Last fall, as I was reading through the syllabus for one of my classes, I came across a section labeled “Ecofeminism.” I had never heard the term before and wondered how in the world feminism tied into my environmental humanities course.
Identifying as a feminist myself, I was also skeptical of this strange new topic.
I was shocked to soon discover that ecofeminism was actually a theory, not a label or some obscure terminology.
Ecofeminism is a feminist theory that looks at the unique relationship between the female gender, animals and nature. It explores the idea that our emotional and spiritual connections to nature have a place in the larger environmental movement.
For as long as I can remember, I have had a deep connection with the natural world.
It was that connection, and the urgent need to protect what I loved, that led me to get an associate degree in environmental studies and eventually pursue a degree in sustainability studies here at Goshen College.
Until learning about ecofeminism, I often wondered where I fit in the larger environmental movement. The science is interesting, and I can wrap my head around the basics of environmental law and economics, but I have never been passionate about those things.
At one point, I thought I might actually lose my mind if I had to read one more book by Bill McKibben or Michael E. Mann. Still, I stuck with the topic because I knew it was important to me.
I saved my deeper feelings about nature for spiritual conversations instead of scientific ones, and I learned quickly that talking to a climate change denier about your emotional connection to the ocean doesn’t exactly make you seem like the most credible source of information.
So, where did ecofeminism come from? The term was first used in 1974 by French feminist Françoise d’Eaubonne and became popular in the United States in the 1980s.
It was born from the idea that the patriarchal values of modern society are at the root of environmental degradation and injustice. When we look closely, it’s also easy to see how women, animals and the environment have been oppressed and degraded in much the same way.
In an article from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Karen J. Warren explains how women are disproportionately affected by issues such as deforestation, water pollution and environmental toxins.
A woman’s status in her community can also dictate how much she is affected, which makes nature both a feminist issue and a social justice issue.
My favorite component of ecofeminism is its connection to “deep ecology.”
The Foundation for Deep Ecology describes this movement as recognizing the intrinsic value and diversity of the environment. It critiques modern industrial culture for seeing value only in the earth’s raw materials and how they can satisfy our desire for consumption.
Ecofeminism is very much in line with the principles of deep ecology. Both concepts encourage a sacred sense of belonging and responsibility to the natural world.
It is that idea that makes me feel like I belong in this movement.
Apparently, I have been an ecofeminist all along.
While Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been accused of using “hysteria” to scare right-wing voters and politicians into supporting the Green New Deal, I think what some people call “hysteria” is actually deep emotional commitment to a cause that matters. It’s a cause not just for women, or Americans, or liberal hippy environmentalists, but for everyone.
I believe that spirituality and emotions like anger and grief as well as the leadership of women are all increasingly necessary in the environmental movement. If people think I’m a hysterical feminist because of it, I couldn’t care less.
Acadia Imhof is from Bangor, Pennsylvania and transferred to Goshen College this fall as a junior. Before transferring, she attended Northampton Community College. At Goshen, she is majoring in sustainability studies and hopes to eventually get her master’s in environmental education.