Ecofeminism Revisited: Rejecting Essentialism and Re-Placing Species in a Material Feminist Environmentalism

[Greta Gaard]

©2011 Feminist Formations, Vol. 23 No. 2 (Summer) pp. 26–53.

Formulated in the 1980s and gaining prominence in the early 1990s, by the end of that decade ecofeminism was critiqued as essentialist and effectively discarded. Fearing their scholarship would be contaminated by association with the term “eco-feminism,” feminists working on the intersections of feminism and environmentalism thought it better to rename their approach. Thirty years later, current developments in allegedly new fields such as animal studies and naturalized epistemology are “discovering” theoretical perspectives on interspecies relations and standpoint theory that were developed by feminists and ecofeminists decades ago. What have we lost by jettisoning these earlier feminist and ecofeminist bodies of knowledge? Are there features of ecofeminism that can helpfully be retrieved, restoring an intellectual and activist history, and enriching current theorizing and activisms? By examining the historical foundations of ecofeminism from the 1980s onward, the article uncovers the roots of the antifeminist backlash against ecofeminism in the 1990s, peeling back the layers of feminist and environmentalist resistance to ecofeminism’s analyses of the connections among racism, sexism, classism, colonialism, speciesism, and the environment. Recuperating ecofeminist insights of the past thirty years provides feminist foundations for current liberatory theories and activisms.

“What’s happening in ecofeminism?” a leading ecocritic asked me in July 2009, during a seaside lunch-break at an ecocriticism conference in Taiwan. “Nothing,” he asserted, answering his own question before I could interject a reply. And then he proceeded to tell me what was really exciting in feminism: work most recently produced by scholars who had previously produced ecofeminist theory.

What happened to ecofeminism? While various scholars outside the field have written retrospectives on its demise (Seager 2003a) and necessary recuperation (Thompson 2006), few present or former ecofeminists have taken the risk of chronicling the history of our field, its internal and external battles, and its startlingly widespread influence on the humanities and social sciences—art, philosophy, psychology, education, animal studies, cultural studies, postcolonial studies, environmental studies, ecocriticism, queer theory, and feminist–gender studies, to name a few. The fear of contamination-by-association is just too strong. After the charges of gender essentialism—accurately leveled at cultural feminism, a branch of thought in both feminist and ecofeminist theory—most feminists working on the intersections of feminism and the environment thought it better to rename their approach to distinguish it from essentialist feminisms and thereby gain a wider audience; hence, the proliferation of terms such as “ecological feminism” (Warren 1991, 1994), “feminist environmentalism” (Agarwal 1992; Seager 1993), “social ecofeminism” (Heller 1999; King 1989), “critical feminist eco-socialism” (Plumwood 2002), or simply “gender and the environment.” Curiously, current critical developments in allegedly new fields such as animal studies and naturalized epistemology are now “discovering” theoretical perspectives on interspecies relations and standpoint theory that were developed by feminists and ecofeminists decades ago, yet unlike those eco-feminists who theorize about speciesism (a branch variously called “vegetarian ecofeminism” or “animal ecofeminism”), few of these animal studies scholars address interspecies or gender justice.

As a community of radical scholars and eco-justice activists, what have we lost by jettisoning these earlier feminist and ecofeminist bodies of knowledge? Are there features of ecofeminism that can helpfully be retrieved, restoring an intellectual and activist history and enriching current theorizing and activisms? By examining the historical foundations of North American ecofeminism from the 1980s onward, this article aims at uncovering the roots of the antifeminist backlash against ecofeminism in the 1990s, peeling back the layers of feminist and environmentalist resistance to ecofeminism’s analyses of the connections among racism, sexism, classism, colonialism, speciesism, and the environment. Recuperating ecofeminist insights of the past thirty years provides feminist foundations for current liberatory theories and activisms—indeed, I will argue, such recuperation may be (dare I say it?) essential.

Ecofeminist Origins (the 1980s)

It is widely acknowledged that Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) launched the environmental movement that took form by Earth Day in 1970, though Carson’s applied feminism in her personal, professional, and literary life goes almost unmentioned, overshadowed by the more visible and self-identified feminists of the 1960s, whose activism within and across the diverse counter-cultural movements of the 1960s and ’70s also powered the anti-war and anti-nuclear movements. Ecofeminism emerged from the intersections of feminist research and the various movements for social justice and environmental health, explorations that uncovered the linked oppressions of gender, ecology, race, species, and nation through such foundational texts as Susan Griffin’s Woman and Nature (1978) and Carolyn Merchant’s The Death of Nature (1980). An early text of radical feminism, Mary Daly’s Gyn/Ecology (1978), exposed the historical and cross-cultural persecution of women as legitimized by the various male-dominated institutions of religion, culture, and medical science (that is, Indian suttee, Chinese footbinding, African genital mutilation, European witch-burnings, American gynecology, Nazi medicine), linking the physical health of women and the environment with the recuperation of a woman-centered language and thought.

Griffin’s Woman and Nature predates today’s gender studies in its exploration of the ways that the feminized status of women, animals, nature, and feminized others (children, people of color, farmers, slaves, as well as the body itself, emotions, and sexuality) have been conceived of as separate and inferior in order to legitimate their subordination under an elite and often violent and militarized male-dominant social order. Bridging socialist feminism and ecology, Merchant’s The Death of Nature provided historical documentation for the claim that the domination of women and of nature have shared roots in the logic of science and capitalism, an intertwining of economics and rationalism that Merchant traces from 1484 to 1716. Most provocative is her intersectional linkage of racism, speciesism, sexism, colonialism, capitalism, and the mechanistic model of science–nature via the historical co-occurrence of the racist and colonialist “voyages of discovery” that resulted in appropriating indigenous peoples, animals, and land; the three centuries of European witch-burnings eradicating women herbalists and midwives, along with their “animal familiars” and various gay men (“fags” used for the kindling of the witches’ burnings); along with animal experimentation, the demise of midwifery, and the rise of Western medical science—all functioning as illicit appropriations of self-determination, power, and wealth from indigenous people, women, queers, animals, and nature to elite men. Going beyond the findings of Griffin and Daly, Merchant’s documented historical research provided a materialist feminist foundation for the activism and theorizing of ecofeminism in the 1980s and beyond. Outside of the United States, materialist foundations were also laid down by early German and Australian ecofeminists like Maria Mies (1986) and Ariel Salleh (1984).

