Eco-what?


I have to start by being brutally honest. Prior to enrolling in my current Ecofeminism class, I had never encountered the term “ecofeminism.” What on earth was “ecofeminism” I thought. The ambiguity of the term was one of the main reasons I eventually decided to take the class and although I am nowhere close to understanding the complexities of the movement, it has caused me to ask myself questions I had never thought of before. As a woman, what is my opinion on gender and the way it’s molded in our society? Have there been times in my life when I have felt “oppressed” by either men or culture? Did I buy that there is a direct link between women and the environment? How much do I actually care for the empowerment of women and the well-being of our environment?

Although I can’t say that I have concrete answers for any of the questions above, I do know that the issues they raise are connected to my life, especially as a Hispanic American woman. Living as a “minority” in this country, I have experienced that hierarchies still control our everyday lives, and that there are many inequalities within our society, whether transparent or not. Throughout my life I have experienced that at times, being woman, especially a Hispanic woman, does put me at certain disadvantages in comparison to Caucasian women, let alone to Caucasian men. As a senior in college with graduation looming around the corner, the pressure of finding employment and transitioning into the “real world” is daunting.  Not only is it scary to think that we will all soon be competing for jobs in this unpromising economic situation but that as a woman, I might not be considered as a serious candidate next to my male peers. According to a report issued by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, even though the “Gender Wage Gap” has decreased significantly in the last six decades, the ratio of women’s to men’s median weekly earnings in 2010 was approximately 81%. This means that even if I do find employment after graduation, I may not be paid as much as a male peer pursuing the same field. I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, but to me, there is something inherently wrong with that fact.

Graph showing the Gender Wage Gap from the Institute for Women's Policy Research

Now, the other component to Ecofeminism is the injustices done to the environment, which is argued to be oppressed by culture in similar ways that men dominate women. When considering my views about nature and the environment, I realized that I associate with this aspect of the movement much less. Yes, I do recycle, but the main reason for my separation from the environment comes from growing up and still living in New York City. Although I will always argue that NYC is the best city in the world, analyzing it through ecofeminist lens made me realize that it encompasses many aspects that ecofeminists are against.

My friend and I enjoying a Summer night in Times Square, New York City.

As a New Yorker, I have to admit that I have been soaked into the fast-paced culture of the city, controlled by technology and constant consumption. I had to ask myself: am I wrong for participating in this “cosmopolitan” lifestyle? Was I thus supporting forms of oppression to the environment and to my own gender?

As I begin to wrestle with these issues, there is one component of Ecofeminism that I struggle with the most. In Andy Smith’s piece, “Ecofeminism through an Anticolonial Framework,” she begins by quoting Karen J. Warren’s idea that, “All feminists must also oppose any isms of domination that are maintained and justified by that logic of domination.” According to Warren and Smith, ecofeminists should not only be concerned with the oppression of women and nature but with all forms of oppression. While I understand this argument, it highlights one of the movement’s biggest issues that we discussed in our last class, that of Inclusion v. Exclusion. If what Warren and Smith argue is valid, is there any hierarchy or injustice that would not be included in the ecofeminist critique? Furthermore, if ecofeminists choose to stand against all forms of oppression is the name “ecofeminism” now inaccurate? It looks like for now, I am only left with even more questions to ponder.

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