Ecofeminism - a New Perspective; the Cutting Edge

By Sale, Kirkpatrick | The Nation, September 26, 1987 | Go to article overview

Ecofeminism - a New Perspective; the Cutting Edge

Sale, Kirkpatrick, The Nation

Ecofeminism-- A New Perspective

It has taken a long time to work itself through, but two of the most potent and durable ideas of the 1960s--feminism and ecological politics--have begun to come together in a new and fruitful way at last. The resulting hybrid, "ecofeminism,' has finally taken on a distinct life of its own and appears to be influencing a growing number of groups and movements across the continent.

The ramifications of ecofeminism are quite profound, I believe, in both philosophical and practical ways, but its basic theses are not complicated. Put simply:

The patriarchal societies now familiar to us developed only in the past 5,000 years or so, succeeding a long series of relatively benign, gynecocentric and often goddess-worshiping societies of the late Paleolithic and early Neolithic eras.

Unlike those earlier cultures, patriarchies were (and, alas, are) based in large part on the domination and manipulation of nature and women--to some degree, in fact, on a hatred of both--who were seen as existing to serve a hierarchical, male-organized system.

Indeed, by identifying women with nature (e.g., Mother Nature), patriarchies have sought to justify their mastery (the word is apt) over both through the concept of a superior and advancing "civilization.'

Similarly, by objectifying women and nature, patriarchies can treat them as "the other,' something apart, and thus manipulate, use and even despoil them in the name of patriarchy and civilization.

Those patriarchal forms of oppression are now widely understood to be highly dangerous and insupportable, indeed life-threatening; they must be replaced, and quickly, with new attitudes and practices toward nature and women, without hierarchy, domination, exploitation and oppression.

This ecofeminist perspective, as it is now being fleshed out and developed, is obviously confrontational and controversial, but for many it is exciting and energizing as well. It creates a synergistic mixture of two important contemporary schools of thought and offers a whole new direction in which at least some parts of the ecological and feminist movements can proceed. But more, it offers a way in which those two movements can work together, in harmony and with mutually reinforcing power.

For feminists, ecofeminism has provided the intellectual substructure of a fairly well-developed philosophy of nature to accompany their recently buttressed analyses of gender and sexual roles. And it has given a larger and more useful philosophical perspective to many women who felt they had come to a dead end in the traditional feminist movement-- as, for example, many "liberal' feminists originally concerned only with equal rights or career opportunities have found ecofeminism useful in showing the shortfalls of "piece of the action-ism' and the traps of, in the words of ecofeminist and leading feminist theoretician Ynestra King, "capitulation to a culture . . . both misogynist and antiecological.' This has been particularly true for women in the environmental and Green movements who, after their experience of trying to work within the system, have come to understand that the problems are of culture and values more than politics and laws, and have gained a new insight through ecofeminism into the nature of the system and its substructures of dominance.

For ecologists, ecofeminism has provided a way to make connections with the political and social worlds that they otherwise have tended to ignore, and thus it insures a human side to their often abstract analyses. And by showing them the dark, underlying cultural causes of environmental destruction, ecofeminism has provided a very clear understanding of the kinds of real-world changes that have to be made before there can be any kind of ecological sanity.

There is one further bonus of this amalgam: Ecofeminism can, if allowed to, establish the sort of direct political link between men and women that has been unavailable in many recent social movements and at least problematic in the traditional feminist movement. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Ecofeminism - a New Perspective; the Cutting Edge


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.