Feminist activism in the 1980s offered an ecological and feminist perspective that linked militarism, corporatism, and unsustainable energy production by joining together the antinuclear protests and the peace movement. At Greenham Common in England, the longest-running women’s peace camp (1981–2000) began with the presence of “Women for Life on Earth,” an encampment of women who pressured the Royal Air Force to cease operating and testing nuclear cruise missiles, announcing their “fear for the future of all our children and for the future of the living world which is the basis of all life” (Cook and Kirk 1983). In the two volumes documenting the early visions of this movement, Alice Cook and Gwyn Kirk’s Greenham Women Everywhere (1983) chronicled the first two years of the movement, providing photographs and interview excerpts, while Léonie Caldecott and Stephanie Leland’s anthology Reclaim the Earth (1983) offered international feminist perspectives on the intersection of women and ecology, linking the Women’s Pentagon Action and the women’s peace camp with the politics of women’s health, poverty, food security, forestry, urban ecology, indigenous people and environments, technology, the feminist connection to animal rights, birth and female infanticide, work, play, militarism, philosophy, and spirituality. Caldecott and Leland’s volume bridged the later division between theory and activism, offering poetry as well as scholarship, and work by a diversity of feminists, including Wangari Maathai (Kenya) on the Green Belt Movement, Rosalie Bertell (Canada) on nuclear power and health, Wilmette Brown (UK/US) on black ghetto ecology, Marta Zabaleta (Argentina) on the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, the Manushi Collective (India) on female infanticide, and Anita Anand (India) on the Chipko Andolan.

Across the Atlantic in the United States, a parallel movement critiquing militarism, nuclear power and weapons, and the oppression of those constructed as feminine was enacted on the East Coast through the Women’s Pentagon Actions of 1980 and 1981 and the Conference for Women & Life on Earth.2 Key feminist activists and writers—Ynestra King, Grace Paley, Chaia Heller— grounded in social ecology and studying directly with Murray Bookchin created a “social ecofeminism,” articulating a materially based analysis of alienation, hierarchy, and domination that linked the mutually reinforcing structures of the economic, political, social, and gender hierarchies. This version of ecofemi-nism resonated with the East Coast culture by giving primacy to economic and political analysis and envisioning solutions that relied on radical municipalism, small-scale communities, and direct, participatory democracy.

By the end of the 1980s, ecofeminism was articulated on the West Coast as well, initially through a conference held at California’s Sonoma State Uni-versity in 1981, and later, in 1987, through a conference held at the University of Southern California (USC); feminist actions defending Clayoquot Sound in British Columbia (Maingon 1994), as well as Judi Bari’s (1994) organizing in the Redwoods of northern California, articulated ecofeminism’s utility in advancing intersectional analyses of gender, class, indigeneity, and ecology. In the volume of conference essays and presentations edited by the USC conference organizers, Irene Diamond and Gloria Orenstein’s Reweaving the World (1990) articulated ecofeminism through essays addressing the intersections ofrace and toxic waste (Lin Nelson, Cynthia Hamilton), childbirth, midwifery, and colonialism (Arisika Razak, Irene Diamond), the colonial and patriarchal “development” of non-Western countries (Vandana Shiva), the role of religion in shaping human relationships with nature (Charlene Spretnak, Riane Eisler, Carol Christ, Starhawk), and critiques of feminist theory’s anthropocentrism (Carolyn Merchant, Ynestra King, Lee Quinby), as well as the male-dominated Western environmentalisms, deep ecology (Marti Kheel, Michael Zimmer-man) and bioregionalism (Judith Plant). In Vancouver, Judith Plant’s more community-focused and bioregional version of ecofeminism appeared in Healing the Wounds (1989), confirming the leading voices and foci of ecofeminism in Griffin’s (1978) analysis of Western (“split”) culture, King’s (1989) social eco-feminism, Vandana Shiva’s (1988) critique of colonialist development in the third world, and Marti Kheel’s (1989) critique of speciesism and Western medical science, along with Charlene Spretnak’s (1982), Starhawk’s (1979, 1982), and Rosemary Radford Ruether’s (1983, 1996) versions of earth-based spirituality. In these three international anthologies written for “cross-over” (popular, as well as scholarly) audiences—Reclaim the Earth (Caldecott and Leland 1983),Healing the Wounds (Plant 1989), and Reweaving the World (Diamond and Orenstein 1990)—ecofeminism in the 1980s took shape.3

Both within and alongside of these anthologies, critiques of racism, speciesism, and colonialism claimed central importance. Marjorie Spiegel’sThe Dreaded Comparison (1988) drew clear parallels between the enslavement of nonhuman animals and African Americans in the United States, while Andreé Collard and Joyce Contrucci’s Rape of the Wild (1989) explored the masculinized violence directed at women, people of color, animals, and the natural world through structures of domesticity, enslavement, hunting, militarism, science and technology—all legitimated and normalized through religion, culture, and language. Growing out of the Women’s Pentagon Actions and organized by ecofeminist activist-scholars King, Starhawk, and Rachel Bagby, the WomanEarth Feminist Peace Institute took shape in 1985, and in its four-year course focused on creating racial parity among ecofeminist activists while simultaneously addressing racism within feminist and environmental movements (Sturgeon 1997). Shiva’s Staying Alive (1988) critiqued the reductionist and colonial aspects of Western science and technology used to create food insufficiency and deforestation, damming the rivers, producing monocultures, displacing women from food production and forestry, and working against ecosystems and soils to extract wealth for corporations and first world elites, while producing scarcity and poverty for local communities.

At the same time in the 1980s, other forerunners of the feminist movement for human and environmental health took action and created theory that later influenced ecofeminist thought. Lois Gibbs’s work as a mother defending her children and organizing her community at Love Canal in 1978 led to the creation of both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund Act and Gibbs’s own Citizens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste, formed in 1980 and later renamed the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (Gibbs 1995). Activists who exposed the logic that led to building a working-class community atop Hooker Chemical’s hazardous-waste dump initially identified themselves as the antitoxics movement, but a decade later defined their work as a resistance to “environmental classism”—a counterpart to the “environmental racism” that activists in Warren County, North Carolina, resisted in 1982 by challenging the siting of a toxic-waste dump in an impoverished African American community. Indigenous women called attention to the colonialism and environmental racism that legitimates hazardous waste, military bomb tests, coal mining, nuclear storage, hydropower construction, and PCB contamination on reservation lands (LaDuke 1999). Feminist actions in the breast cancer movement linked breast cancers with environmental toxins like endocrine disruptors emit-ted by the same chemical corporations that funded the “pink ribbon” walks for breast cancer research (Clorfene-Casten 1996; Greene and Ratner 1994), made connections between environmental estrogens and prostate cancers (Colborn, Dumanoski, and Myers 1996), and thereby unmasked (once again) the linkages between the gendered culture–nature dualism, capitalist economic structures, and medical science and technology. Although not explicitly ecofeminist, these activisms and theories strongly influenced the further development and sophistication of ecofeminist theory in the 1990s.

