriarchy, the principal ideological force responsible for the domination of women, and one will at the same time have criticized and overcome the principal ideological force responsible for the degradation and destruction of nature. According to Marti Kheel, "for deep ecologists, it is the anthropocentric worldview that is foremost to blame____

Ecofeminists, on the other hand, argue that it is the androcentric worldview that deserves the primary blame" for the environmental crisis (p. 129).

Some environmentalists suspect such an analysis to be a thinly disguised ploy to divert the energies of the environmental movement into the feminist movement. Deep ecolo-gist Warwick Fox (1989), for example, argues that a feminist environmental ethic focused on abolishing patriarchy is too self-serving, simplistic, and facile to be taken seriously as a panacea for environmental ills. Other movements, he points out, can make, and have made, the same implausible claim: If we only abolish the ideology of racism, capitalism, imperialism, and so on, then we will usher in the millennium and all will be right with the world, natural as well as social.

Karen J. Warren (1990) does not follow Kheel and blame the domination and subordination of nature by "man" on the domination and subordination of women by men. Rather, she argues, both forms of "oppression" are "twin" expressions of hierarchically ordered "value dualisms" reinforced with a "logic of domination." Critiques of anthropocentrism and androcentrism are mutually illuminating and complementary. A person opposed to the one ought to be opposed to the other—because subordination, domination, and oppression are wrong, whether of women by men or of nature by "man." Environmentalists should also be feminists and feminists, environmentalists. Ecofeminism is the union of the two.

An ecofeminist approach seeks to correct an alleged "male bias" in environmental ethical theory—a selection of concepts and methodology that ignores, discounts, or denigrates women's issues, concerns, and experience. Alison M. Jagger has suggested that modern Western ethics, "Enlightenment moral theory," is thoroughly male-biased since it portrays moral agents as being "disembodied, asocial, autonomous, unified, rational, and essentially similar to all other" agents (p. 367). In short, it abstracts, generalizes, universalizes. Intimately associated with this "Cartesian" moral psychology are such commonplaces of modern Western ethics as universal application of abstract principles and rules, impartiality, objectivity, rights, and the victory of synoptic and dispassionate reason over myopic and prejudicial feelings. Warren argues, accordingly, that "ecofeminism ... involves a shift from a conception of ethics as primarily a matter of rights, rules, or principles predetermined and applied in specific cases to entities viewed as competitors in the contest of moral standing, to a conception of ethics as growing out of . defining relationships . and community" (pp. 141-142). She notes further that "ecofeminism makes a central place for [the more feminine, less male] values of care, friendship, trust, and appropriate reciprocity— values that presuppose that our relationships to others are central to our understanding of who we are" (p. 143).

It is surprising that ecofeminists have not warmly endorsed the Aldo Leopold land ethic, which grounds morality in such sentiments as love, sympathy, and fellow-feeling. The locus classicus for an environmental ethic growing out of "defining relationships" and "community" is found in Leopold's A Sand County Almanac (1949). Marti Kheel, however, castigates Leopold's land ethic, arguing that it epitomizes male bias. Leopold endorses hunting, historically a predominantly male activity, as a means not only of ecological management but also of experiencing our defining relationships with nature and cultivating a "love and respect" for "things natural, wild, and free."

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