In this unique work, Warren succeeds in one of the first attempts to render academic ecofeminist philosophy accessible to non-academics. Such a theoretically sophisticated yet layperson-friendly explanation and defense of ecofeminism has not before been quite conceived in this way-even the activist-oriented and much less rigorous essays of the early grassroots ecofeminist movements see, e. Given that ecofeminism is now largely, though not entirely see the activism of the grassroots group Boston Ecofeminist Action: www. Ecofeminist Philosophy is divided into nine extensive chapters that address the main questions that a newcomer to ecofeminist theory would likely encounter. Warren argues, for example, that "woman" and "nature" should be understood not as fixed, ahistorical concepts contrary to the early essentialist ecofeminist writings , but rather as socially constructed by an androcentric, anthropocentric culture.
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January 21, This piece was originally published in Michael E. Zimmerman, J. Warren, and John Clark Eds. Karen J. Warren is a feminist philosopher who has published essays on ecofeminism and edited several special issues on ecofeminism for Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy and the American Philosophical Association, Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy.
Warren has several books on ecological feminism, one co-authored with Jim Cheney and entitled Ecological Feminism, and two anthologies on ecofeminism. Warren also conducts workshops on environmental ethics and critical thinking for elementary and secondary school teachers and students, and is co-creator of an environmental ethics simulation game. Many feminists have argued that the goals of these two movements are mutually reinforcing; ultimately they involve the development of worldviews and practices that are not based on male-biased models of domination.
Just what makes the environment ecology a feminist issue? What are some of the alleged connections between the domination of women and the domination of nature? How and why is recognition of these connections important to feminism, environmentalism, and environmental philosophy? Answering these questions is largely what ecofeminism is about. In this essay I offer an introduction to the literature and issues of ecofeminism.
I begin with a characterization of ecofeminism. Discussion of these alleged connections provides an overview of the scholarly literature in ecofeminism and the sorts of reasons ecofeminists have given for the centrality of ecofeminist insights to environmental philosophy and feminism. It also helps to situate the four essays included in this section essays by Merchant, Plumwood, Salleh, and Warren within that range of scholarly positions.
I conclude by suggesting that the philosophical significance of ecofeminism is that it challenges feminism to take environmental issues seriously, environmental philosophy to take feminism seriously, and philosophy to take both seriously. These different perspectives reflect not only different feminist perspectives e. So, it is an open question how many, which, and on what grounds any of the various positions in environmental philosophy that acknowledge feminist concerns or claim to be feminist are properly identified as ecofeminist positions.
What one takes to be a genuine ecofeminist position will depend largely on how one conceptualizes both feminism and ecofeminism. There are two main ecological indications of liberal feminism: the first draws the line of moral considerability at humans, separating humans from nonhumans and basing any claims to moral consideration of nonhumans either on the alleged rights or interests of humans, or on the consequences of such consideration for human well-being.
The second extends the line of moral considerability to qualified nonhumans on the grounds that they are deserving of moral consideration in their own right: they, too, are rational, sentient, interest-carriers, right-holders.
Is either liberal feminist ecological implication acceptable from an ecofeminist perspective? Take another construal of feminism: traditional Marxist feminism.
Traditional Marxist feminism views the oppression of women as a kind of class oppression, a direct result of the institution of class society and, under capitalism, private property. Since praxis i. Is traditional Marxism fertile soil for ecofeminism?
Again, it depends, in part, on what one means by ecofeminism. If ecofeminism is a position that recognizes that nature has value in addition to its use value to humans, or if ecofeminism asserts that more than gender-sensitive class analyses are needed to explain the interwoven dominations of women and nature, then traditional Marxist feminism will be inadequate from an ecofeminist perspective.
Consider one last example. According to radical feminists, patriarchy i. Is radical feminism ecofeminist? Hence the extent to which radical feminism is an adequate theoretical basis for ecofeminism will depend partly on what one takes to be the defining characteristics of ecofeminism.