Thus reviewed, the history of ecofeminism seems very promising. Many believed ecofeminism would become feminism’s “third wave,” building on and transforming the anthropocentric critiques of first- and second-wave feminisms with an ecological perspective. But what happened was something entirely different: Focusing on the celebration of goddess spirituality and the critique of patriarchy advanced in cultural ecofeminism, poststructuralist and other third-wave feminisms portrayed all ecofeminisms as an exclusively essentialist equation of women with nature, discrediting ecofeminism’s diversity of arguments and standpoints to such an extent that, by 2010, it was nearly impossible to find a single essay, much less a section, devoted to issues of feminism and ecology (and certainly not ecofeminism), species, or nature in most introductory anthologies used in women’s studies, gender studies, or queer studies.4 As Charis Thompson (2006) reflects, “poststructuralist feminisms somehow lost sight of the structuralist insight of ecofeminism that yoked together world patterns of environmental degradation with women’s oppression” (511).

Merchant’s (1995) materialist account of the woman–nature connection— like those of Ynestra King (1989), Karen Warren (1991, 1994), Val Plumwood (1991, 1993), Ariel Salleh (1984, 1997), Lori Gruen (1993), and many other ecofeminist scholar-activists—described a socially constructed association among women (sex), femininity (gender), and nature that was contextual and fluid, not ahistorical and static (Thompson 2006). In the 1990s, this feminist analysis shifted from exploring associations among the objects of oppression to addressing the structure of oppression itself, exposing the “logic of domination” (Warren 1990) and the “master model” (Plumwood 1993) that had shaped Western culture’s relationship with nature. While ecological feminist works like Kate Soper’s What Is Nature? (1995), Karen Warren’s Ecofeminism (1997), Val Plumwood’s Feminism and the Mastery of Nature (1993) and Environmental Culture (2002), Stacy Alaimo’s Undomesticated Ground(2000), and Ariel Salleh’s Ecofeminism as Politics (1997) and anthology Eco-Sufficiency & Global Justice (2009) all use a materialist feminist approach to explore the oppression of women and nature—thereby taking postmodern and poststructuralist thought seriously—postmodern feminism focuses primarily on human categories, with little concern for the environment.

It is this human-centered (anthropocentric) feminism that has come to dominate feminist thinking in the new millennium, effectively marginalizing feminism’s relevance. The global crises of climate justice, food security, energy justice, vanishing wildlife, maldevelopment, habitat loss, industrial animal food production, and more have simultaneously social and ecological dimensions that requireboth ecological and feminist analyses.Ecofeministshave listenedtotheir feminist, social ecologist, deep ecological and environmentalist critics—but have their critics been listening to ecofeminists?

Convergence and Backlash (the 1990s)

In fact, they have not. The charges against ecofeminists as essentialist, ethnocentric, anti-intellectual goddess-worshippers who mistakenly portray the Earth as female or issue totalizing and ahistorical mandates for worldwide veganism—these sweeping generalizations, often made without specific and supporting documentation, have been disproven again and again in the pages of academic and popular journals, at conferences and in conversations, yet the contamination lingers. Ecofeminism in the 1980s was indeed a broad umbrella for a variety of diversely inflected approaches, some of which were rooted in essentialist (cultural) feminisms, just as others grew out of liberal, social, Marxist, anarchist, and socialist feminisms (Gaard 1993b, 1998; Merchant 1995; Sturgeon 1997), and in the 1990s, ecofeminist theories continued to refine and ground their analyses, developing economic, material, international, and intersectional perspectives. Misrepresenting the part for the whole is a logical fallacy, a straw-woman argument that holds up an “outlier” position and uses it to discredit an entire body of thought. Why would mainstream feminism resist the findings of ecofeminism so strongly? What could be at stake?

Eighteen months after publishing Josephine Donovan’s “Animal Rights and Feminist Theory” (1990), in June 1992, the leading journal of academic feminism, Signs, rejected a review essay of ecofeminism its managing editors had commissioned just a year earlier. The editors’ reasons for their decision included the following: “ecofeminism seems to be concerned with everything in the world . . . [as a result] feminism itself seems almost to get erased in the process” and “when [ecofeminism] contains all peoples and all injustices, the fine tuning and differentiation lose out.” The review essay summarized the ways ecofeminists had noted connections among the oppressions of nature, women, and all those constructed as “feminine” by examining global economics, third world debt, maldevelopment, industrialized animal food production and food scarcity, reproductive rights, militarism, and environmental racism. To these researched and documented observations, Signs editors replied that “this is really an opinion piece [and] the ties to women are not very clear.” Reluctant to believe that socialist feminists would so blithely reject a feminist approach to environmental problems, the essay’s authors attributed these reactions to a possible personality conflict and resubmitted the article to another feminist journal—with the same results.

By November 1992, editors at NWSA Journal had rejected the essay as well, commenting that “it is not at all clear that there is anything new brought out by [the] paper”—an observation that, paradoxically, based the rejection on an acknowledgment of ecofeminism’s roots in standard feminist analysis. But the other reasons for the essay’s rejection were more inscrutable: In response to pages of examples citing the placement of toxic waste in communities of color around the world, NWSA’s editors remarked, “[i]t is a difficult argument to make—what does concern with ecology have to do with concern with sexism, racism, and classism?” In the early 1990s, despite feminist leadership in the antitoxics and antinuclear movements and women’s leadership in the burgeoning environ-mental justice movement, feminist scholars still conceived of social justice, interspecies ethics, and environmental concerns as separate. Recognizing that mainstream socialist feminists would continue to silence articulations of such intersections, the essay’s authors submitted the article to Society and Nature, a journal of social ecology, where it was soon published (Gaard and Gruen 1993), and was later reprinted in an anthology of environmental ethics (Light and Rolston 2003).

The editorial perspectives of Signs and NWSA Journal were reinforced by feminist publications like Ms. and The Women’s Review of Books. From 1990 to 1994, Ms. ran a section on ecofeminism, with articles that varied widely in content, quality, and political perspective. There, diverse articles addressed Green politics (Petra Kelly), genetic engineering (Vandana Shiva), Redwood Summer (Judi Bari), hunting sabotage (Hope Burwell), the chocolate industry (Cat Cox), ecofeminist motherhood (Ynestra King), feminist bioregionalism (Hannah Holmes), the Army Corps of Engineers (Joni Seager), environmental racism (Valerie Taliman), and feminism and animal rights (Carol Adams)— clearly topics appropriate for ecofeminist inquiry. Other articles on trekking across the South Pole, cattle ranching, and rodeo-riding were also published in the “ecofeminism” column, though their connection to ecofeminism remained unclear (and, for the latter two, quite suspect, given their speciesism). It appeared thatMs. editors believed that ecofeminism was significant enough to warrant a section in the magazine (at least in the early half of the 1990s), but not impor-tant enough for them to research ecofeminism’s primary claims and ensure that the articles published under that heading accurately and consistently reflected ecofeminist theory and practice. Although Ms.magazine offered a sixteen-page “Special Report” on “Women and the Environment” (1991) and again reported on the World Women’s Congress for a Healthy Planet (1992) in a section titled “In Defense of the Earth—Global Testimony,” by 1994, the column heading of “ecofeminism” had receded, and articles that would have well-suited an eco-feminist heading, such as “Toxic Tampons” (1992), “The Environmental Link to Breast Cancer” (1993), “Going Vegetarian” (1994), “A Beginner’s Guide to Menopause” (1995), and “Whole Earth Economy” (1997), gradually migrated to the columns on “Health.” What was initially perceived as a political feminist theory grounded in experiential data, research, and activism became, in less than four years, a matter of personal health, stripped of the feminist political analysis made available through the term “ecofeminism.”

