Why do we need ecofeminism?
You’d might think that there wouldn’t be a need for feminism in 2021, but despite the fight that women (and allies) have fought for hundreds of years, misogyny is alive and well, even in the developed West. From equal pay, access to wealth and ability to succeed, to safety, body anatomy and access to resources, women and girls are still facing an uphill battle to equality, even if the slope isn’t as steep as it used to be. The reality is that women face more barriers to influence in society, yet are disproportionally affected by disasters and crises. They are given less power but carry more burdens than men.
A lot of women, subconsciously or consciously, are seen as commodities, as object for use instead of equal and respectable citizens. And it is in the patriarchy’s best interest to see women as objects instead of people. It makes it easier to exploit, abuse and use women for personal gain and profit. Just like we exploit the environment for profit and power, we exploit women and girls because neither is seen as intrinsically valuable in the eyes of the patriarchy.
So, what is ecofeminism?
We understand that women and girls (even the ones living in the most equal of countries) face disadvantages to men in one form or another, and we understand that there is an ecological emergency but what does it mean to combine them?
Social injustice and environmental destruction have one main thing in common: the patriarchal hierarchy. Men (often white) are put at the top of the pyramid, given more intrinsic advantages to life by simply existing. Ecofeminism works to break down the patriarchal structure of ecology, climate science and environmentalism to bring a nuanced understanding of exploitation of nature to the conversation. Instead of addressing the symptoms of discrimination towards women and the planet, ecofeminism addresses the root causes of both the climate crisis and misogyny.
Ecofeminism breaks down the patriarchal structure we have placed upon nature, bringing us closer to it in the process. When we want to exploit something we often see it as ‘other’ (this applies to all marginalised groups) but when we view the world through an ecofeminist lens we are forced to reconcile the divide we have created between human and nature. By valuing all beings the same without a patriarchal structure, we are capable of seeing the intrinsic value in the existence of species instead of for our personal gain and exploitation. This makes it harder to destroy and abuse what we once saw as ‘less than’ or ‘other’, because it no longer is a lifeless object in which we can exploit but a being with feelings, emotions and equal right.
If we apply ecofeminism to the climate crisis, we uncover a chain of abuse and exploitation towards women at the expense of the planet. We only have to see as far as the fast fashion industry to find an example of this. The majority of fast fashion retail is targeted towards women but profits majority men. Not only does the industry exploit and abuse majority women who work in factories with limited workers rights but also manipulates women into paying for the human rights violations happening to these workers. The only one who profits are the large fast fashion retail corporations (who are most often than not owned by men). This way, women take on the burden and responsibility of labour workers as consumers of a product, instead of the corporations and men behind the production. It’s a loose loose situation for women.
Women also feel the climate crisis more severely and immediately than men. Women have less economic freedom and often more burdens, like caring for children, and are therefore less able to relocate if climate change impact their lives. Though women feel the consequences of a dying planet more than men, they don’t contribute to the problem as much. As men have unequal access to wealth, they are also responsible for how they acquire that wealth and how they manage it. And as wealth often doesn’t come from being a climate advocate, a lot of men who have access to wealth are sacrificing the planet in one way or another. After all, there is no ability to grow unlimited with limited resources.
Can we end the climate crisis with ecofeminism?
So what can we do about it? First we have to ensure our ecofeminist solutions extend to all women and femme presenting people. With the rise of feminism also came the rise of selective feminism. Prioritising the rights for some women at the expense of others (most often women of colour). Ecofeminism, although does not take away from white women, also considers the layers of privilege and understand that women of colour face multiple societal and environmental barriers. Like the example above, it is often women of colour that are being abused at the hands of an oppressive and exploitative system but also the ones who will feel the effects of climate change more severely than their white counterparts.
Empowering women to become leaders, uplifting women of colour, ensuring equal access to education and reproductive rights is an important part of ecofeminism. But an equally as important part is to ensure everyone in society is working towards an equal and just future. Teaching men, boys and masculine presenting people about the inequalities that exists and ensuring equal responsibility to solve them will help to create a just and liveable future where no one is at risk because of climate change.
The important thing is to consider how women and girls are disproportionally affected by climate change and how we have created a structure of exploitation and abuse to inform cultural rigidity and an unwillingness to change. What we do once we uncover the sexist structure of society and climate change is what will define if we successfully make it out of this crisis.