When WEI-Mag Was Just W&E: Writing the Early History of Women and Environments

By Campbell, Jessica | Women & Environments International Magazine, Summer/Fall 2017 | Go to article overview

When WEI-Mag Was Just W&E: Writing the Early History of Women and Environments


Campbell, Jessica, Women & Environments International Magazine


My curiosity in the topic of women and environments stemmed from my initial interest in ecofeminism, more specifically the ecofeminist movement, and through reading the works of Carolyn Merchant, who grappled with the cultural concepts of woman/nature and man/science. These concepts have evolved over time, and can help explain the sexist and environmentally unsound practices which continue to undergird Western culture today. I was intrigued by the idea of merging critical analyses of human interactions and "nature" with feminism in the past. I was intrigued by the idea that "woman" is a culturally constructed category, and female identities have been shaped by women's relations to non-human "nature." It seemed to me that this idea could be a source of empowerment.

From there, I learned about the cohesive ecofeminist movement in the United States that began around 1980, signified by works, conferences, and protests carried out by people who linked environmentalism with feminism. But then I thought, what about Canada? Did an ecofeminist movement play out in Canada as well? After researching, I learned that while there was not really a cohesive ecofeminist movement in Canada, there were signs that Canadian women were thinking about and actively engaging with environmental concerns around the same time that ecofeminism emerged in the United States. I explored this through secondary research, which led me to learn of the network and magazine Women and Environments International - published in Canada, by Canadians. Additionally, I was pleased to find that the magazine had been publishing since 1976 and had actually gone by the name Women and Environments, commonly called W&E, until 1998. It had been founded by three Environmental Studies professors from York University, in Toronto. This mid-1970s magazine was the only regular publication documenting English-speaking environmental-leaning feminism in Canada. I started to hypothesize that maybe, just maybe, this was an ecofeminist magazine. Even though the description on the website stated the magazine was interested in natural, rural, built, and social, environments, maybe this was actually a portal into a burgeoning ecofeminist movement in Canada!

The next step was to access this magazine. I specifically wanted issues from its conception in 1976 to 1997, the last year it went by the name Women and Environments. Access to the magazine's back issues was not as easily achieved as I had thought, because it lacked digital replicas, and the original hardcopies were housed in different areas all over Toronto. What's more, the turnover in today's editorial staff meant corresponding with different people via email and telephone, and reiterating my requests multiple times. Once I had the physical copies of all issues, it was clear to me that W&E was not Canada's unrealized ecofeminist movement. But, my initial disappointment with this discovery was shortlived. As I read the journal and learned about the wide-ranging definitions of environments it included, I realized that the women of W&E were, just as Carolyn Merchant is, concerned about the relationship between physical and conceptual space and the construction of women's identity.

W&E's mission was first, to address women's multiple relations to their environments - natural, built and social - from a feminist perspective; second, to provide a forum for academic research and theory, professional practices and community experience, and lastly, to give equal attention to Canadian and American topics as well as provide information about activities in other parts of the world. From of its mission statement, I learned two things. First, W&E identified from the outset as an international periodical, which got me thinking: maybe I couldn't accurately call it a Canadian magazine. Second, my initial readings of the first five years suggested that this magazine was all about cities and buildings and urban space, which - from my post global warming frame of mind - didn't qualify as 'the environment. …

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