The Womens Review of Books (WRB) fared little better. In October 1993, in a dual review of two new collections on ecofeminism—Ecofeminism and the Sacred (1993) and Ecofeminism: Women, Animals, Nature (1993)—reviewer Paula DiPerna revealed the limitations of her knowledge in such statements as “I do not believe meat-eating to be an environmental threat on par with ozone depletion” when industrialized animal food production has been decisively linked to global warming, and her (by now familiar) charge that “ecofeminism has grown so holistic . . . as to render itself meaningless” (5).5 In effect, this statement suggested that for mainstream feminism, meaning was predicated on exclusion—and unfortunately for ecofeminists, this interpretation turned out to be true. Uninformed, paradoxical, and openly hostile reviews of Mies and Shiva’s Ecofeminism (Blackwell 1994) and Adams’s Neither Man nor Beast (Stange 1995) articulated the WRB editors’ position, placing ecofeminism outside the margins of mainstream feminism via the books’ positions on animal issues. On the one hand, Mies and Shiva were criticized for showing “little appreciation of wilderness for its own sake and complete indifference to the rights of animals . . . say[ing] nothing about the industrial world’s macho meat-obsession and its relation to world hunger, environmental destruction and the rise of hideously cruel, automated ‘factory farms’ (which inflict their worst torments on female animals and their babies)” (Blackwell 1994, 28). On the other hand, Adams’s “premise that species is a social construction in exactly the same way that race and gender are” was depicted as “highly debatable” (Stange 1995, 18)—and although Adams’s premise predated posthumanist philosophy by more than a decade, it never enjoyed the same popularity, since her work was charged with “gender essentialism” (ibid.). For Adams’s reviewer, the WRB editors chose Mary Zeiss Stange, a professor of religion and women’s studies at Skidmore College who had written for Fur Age Weekly, Petersen’s Hunting, and American Hunter and was currently at work on her manuscript Woman the Hunter, which was published in 1997 and celebrated as “a different view of ecofeminism” in The Chronicle of Higher Education (Gose 1997).

At the same time that mainstream feminism was rejecting animal ecofeminism, critiques of ecofeminism were being developed by feminist environmentalists and ecofeminists alike. Bina Agarwal’s (1992, 2001) critiques offered a well-grounded corrective to the essentialism of the unitary category “woman.” As Agarwal (1992) explained: “the processes of environmental degradation and appropriation of natural resources by a few have specific class-gender as well as locational implications. . . . ‘Women’ therefore cannot be posited . . . as a unitary category, even within a country, let alone across the Third World or globally” (150). Instead of locating the domination of women and of nature in ideology alone, Agarwal pointed to the “material sources of dominance (based on economic advantage and political power)” and the importance of “women’s lived material relationship with nature” (151). Like Christine Cuomo (1998) and Victoria Davion (1994), Agarwal (2001) was concerned that the celebration of women’s defense of nature not be translated “into schemes which increase women’s work burden, without any assurance of their share in resources, or of men sharing women’s workloads” (12). To foreground these distinctions, Agarwal defined her approach as “feminist environmentalism,” as opposed to “ecofeminism” (ibid.).

Clearly, Agarwal’s distinctions remain critical for an effective ecofeminism and feminist environmentalism alike, and her term was largely adopted by feminist geographers and economists. Other branches of activist and scholarly ecofeminism were already committed to addressing issues of class, culture, and ethnicity, and most academic ecofeminists responded positively to Agarwal’s argument, incorporating its key features into their own work though without renaming their approach.6 By the 1990s, the term “ecofeminism” had already developed a following, with the terms “ecological feminism” and “feminist environmentalism” seeming more like intra-disciplinary distinctions, rather than entirely different approaches. The resistance of mainstream feminism to ecofeminism seemed to come from sources other than Agarwal’s well-reasoned claims.

Adopting the academic posture of exposing essentialism, two kinds of critiques were advanced: One against conflating the categories of sex and gender and homogenizing women’s experiences, and the other against the inclusion of species and nature as analytical categories crucial for feminist thought. Only the first critique was legitimately grounded.

In the 1990s, ecofeminists themselves explored the manifestations of gender essentialism within ecofeminism, thereby seeking to strengthen and augment the theory. Davion’s “Is Ecofeminism Feminist?” (1994) distinguished between the gender essentialism of the “ecofeminine” and the critique of gender roles that was necessary to ecofeminism: “there may be no unified experience of femininity (or womanhood),” Davion explained, and, in fact, some elite women may be oppressors of other women and the natural world alike (19–20). Celebrations of “the feminine role,” the “feminine principle,” or the “feminine values” of goddess spirituality homogenize and essentialize women, equating sex and gender while erasing critical differences like race and class. Such critical distinctions, and the emphasis on gender as a social construction, were already articulated within ecofeminism by King (1989) and Plumwood (1991), and taxonomies of the diverse ecofeminisms were soon developed (Gaard 1998; Merchant 1995; Sturgeon 1997). Moreover, the highly effective uses of a “strategic essentialism” in direct activisms have long been noted by ecofeminists (Bari 1994; Godfrey 2005; Sturgeon 1997) and provide the foundation for later developments of “material feminisms” (Alaimo and Heckman 2007), as well as Salleh’s feminist “embodied materialism” (Canavan, Klarr, and Vu 2010).

But in the 1990s, with the increasing visibility of the branch of “animal” ecofeminism (which had been present from the beginning) through such publications as Collard and Contrucci’s Rape of the Wild (1989), Adams’s The Sexual Politics of Meat (1990), three essays (by Adams, Curtin, Slicer) developing an ecofeminist critique of speciesism in Hypatia’s special issue on “Ecological Feminism” (Warren 1991), and the first anthology to place species at the center of ecofeminism, Ecofeminism: Women, Animals, Nature (Gaard 1993b), charges of essentialism soon dominated the critiques and became the leading edge of the anti-ecofeminism backlash.

