Ecofeminism is a call to action. In its most basic form, ecofeminism examines the relationship between the greatest ecological and feminist concerns of our time, and looks at how the two are unavoidably linked.
French ecofeminist, Francoise D’Eaubonne, coined the term ‘ecofeminist’ back in 1974, pointing out how women’s very being, with childbirth, menstruation, and the like, makes them closer to nature than men. Similarly, ecofeminism highlights the feminisation of nature, using terms like “fertile soil,” “Mother Earth,” and “Mother Nature.” Although she may not have realised it at the time, D’Eaubonne had picked up on an already growing movement. Women, and environmental activists the world over, were already in an ever-growing movement, fighting against the repression of women and the exploitation of nature. Now there was a name for this movement.
Knowing the facts that ecofeminism brings to light, it is practically impossible to separate ecological destruction from feminism, though many will undoubtedly try. An intriguing, and shocking example, comes in the form of Fast Fashion – the world’s second-biggest polluter after oil. This isn’t to say that fashion itself is a feminist issue, though of course most fashion advertising is directed at women. Rather, it is to say that Fast Fashion harms not only the environment, by consuming an unbelievable amount of resources (5,000 gallons of water to manufacture a pair of jeans and T-shirt), but it also harms women. Did you know that 75% of garment workers are women? And these women often work ridiculous hours in shocking conditions, usually while also trying to raise their children.
What’s more, the fact that one in nine people lack access to clean water, represents both a global environmental, and a humanitarian crisis. This is a relatively well-known fact. But what many don’t draw a line towards with this issue, is that the burden of providing clean water to their children, elders, and often husbands, falls upon the women’s shoulders, and this is usually in developing countries where the problem is most pronounced. According to the UN, women in the developing world spend around 42 hours a week, the equivalent of a full-time job, just fetching water for themselves and their family. This has all kinds of implications -, from young women having to drop their education in favour of keeping the family hydrated, to mothers not having time to take on paid work, which thus perpetuates their descent into poverty and pushes them further down the social ladder.
Indeed, ecofeminism begs the question, how could environmental and feminist issues not be intertwined? Here’s an interesting challenge: think of an environmental issue that is particularly close to your heart: the overpopulation of the planet, the rising water levels, plastic bags or straws. And, once you’ve landed on a topic, search your mind (and possibly Google) for any links between that issue and feminist concerns. I am sure that you will find one.