What, then, can one say about ecofeminism? What characterizes ecofeminism as a theoretical position and political movement? Despite important differences among ecofeminists and the feminisms from which they gain their inspiration, there is something all ecofeminists agree about; such agreement provides a minimal condition account of ecofeminism: there are important connections between the domination of women and the domination of nature, an understanding of which is crucial to feminism, environmentalism, and environmental philosophy Warren If woman-nature connections are the backbone of ecofeminism, just what are they?
And why is the alleged existence of these connections claimed to be so significant? These alleged connections provide sometimes competing, sometimes mutually complementary or supportive, analyses of the nature of the twin dominations of women and nature. A casual, albeit philosophically uncritical, perusal of these eight alleged connections helps to identify the range and variety of ecofeminist positions on woman-nature connections.
Historical, Typically Causal, Connections. One alleged connection between women and nature is historical. When historical data are used to generate theories concerning the sources of the dominations of women and nature, it is also causal. What are these alleged historical-causal connections? Some ecofeminists e. Still other feminists e g.
What prompts and explains these alleged historical and causal woman-nature connections? What else was in place to permit and sanction these twin dominations?
To answer these questions, ecofeminists have turned to the conceptual props that they claim keep these historical dominations in place.
Conceptual Connections. Many authors have argued that, ultimately, historical and causal links between the dominations of women and nature are located in conceptual structures of domination that construct women and nature in male-biased ways.
Basically three such conceptual links have been offered. One account locates a conceptual basis of the twin dominations of women and nature in value dualisms, i. These theorists argue that whatever is historically associated with emotion, body, nature, and women is regarded as inferior to that which is historically associated with reason, mind, culture, human i. A conceptual framework is a socially constructed set of basic beliefs, values, attitudes and assumptions that shapes and reflects how one views oneself and others.
It is oppressive when it explains, justifies, and maintains relationships of domination and subordination. An oppressive conceptual framework is patriarchal when it explains, justifies, and maintains the subordination of women by men. On this view, it is oppressive and patriarchal conceptual frameworks, and the behaviors that they give rise to, that sanction, maintain, and perpetuate the twin dominations of women and nature.
A third account locates a conceptual basis in sex-gender differences, particularly in differentiated personality formation or consciousness see Cheney ; Gray ; Salleh, The claim is that female bodily experiences e. A goal of ecofeminism then, is to develop gender-sensitive language, theory, and practices that do not further the exploitative experiences and habits of dissociated, male-gender identified culture toward women and nature.
If ecofeminists who allege various conceptual woman-nature connections are correct, this will involve reconceiving those mainstay philosophical notions which rely on them e. Link to environmental justice 3. Empirical and Experiential Connections. Many ecofeminists have focused on uncovering empirical evidence linking women and children, people of color, the underclass with environmental destruction. Some point to various health and risk factors borne disproportionately by women children, racial minorities and the poor caused by the presence of low-level radiation, pesticides, toxics, and other pollutants e.
Others provide data to show that First World development policies result in policies and practices regarding food, forest, and water, which directly contribute to the inability of women to provide adequately for themselves and their families e.
Feminist animal rights scholars argue that factory farming, animal experimentation, hunting, and meat eating are tied to patriarchal concepts and practices e. Some connect rape and pornography with male-gender identified abuse of both women and nature e.
Sometimes, however, the empirical and experiential connections between women and nature are intended to reveal important cultural and spiritual ties to the earth honored and celebrated by some women and indigenous peoples. This suggests that some woman-nature connections are features of important symbol systems. Symbolic Connections. Some ecofeminists have explored the symbolic association and devaluation of women and nature that appears in religion, theology, art, and literature.
Ecofeminism is then presented as offering alternative spiritual symbols e. Some theorists focus on language, particularly the symbolic connections between sexist and naturist language, i. King There are concerns about connections between the languages used to describe women, nature, and nuclear weaponry see Cahn ; Strange Women are often described in animal terms e.