Criticisms of ecofeminism came from both mainstream feminisms and formerly ecofeminist philosophers. In her retrospective essay on “feminist environmentalism” (published bySigns a decade after the earlier ecofeminist review essay was rejected), Joni Seager (2003a) identifies the criticisms against ecofeminism as the essentialism of the woman–nature connection, and the bifurcations between spirituality–politics and theory–activism (946). Thompson (2006) like-wise identifies the criticisms as charges of both essentialism and ethnocentrism. Few scholars point out the feminist resistance to acknowledging that feminists can still be oppressors of other women (via race and class privilege) and of other female animals, which was the uncomfortable point that animal ecofeminists made: That women’s socially reproductive labor is analogous (though not identical) to the female reproductive capacities and lives that are exploited in the production of cows’ milk and the female egg-laying capacity that is exploited in chickens (Adams 1990; Gruen 1993, 2009). Throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and into the new millennium, vegetarian ecofeminists foregrounded species as they addressed the intersections of feminism, ecology, race, class, gender, and nation through a variety of issues: Animal experimentation and the myth of the animal’s willing sacrifice; industrialized animal food production and its reliance on undocumented immigrant workers (who risk deportation if they report their hazardous workplace conditions); vegan and vegetarian diets in relation to social and environmental justice, as well as to human and animal health; contextual moral vegetarianism; hunting and the social construction of masculinity; the sexism and racism of PETA’s “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign; mad cow disease in terms of social–ecological–interspecies ethics; rBGH and its effects on female humans–cows–calves, as well as on small farmers and the environment; the essentialism of the gendered “Mother Earth” metaphor; and the uses of restoring truncated narratives and contextualizing ethical decisions in analyzing what might appear to be competing issues among various oppressed groups (women, indigenous communities, nonhuman animals, workers, immigrants, the environment).

In the course of developing these arguments, ecofeminism was developing in convergence with the environmental health and justice movements. Ecofeminists foregrounded issues like black ghetto ecology (Brown 1983), colonialism and third world development (Shiva 1990), the United Farm Workers grape boycott (O’Loughlin 1993), and environmental justice theory (Taylor 1997) in ecofeminist anthologies, and some later renamed their transformed ecofeminism as a hybrid “global feminist environmental justice” (Sturgeon 2009). But as with postmodern feminisms, environmental justice theory did not as readily listen to or embrace ecofeminist insights, and the focus on race, class, and environment backgrounded issues of gender, sexuality, and species for roughly fifteen years, from the mid-1990s through the first decade of the new millennium. During that period, the anti-essentialist backlash succeeded in denouncing ecofeminism, largely via arguments over speciesism.

From mainstream feminism, three arguments against the inclusion of species as an analytical feminist framework were advanced under the cover of anti-essentialist critique. Kathryn George’s “Should Feminists Be Vegetarians?” (1994), Beth Dixon’s “The Feminist Connection between Women and Animals” (1996), and Mary Stange’s Woman the Hunter (1997) all insisted that consideration of nonhuman animals within feminism was essentialist and ethnocentric. Four vegan ecofeminists responded to George’s critique, and this time, Signs permitted their responses to be published (1995) in a “Comments and Reply” section at the back of the journal. There, Adams (1995) documented ongoing refutations of George’s flawed nutritional data, which George had curiously omitted from her article; Donovan noted the omission of studies on traditional vegetarian populations that were carefully contextualized in terms of race, class, and nationality; and Gaard and Gruen noted George’s failure to use feminist methodology in her uncritical embrace of overconsumption, along with a persistent slippage from logic to insinuation and faulty inference. George’s reply (1995) was organized in a way that appears to address these criticisms, but in effect merely elaborated on her initial claims.

Gaard (1996) and Gruen (1996) also responded to Dixon’s straw-woman charge that ecofeminists claim that “if animals are like women, then feminists must defend them” by pointing to the intersectional analysis of oppression available through Plumwood’s (1993) development of the master model, Iris Young’s “Five Faces of Oppression” (1990), and Marilyn Frye’s (1983) birdcage analogy of the intertwining wires as different structures of oppression. Like George and Dixon, Stange’s work also overlooked feminist and ecofeminist theory, advancing a liberal feminist argument that women should join men in hunting both for its “transformation of consciousness” and its alleged empowerment, but failing to consider “the fundamental insight of animal ecofeminism: The importance of speciesism as a form of oppression that is interconnected with and reinforcing of other oppressive structures” (Gaard 2000, 206). After rejecting cultural ecofeminism’s celebration of goddess spirituality, Stange then celebrated Artemis the Hunter as a model of women’s empowerment—a visible contradiction that did not deter mainstream feminists from using Stange’s work to discredit ecofeminsm.

Among ecofeminist philosophers, vegan ecofeminists already had advanced a carefully nuanced approach to consumption that eschewed universalizing, ahistorical claims in Curtin’s “Toward an Ecological Ethic of Care” (1991). Curtin’s theory of a contextual moral vegetarianism explains that “the reasons for moral vegetarianism may differ by locale, by gender, as well as by class,” and while there does not exist “an absolute moral rule that prohibits meat eating under all circumstances” (69), it is clear that “moral vegetarianism is completely compelling as an expression of an ecological ethic of care . . . for economically well-off persons in technologically advanced countries” (70). Yet, the most prominent ecofeminist philosophers began distancing themselves from ecofeminism’s animal ethics, first with Warren’s use of the term (and title) “ecological feminism” (1994), and her later disassociation from the interspecies ethics of Gaard’s Ecofeminism: Women, Animals, Nature (1993b) with her play on the title in Ecofeminism: Women, Culture, Nature (1997). And while Plumwood’s life-altering experience as prey for a crocodile (1995) informed her philosophy, it took five years for her to make a public statement about her own ethical vegetarianism, wherein she distanced herself from other animal ecofeminists by naming her approach as “critical feminist eco-socialist analysis” (2000, 2002). By the turn of the millennium, other prominent ecofeminist or feminist environmentalists (Seager 2003b; Warren 2000) finally announced their vegetarianism as well.

In conjunction with the charges of essentialism were the criticisms of ecofeminism’s allegedly essentialist spirituality that both gendered the earth as female and led to elite, apolitical retreat and individual salvation rather than inspiring engaged struggles for local, community-wide, and global eco-justice. Yet, ecofeminist theory, spirituality, and practice have consistently been rooted in activism that challenges any notions of essentialism. Both Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands (2008) and Chaone Mallory (2010) have explored the forest defense movement in the Pacific Northwest, with the former author exploring the contested role of ecofeminism in the 1993 Clayoquot Sound peace camp, and Mallory uncovering the role that gender, sexuality, and earth-based spirituality played in the “Straw Devil” women’s- and trans-only campaign of 2003, empowering forest activists to stand in defense of economic justice and environmental sustainability. “Clayoquot was not only a contest over nature,” writes Mortimer-Sandilands (2008), “but also a contest over gender,” as ecofeminist principles were invoked to negotiate and disrupt dominant understandings of the relations between women and nature; metaphors of maternalism and forest defense were hotly debated among peace camp activists and later appropriated by the timber company, MacMillan Bloedel, through its images of pro-forestry representative Linda Coady in late-pregnancy, allegedly defending the maternal and pro-nature values of the logging industry (307, 309–10). Through these and other examples, Mortimer-Sandilands argues that “the use of essentialism as a dismissive label tout court is a form of disavowal through which some current strands of so-called third-wave feminism can forget the complex gender histories through which they themselves have been constituted—as if feminist politics can, somehow, demonstrate its own progress by showing what it has (obviously) left behind” (306).

