Eco-feminism. Women around the world Coeta Mills

Message #296
Date: 28 Nov 89 16:21:25
From: Coeta Mills on 100/602, QwikCom Subur of St Louis Area, St Charles MO
To:   Mel. White on 100/523, WeirdBase of St Louis Area, St Louis MO
See also #475

The women of Kenya's greenbelt movement band together to plant 
millions of trees in arid deforested environments. In India's Chipko 
(tree-hugging) movement, women work together to preserve precious 
forests for their local communities. Women in Sweden prepare jam 
from berries sprayed with herbicides and offer a taste to members of 
parliament (they refused the offer). In Canada, women take to the 
streets with a petition opposing uranium mining in sites near their 
hometowns. In the U.S., women organize the cleanup of rivers and 
hazardous waste sites. All these actions are examples of a worldwide 
movement known as ecofeminism, dedicated to restoring the natural 
The term "ecofeminism" was coined by french writer Francioise 
d'Eaubonne in 1974 to represent women's potential for bringing about 
an ecological revolution. Ecofeminism is a response to the 
perception that both women and nature have been devalued in Western 
culture [and I wouldn't limit it to Western culture] and that both
can be elevated and liberated through direct political action. The 
earth is being dominated by 5QcW[Ylontrolled industrialization, 
technology and science. Women are being dominated by the complex set 
of social patterns called capitalist patriarchy--in which men labor 
in the marketplace and women labor in the home or in low-status job.
[Again, I would not limit it to capitalism, as the same patriarchal 
social patterns are found in the majority of current prevailing 
systems of government.]
The scientific revolution of the 17th century changed Western 
society's prevailing view of nature. From an earlier status as a 
nurturing mother, nature was transformed into a machine to be 
controlled and repaired by men. Simultaneously, social and economic 
changes brought by capitalism eroded the peasant and artisan way of 
life, in which men and women worked together in the home. An 
increasingly industrialized society was dominated by men, with 
domestic life remaining the preserve of women. Women's labor in the 
home was (and still is) unpaid and perceived to be subordinate to 
men's labor in the marketplace. Both women and nature were 
subordinated to the male-driven industrial society.
Another connection between women and nature centers on their role in 
biological reproduction. Women are perceived to be closer to nature 
because of their capacity for bearing children. This connection is 
the source of many women's ecological activism in defense of a 
healthy home and family life. Women frequently protest radioactivity 
from nuclear wastes, power plants, and bombs as a potential cause of 
birth defects and cancers. They argue that hazardous waste sites 
near schools and homes permeate soil and drinking water, producing 
statistically higher cases of leukemia, miscarriages, and birth 
defects among the local families. They object to pesticides and 
herbicides being sprayed on crops and forests as potentially 
affecting childbearing women living near them. Such actions can 
sometimes also raise women's consciousness of their own oppression. 
For example, many lower middle class women became politicized 
through protests over toxic chemical wastes at Love Canal.
But ecofeminism has its critics. They point that any analysis 
stressing women's "special" qualities ties them to a "special" 
biological or "natural" destiny that thwarts the possibility of 
liberation. But more and more ecologically concerned women are 
turning to ecofeminism as the most inspiring way to empower 
themselves while at the same time restoring ecological balance to 
the earth.
                 --Caroline Merchant (Nov/Dec 89 Utne Reader)
                   ..Comments in brackets [] are mine
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