For an Ecofeminist Politic

By Beaulieu, Elsa; Prud'Homme, Maude | Canadian Dimension, November-December 2010 | Go to article overview
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For an Ecofeminist Politic


Beaulieu, Elsa, Prud'Homme, Maude, Canadian Dimension


PLANET WARMING, the global food crisis, floods, droughts, the oil crisis and imperialist wars: environmental, social and political catastrophes follow one upon the other at an unremitting pace. Confronted with the state of our planet's environment, we must act. How do we, as feminists, analyze these phenomena and develop action strategies? Ecofeminist analysis reveals how women's oppression and the sexual division of labour are related to environmental destruction, imperialism, racism and capitalism.

What is Ecofeminist Analysis?

Francoise D'Eaubonne coined the term ecofeminism in 1974 in her article "Feminism or Death." In the 1980s, feminists, environmentalists and peace activists from the North and South converged, giving rise to ecofeminist actions and a comprehensive vision of a global system of oppression and destruction. In 1993, Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva published their famous book, Ecofeminism.

What is the relationship between patriarchy, capitalism, colonialism/imperialism and ecocide? Mies and Shiva point to their common historical origin: the European Renaissance. Beginning in the fifteenth century, the tentacles of European colonialism began to spread, with the great voyages of discovery, appropriation of the New World's lands, near extermination of the "savages," and finally, commercial expansion. At the same time in Europe, the witch hunt was unfolding. Accusing them of Satanism, the Catholic Church persecuted and executed women either for being too liberated or having medical knowledge. It was on these massacres that European white men built their scientific and industrial revolutions, which attained a peak in the eighteenth century, the much celebrated Age of Enlightenment. The notions of rationalism and progress are the philosophical underpinnings of these revolutions, themselves the productivist foundation of both capitalism and industrial socialism.

European white men, already convinced that the Earth was theirs by divine right, could now, armed with science and technology, control it and transcend the baser necessities of nature. "Nature" basically encompassed the Earth, plants and animals, women, irrationality, emotional expression, the body, food, reproduction and the "savages," in other words, the colonized peoples. In this patriarchal, imperialistic and racist framework, everything in the category of "nature" is an object to be appropriated, exploited, transformed, used and sold, to serve the white male's superior aspiration of "progress" imposed by violence. This quest for domination continues today, in a form that is ever more global and all-encompassing, to the point that we can no longer perceive reality from outside this perspective. The right-wing economic and social policies we are seeing now are its contemporary manifestation.

We're told that the law of the market is a natural law like gravity as we're hurled toward disaster! Crops are grown for fuel instead of food, and basic food stuffs are the subject of shameless speculation while billions of people suffer hunger and thirst. The powerful appropriate oil reserves and other natural wealth by force, while justifying their wars of occupation with all kinds of racist lies. The military complex depends on the reinforcement of patriarchal ideology in which men are both the fighters and the saviours, and encourages the multi-billion dollar porn and pros titution industries. Virulently sexist imagery is used to sell everything--even that which is most harmful and toxic--the multinationals want to produce.

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