Nature is often described in female and sexual terms: nature is raped, mastered, conquered, controlled, mined. The claim is that language that so feminizes nature and naturalizes women describes, reflects, and perpetuates the domination and inferiorization of both by failing to see the extent to which the twin dominations of women and nature including animals are, in fact, culturally and not merely figuratively analogous.
The development of theory and praxis in feminism and environmental philosophy that does not perpetuate such sexist-naturist language and the power over systems of domination they reinforce is, therefore, a goal of ecofeminism. Epistemological Connections.
The various alleged historical, causal conceptual, empirical, and symbolic woman-nature connections discussed above have also motivated the need for new, ecofeminist epistemologies. Typically these emerging epistemologies build on scholarship currently under way in feminist philosophy, whigh challenges mainstream views of reason, rationality, knowledge, and the nature of the knower see APA Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy For Plumwood, ecofeminist epistemologies must critique rationalism in the Western philosophical tradition and develop views of the ethical, knowing self that do not maintain and perpetuate harmful value dualisms and hierarchies, particularly human-nature ones.
Some feminists e. Political Praxis Connections. Ecofeminism has always been a grassroots political movement motivated by pressing pragmatic concerns see Lahar The varieties of ecofeminist perspectives on the environment are properly seen as an attempt to take seriously such grassroots activism and political concerns by developing analyses of domination that explain, clarify, and guide that praxis.
Ethical Connections. Minimally, the goal of ecofeminist environmental ethics is to develop theories and practices concerning humans and the natural environment that are not male-biased and provide a guide to action in the prefeminist present Warren This may involve developing an ecofeminist ethic of care and appropriate reciprocity Cheney , ; Curtin , Warren , , this section , ecofeminist kinship ethics Plumwood , this section , ecofeminist animal rights positions Adams ; Slicer , an ecofeminist social ecology Y.
King ,,, or ecofeminist bioregionalism Plant As Plumwood and Warren claim in their essays in this section, mainstream environmental ethics are inadequate to the extent that they are problematically anthropocentric or hopelessly androcentric.
Theoretical Connections. The varieties of alleged woman-nature connections discussed above have generated different, sometimes competing, theoretical positions in all areas of feminist and environmental philosophy.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the field of environmental ethics. In many respects, contemporary environmental ethics reflects the range of positions in contemporary philosophical ethics. The latter includes traditional consequentialist e.
Ecofeminism: Women, Culture, Nature
In , Simone de Beauvoir pointed out that in the logic of patriarchy, both women and nature appear as other de Beauvoir , Exploitation of female reproductive power has caused an excess of births, and hence overpopulation; while an excess of production has exploited natural resources to the point of their destruction. In North America, the alliance between feminism and ecology likewise began in , when Sandra Marburg and Lisa Watson hosted a conference at Berkeley entitled "Women and the Environment. She called for a unification of feminist and ecological interests in the vision of a society transformed from values of possession, conquest, and accumulation to reciprocity, harmony, and mutual interdependence. In , Karen Warren edited an issue of Hypatia devoted entirely to ecofeminism, which was later expanded and republished under the title Ecological Feminist Philosophies. This anthology was ground-breaking, because in it Warren consolidated a collection of diverse voices, not into an ecofeminist platform as such, but into a vision of the lay of the land, as it were, with respect to ecofeminism. Although Warren has been writing as an ecofeminist since , it was not until that she published a sustained treatment in her own voice: Ecofeminist Philosophy: A Western Perspective on What It Is and Why It Matters.
Karen J. Warren
Malajar This piece was originally published in Michael E. Amazon Second Chance Pass it on, trade it in, give it a second life. Ecofeminism is then presented as offering alternative spiritualsymbols e. Basically three such conceptual links have been offered.
Warren’s Introduction to EcoFeminism