In the other essay on forest activism, Mallory draws on Elizabeth Carlassare’s (1993) work identifying the “policing” of ecofeminism via charges of essentialism, and on Bonnie Mann’s (2006) research demonstrating that “the charge of essentialism has long functioned to silence certain feminisms— especially feminisms that assert that gender and environmental oppressions must be examined together” (Mallory 2010, 62). She concludes that the fear of spirituality is at the root of academic feminism’s resistance to ecofeminism, since spirituality is seen as both apolitical (or regressively so) and essentialist. Yet, many spiritual feminists are activists as well: Adams’s Ecofeminism and the Sacred (1993) anthologizes a diversity of ecological and spiritual feminist activist-writers; both Spretnak (1982) and Starhawk (1999) perceive their spirituality as empowering their activisms; and Starhawk has persistently engaged with issues of globalization and economic and ecological justice, from the 1980s antinuclear protests through the antiglobalization movements of the 1990s and beyond. For a decade, ecofeminists like Patrick Murphy (1988), Yaakov Jerome Garb (1990), Catherine Roach (1991), Gaard (1993a), and Sandilands (1997) had advanced critiques of the Mother Earth metaphor (popular among hunters and deep ecologists, as well as advocates of goddess spirituality and cultural ecofeminism) for its gender essentialism and homogenization of ecological, cultural, and species differences. In sum, the feminist critique of ecofeminism as inseparable from an essentialist spirituality rested on shaky evidence.7

Of course, feminists were not the only group to provide a cool reception to ecofeminist ideas: Deep ecologists, social ecologists, Greens, animal liberation-ists, and other environmentalists also responded to ecofeminism with skepticism.

Throughoutthe1980sandintothe’90s,debatesbetweenecofeministsand deep ecologists took place within the pages of The Trumpeter andEnvironmental Ethics, with ecofeminists charging that deep ecology’s description of the root cause of Western culture’s destruction of the natural world—anthropocentrism—should more properly be termed “androcentrism,” since the majority of women and people of color were only marginally included in the elite, white male domination of nature. Ecofeminists also rejected the gender-oblivious “deep ecological self” developed by deep ecologists to articulate their experiences of oneness with nature as fundamentally narcissistic, androcentric, and colonizing. Finally, ecofeminists criticized deep ecologists for romanticizing their connection with wild nature through the violence of hunting (Kheel 1990, 1995, 1996, 2008; Luke 1997, 1998), for omitting the analyses of feminists from the construction of their theories (Salleh 1997), and for constructing a theory that functioned merely as the unfolding of white middle-class environmental-ism in its regard for wilderness, but its utter disinterest in social justice and the functioning of capitalism both in the United States and internationally (Plumwood 1991, 1993). In turn, deep ecologists tended to regard ecofeminism as a subset of deep ecology on these two philosophies’ points of convergence, and to regard ecofeminism as simply wrong when their viewpoints diverged. The debate finally ended (without resolution) in 1995, with Deborah Slicer’s perceptive essay “Is There an Ecofeminism–Deep Ecology ‘Debate’?” wherein she argued that although essays on the differences between the two perspectives continued to be published, deep ecologists did not seem to be listening to ecofeminists, reading ecofeminist scholarship, or accurately representing and responding to ecofeminist standpoints.

From social ecologists, the first open challenge to ecofeminism appeared with the publication of Janet Biehl’s Rethinking Ecofeminist Politics (1991). Like other feminists, Biehl charged ecofeminism with essentialism, again overlooking the branch of social ecofeminism developed by King and Heller, feminists within Biehl’s own community of social ecologists. Roundly refuted by ecofeminist activists and philosophers alike (Buege 1994; Gaard 1992; Gruen 1992; Plum-wood 1992), Biehl’s advocacy of social ecology and its celebration of libertarian municipalism remained “caught in the old credo of a single ground of hierarchy and a single solution to domination, a reduction which is fundamentally misconceived, insensitive to difference, and blind to exclusion” (Plumwood 1992, 36). Yet, it was used to open a firestorm of feminist backlash against ecofeminism.

By the latter half of the 1990s and beyond, ecofeminism was diversifying its analysis: Intersections of ecofeminism and queer theory (Gaard 1997; Sandilands 1994, 1997, 1999, 2001a, 2001b) and a materialist base for ecofeminist analyses of human–human, human–animal, and human–nature oppressions (Noske 1997) were developed, along with ecofeminist perspectives on eco-social movements (Gaard 1998; Mellor 1997; Salleh 1997), theories of democracy and identity (Plumwood 2002; Sandilands 1999), and the intersections of eco-feminism and environmental justice (Sturgeon 1997; Warren 1998). Animal ecofeminists developed a culturally specific, contextualized approach to address the competing claims of indigenous communities, animal rights activists, and environmentalists in the widely contested Makah whale hunt of 1999 (Gaard 2001; Gruen 2001; Hawkins 2001). But the anti-essentialist backlash against ecofeminism had already taken its toll: Feminist graduate students were being advised against undertaking ecofeminist approaches in their dissertations, and scholars were advised against publishing works with the word “ecofeminism” in their titles or keywords. At a time when ecofeminists were at the forefront of bringing animal, feminist, and environmental justice perspectives to feminist theory, environmental studies, and ecocriticism alike, ecofeminism itself had already become discredited.

Despite their differences, ecofeminists still maintain a footing in environmental and ecocritical contexts, yet ecofeminism is openly spurned in mainstream feminism. While the National Women’s Studies Association’s annual conference theme in 1995 addressed “Women and the Environment: Globalizing and Mobilizing” with keynote speakers Vandana Shiva and Winona LaDuke, five years later, that conference theme still had not influenced the human-centered focus of women’s studies, gender studies, or queer studies.8 Interest in human bodies was seen as suitably political—interest in animal bodies and nature was not.

