Why ecofeminism is more topical than ever?

Earth Day was started in 1970 by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson. At around the same time the concept of Ecofeminism was born, bringing together ideas about women's rights, the birth of ecology and ethics. DiscovHER now takes a look back at this movement as questions being raised about the importance of women in sustainable development are more topical than ever.

In 1970 when one talked of the "relationship of man with Nature" did one mean men and women together, or, examining things more closely, men, above all? Ecofeminism was born of the need to fight gender generalisation and to defend the particular attitude of women to Nature.


Ecofeminism can trace its origins to the critique of industrial modernity and the domination of men over Nature and women in general.


Catherine LARRÈRE, explains the feminist basis for this concept through different metaphors for Nature inspired by the female body. In her view the lexicon of Nature in Modern times echoes male dominion over both women and Nature. To illustrate her explanation she highlights expressions such as "Virgin Territories", "Man's war against Nature" or "Struggling with Nature to reveal its secrets".


Nevertheless, if Ecofeminism does indeed contain notions of feminism and rebellion, it is also a movement which acknowledges the role of women in present day environmental concerns.


Ecofeminism as a response to environmental challenges.


In a report published in May 2015, Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation and Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and founder of the Green Belt Movement emphasised the necessity to involve women in thinking about climate change:


Mitigation of climate change and adoption of appropriate strategies must be done with women and not just for women. They must be involved at the same level as men, at all stages of political decision-making on climate change.

It was to highlight this need that in France the President of the Gender Equality High Council, the President of the Women's Rights Commission of the National Assembly, and the President of the Senate (all women) made an appeal calling for support for women, who are the main victims of global warming.


For Christine Bard, women are not simply victims, but "major protagonists in an effective and sustainable struggle against climate change".


 Some women exemplify this attitude.


Two emblematic women scientists have fought for women and the environment


Vandana Shiva, Indian physicist


After gaining a degree in Physics and studying the philosophy of the sciences, Vandana Shiva quickly became involved in the ecology movement. In 1991 she created "Navdanya", an organisation promoting biodiversity protection and defending the rights of farmers. In 1993 she received the 'Alternative Nobel Prize' "for placing women and ecology at the heart of modern development discourse".


Professor Wangari Muta Maathaï, Kenyan biologist


In 1977 when Professor Wangari Muta Maathaï founded the Green Belt Movement, a women's movement against deforestation in Africa, her intention was to protect biodiversity while creating employment for women. This Kenyan biologist and Professor of veterinary anatomy is the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize "for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace". This woman, criticised by her ex-husband for being "too educated, too strong, too brilliant and too difficult to control" is without doubt an emblematic ecofeminist figurehead. 


What do you think about ecofeminism? Tell us on @4womeninscience

L’Oréal–UNESCO
For Women in Science

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