Keep the Focus, Lose the Name: Ecofeminists in the New Millennium

On my way from the parking lot into the gym, I caught up to a senior feminist scholar whose primary interests were in antiracist feminism and coalition-building, and who had provided the only Euro-American Jewish lesbian perspective on my dissertation committee long ago. She told me about her current research projects, and then I described the article I was writing about the antifeminist backlash against ecofeminism.

“Where are the women of color?” she asked pointedly.

“Everywhere,” I replied, listing the issues of food security, environmental toxins, reproductive justice, forestry, urban and rural housing, hydropower dams, and more. But my colleague’s question articulated the persistent mainstream feminist assumption that ecofeminism was ethnocentric, elitist, and essential-ist—just a “white women’s thing” and an irrelevant distraction from feminism’s more critical work addressing social injustices.9

It is no wonder that feminist scholars and activists eager to receive the acceptance and respect accorded to rigorous scholarship and committed to sparking consciousness-change that results in real actions have taken the anarchist strategy of abandoning institutions and terms that no longer func-tion as conduits for critical ideas, and have continued their work under different labels. What terminology should be used? What language has the most communicative force? In 1997, Noël Sturgeon advocated retaining the word “‘ecofeminism’ as a term [that] indicates a double political intervention, of environmentalism into feminism and feminism into environmentalism” (169), but a decade later, Sturgeon (2009) had also renamed her approach as “global feminist environmental justice.” Working as an ecofeminist theorist throughout the 1990s, Mortimer-Sandilands’s most recent work advances her earlier work on ecofeminism, democracy, and sexuality in her co-edited volume, through the term Queer Ecologies (Mortimer-Sandilands and Erickson 2010).

Similarly, the ecofeminist corrective distinction between essentialism and an acknowledgment of embodied, material connections with the environment, first articulated in Slicer’s “Toward an Ecofeminist Standpoint Theory” (1998) and also visible in both breast cancer and environmental justice activisms alike, is carried forward in Alaimo and Heckman’s Material Feminisms (2007). There, the editors note that

predominant feminist theories, from Simone deBeauvoir to GayleRubin and Monique Wittig, have pursued a “flight from nature,” relentlessly disentangling “woman” from the supposed ground of essentialism, reductionism, and stasis. The problem with this approach, however, is that the more feminist theories distance themselves from “nature,” the more that very nature is implicitly or explicitly reconfirmed as the treacherous quicksand of misogyny. (4)

Rather than perpetuate the gendered and essentialist culture–nature dualism, Alaimo and Heckman argue for the agency of nature and for a material feminism that reconceptualizes nature in ways that account for “‘intra-actions’ (in Karen Barad’s terms) between phenomena that are material, discursive, human, more-than-human, corporeal, and technological” (5). Mallory (2009) has defended both the critical force of the term “ecofeminism,” rather than the more neutral “gender and the environment” (because men, women, and transgendered per-sons are not situated equally in terms of environmental oppression), and the political force of the ecofeminism for its insistence on a more inclusive feminism, one that exposes the anthropocentrism of other feminisms.

At the same time that feminists wrestle with finding language that will communicate the focus and implications of their work, scholars in fields outside of feminism—such as posthumanism (Wolfe 2003), postcolonial ecocriticism (Huggan and Tiffin 2010), and animal studies (Kalof and Fitzgerald 2007; Shapiro and DeMello 2010)—are moving forward with ideas initially developed in feminist and ecofeminist contexts, often without acknowledging those contexts as foundations for their work. Is this silence a form of antifeminism, a feat of prestidigitation that simultaneously appropriates and erases feminist scholarship? Is it intellectual dishonesty? Is it simple ignorance of the work that has been done? Or is it, as an eco-anarchist might argue, a clear example of diffusion in the ways that liberatory ideas travel, gain acceptance, and take root, like wild dandelions?

While the critical tensions in this series of questions deserve to be addressed, for the moment a few certainties are clear. The history of ecofeminism merits recuperation, both for the intellectual lineage it provides and for the feminist force it gives to contemporary theory. Pragmatically, readers searching for linkages among ideas are better served by a consistency in keywords; social-change activists are more able to recognize the radically democratic chain of equivalencies across liberatory movements when participants identify themselves as acting from a specific constituency or analytical framework. Such efforts at making connections visible are most effective when they are multidirectional, coming from standpoints that are marginalized as well as those that are privileged. Breeze Harper’s anthology Sistah Vegan (2010) offers just such an example of intersectional analysis, responding to vegan ecofeminist arguments from two decades earlier, but from a base of eco-womanism (Phillips 2006, 2010), distinct from mainstream feminism.

The erasure of ecofeminism from feminism and other critical theories exposes the anti-feminist uses of the backlash, as Mortimer-Sandilands (2009) explains:

More recent rejections of ecofeminism—e.g., by privileged straight white men in ecocritical and ecophilosophical texts that summarize ecofeminism in a couple of paragraphs and then dismiss it as hopelessly outmoded and essentialist—actually seem to play on the dissent that occurs within ecofeminism. Not surprisingly, rather than take up the important questions that critics raise about gender and sexuality in ecofeminism, they use anti-essentialist rhetoric to dismiss the significance of gender and sexuality to environmental thought and politics altogether, as if any and all ecofeminist questions are moot because not all of us agree on what the “right” feminist perspective is.

Another feminist scholar, Simon Estok (2009), who has made a point of exploring the intersections between ecofeminism and ecocriticism in his own work (2001), explains his silence about using the term “ecofeminism” in this way:

I want to be very clear about my position: For me, it is not ecocriticism if it is not also demonstrably committed to feminism. . . . [so] my use of the term “ecocriticism” is, in some sense, strategic. I think that mainstream ecocritics (many of the men and certainly some of the women) react strongly against ecofeminism simply because it is done mainly by women. . . . most men see ecofeminism as at best peripheral and at worst as a threat (which really means most men see women as peripheral or as a threat). Perhaps I’m wrong, but raw sexism in its most basic form, if you ask me, is the first thing behind the backlash. (emphasis in original)

As the slogan goes, “I’ll be post-feminist in the post-patriarchy”—and when sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, classism, racism, speciesism, ableism, ageism, and the global inequalities produced and exacerbated by industrial capitalism and the legacies of colonialism cease to be a problem, then feminism will have accomplished its goals and outlived its usefulness.

In the year 2011 (and beyond, I suspect), there is no lack of eco-justice issues to interrogate, theorize, organize around, and transform using the analyses of an ecological feminism: Global gender justice; climate justice; sustainable agriculture; healthy and affordable housing; universal and reliable health care, particularly maternal and infant health care; safe, reliable, and free or low-cost reproductive technologies; food security; sexual self-determination; energy jus-tice; interspecies justice; ecological, diverse, and inclusive educational curricula; religious freedom from fundamentalisms; indigenous rights; the production and disposal of hazardous wastes; and more. An intersectional ecological-feminist approach frames these issues in such a way that people can recognize common cause across the boundaries of race, class, gender, sexuality, species, age, ability, nation—and affords a basis for engaged theory, education, and activism. What shall we name this approach, so that future generations of feminists can find its history, its conceptual tools and activist strategies, its critique of economic imperialism, cultural and ecological colonialism, gender and species oppression? If there is to be a future for “New Eco-feminism,”10 it will need to be more cognizant of its rich and prescient history.


This historical survey focuses North American ecofeminism, which has been developed and influence by ecofeminists in Canada, the United States, India, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Europe. National contexts surely influence theory, and given the length and depth of my analysis, I have had to limit its scope in order to ensure its reliability. I am grateful to Lori Gruen, Marti Kheel, pattrice jones, and the three anonymous reviewers whose feedback all helped to strengthen the arguments here.

Greta Gaard currently serves on the Executive Council of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. Her research and activism address the local and global intersections of gender, race, sexuality, species, and ecology. Her essays have appeared in Alternatives, The Ecologist, Women & Environments, ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment, Hypatia, Ethics & the Environment, Environmental Ethics, Signs, and other journals, bringing a feminist perspective to explore intersections of social, species, and environmental justice. Her book publications include Ecofeminism: Women, Animals, Nature (Temple University Press, 1993); Ecofeminist Literary Criticism (University of Illinois Press, 1998); Ecological Politics: Ecofeminists and the Greens (Temple University Press, 1998); and a book of creative nonfiction, The Nature of Home (University of Arizona Press, 2007). She can be reached at



1. For a discussion of feminism and ecocriticism, see “New Directions for Ecofeminism: Toward a More Feminist Ecocriticism” (Gaard 2010).

2. The Unity Statement of the Women’s Pentagon Action on the Peacework Web site offers an ecological and feminist analysis of domination that—with its stated desire for “good food, useful work, decent housing, communities with clean air and water, good care for our children while we work . . . health care which respects and understands our bodies, freedom from violence, reproductive and sexual freedom, renewable energy, an end to racism”—is as timely in 2010 as it was in 1980. Accessed 22 July 2010.

3. For manifestations of ecofeminism in non-Western cultures like Kenya, Chiapas, India, Taiwan, Chile, Brazil, and Japan, see Heather Eaton and Lois Ann Lorentzen’s excellent Ecofeminism & Globalization (2003).

4. When I presented a version of this article at the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) 2010 conference, I was corrected by a member of the audience: Gwyn Kirk let me know that her anthology Women’s Lives (2009), edited with Margo Okazawa-Rey, offers a full section on ecofemini

5. Such statements confirm the prescience of ecofeminist analyses of animal oppression that are now more widely confirmed through studies like the United Nations, Food and Agricultural Organization’s 2006 report Livestock’s Long Shadow and David Cassuto’s report “The CAFO Hothouse” (2010).

6. “I have identified myself as an ecofeminist consistently since I first read the term,” Cate Mortimer-Sandilands (2009) has explained. “I have never liked the subdivision of the term into social, cultural-, anarcha-, et for several reasons. First, it always reminds me of the ‘Monty Python: Life of Brian’ scene in which Eric Idle insists that he’s a member of the People’s Liberation Front of Judea, not the Judean People’s Liberation Front (or is it the opposite?). I know that’s a dig specifically at Marxism, but it’s a good one: Freud called it ‘the fetishization of small differences,’ and I think we all have more in common than the hyphenations suggest. Second and relatedly, I think it’s far more important, intellectually and politically, for ecofeminists to include than to specialize. That doesn’t mean I’m not willing to debate” (personal communication).

7. Carol Adams has described the struggles over feminism in the animal rights movement (see a recent interview at ). Marti Kheel (2010) also describes the Feminists for Animal Rights (FAR) battles with PETA over the “I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur” campaign in 1995, battles that have persisted in various forms to the present: “Over the years, FAR has received numerous letters complaining about PETA’s tactics and our response was along the lines of ‘Feminists for Animal Rights has received countless letters like yours over the years and we have conveyed these concerns to PETA numerous times, all to no avail. Since some of their work is very good it is difficult to get people to realize that the sexist tactics that they use do a disservice not only to women but to the larger cause of animal liberation. We encourage you to express your criticisms directly to PETA.’ A couple of years ago I met an activist who told me that when she called Ingrid [Newkirk, head of PETA] to complain about their sexist tactics she was told that the only women who complain about their tactics are the ones who don’t look good naked! (yes, this from a woman who calls herself a feminist!).”

8. One anonymous reviewer here expressed confusion about whether women “come first” or “the ‘eco’ comes first” in ecofeminism, and the answer is that both are linked. Numerous foundational articles in ecofeminism throughout the 1980s repeat the ecofeminist perspective that social injustices and environmental injustices are linked and are therefore most productively examined together. We do not exist apart from our environment As a movement to end all forms of domination, ecofeminism is a logical development of feminism, linking “naturism” to the various forms of human domination (see Warren 1987, 1990).

9. An eco-anarcha-feminist and founder of the Eastern Shore Sanctuary, pattrice jones, comments that “the charge of being ‘a white thing’ is leveled against animal rights (and, I suspect, ecofeminism) largely by whites who use race as an excuse not to explore that aspect of their privilege” (2010d). jones’s work on inter-species psychology (2010a, 2010b) and eco-justice activism (2007) affirms antiracist ecofeminist praxis; see her “Afterword: Liberation as Connection and the Decolonization of Desire” (2010c) in Sistah Vegan.

10. At Duke University, a new generation of feminists is revisiting what they call the “New Eco-feminism” project, yet their invited speakers for the first year’s seminar included only one feminist (Donna Haraway) and two other women (Temple Gran-din and Irene Pepperberg), all of whom perpetuate species hierarchy in their “animal studies.” The full text of “Women’s Studies Examines the New Eco-Feminism” reads as follows: “As many may know, a discourse emerged in the mid-1970’s that aimed to investigate the connection between feminism and earth and animal These women called themselves Eco-Feminists and generated many ideas about the nature of women, the plight of animals, and the need for conservation. Due to a whole host of theoretical and practical conflicts, this project was never seriously embraced by academic feminists. Duke Women’s Studies New Eco-feminism project hopes to revisit these questions, and develop theories and methodologies that will resonate within academic feminism today. We learned from E2T that there is a great need for further study of conservation, land use, and animal advocacy, not just from the perspective of science but from the humani-ties and interpretive sciences as well. We believe that contemporary feminist theory has much to offer such an engagement. Despite the fact that our eco-feminist foremothers may have been entrenched in essentialist ideology in their formulations, we believe their questions were the right ones. What can feminist thinking offer in response to the many global crises we face today including massive development, deforestation, animal torture, extinction, habitat loss, pollution, and global warming?” Accessed 22 July 2010.



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