“Unearthing Ecofeminism” panel combines environmental and feminist activism

The Bairnwick Women’s Center. Courtesy of the Sewanee Women’s Center Facebook.

By Ivana Porashka
Staff Writer 

The Bairnwick Women’s Center and the Greenhouse presented a panel on ecofeminism in the Mary Sue Cushman Room to further educate the Sewanee community.

Ecofeminism can be defined as a philosophical and political movement that combines ecological and feminist concerns, regarding both as resulting from a patriarchal, capitalistic society. It is also an activist and academic movement that examines connections between the exploitation of nature and the domination over women.

Kicking off this Domino’s Pizza-catered event, the event’s organizers projected a Youtube video on the big screen. The video provided historical and ideological context regarding the topic for the audience before the official discussion began.

The term “ecofeminism” seems to have been originally coined by Françoise d’Eaubonne, a French writer, in her book Le Féminisme ou la Mort in the 1974. Activism intensified during the 1980s and 1990s among women from the anti-nuclear, environmental, and lesbian-feminist movements. Ecofeminism combines current mainstream philosophies and examines the intertwined nature of women and the environment.

Sewanee students Madeline Wilson (C’19), Emily Sherwood (C’18), Haley Tucker (C’18), and Ann Robinson (C’19) sat at the front of the room, taking turns discussing their research regarding ecofeminism and how it can be used as a lens to analyze policy, economics, and spirituality. Lauren Newman (C’18) also participated in the panel, but does not identify as a ecofeminist.

In response to the short informational video, Sherwood noted, “There is something missing here. Where gender oppression intersected with environmental exploitation, nothing was mentioned regarding racial oppression. In the video, the speaker referred to women as ‘women,’ but we know that women of color are disproportionately affected.”

“The goal of the panel was to define ecofeminism and Environmental Justice because they are terms that are often used but undefined by many. Our student panel started an important dialogue about these theories and movements. We hope that students keep up this dialogue and we hope to have more events with the Greenhouse about these topics in the future,” Fagan said to The Purple.

Wilson asserted that ecofeminism “shifts the scope of social justice from anthropocentric to holistic, while maintaining the components of the feminist ideology…it is an ethic of equality that recognizes both the environment and women are oppressed by a capitalist patriarchy. Also, it is about respecting the sanctity of life and deep ecology.”

For Sewanee Purple readers wondering how to become engaged with ecofeminism on campus and how to gain autonomy from the capitalist patriarchy, Wilson compiled a list of remedies and outlets.

  1. Engage with the land. Volunteer at the University farm, pick up a book on native birds, explore the trails, attend an SOP outing, recycle, compost, walk barefoot, start a nature journal, study outside, pick up trash when you see it.

  2. Foster and maintain relationships with women old and young. Apply to be a WDC leader, volunteer at St. Mary’s, form relationships with McClurg and custodial staff, seek mentorship from your professors, ask your grandmothers about their grandmothers.

  3. Practice self-care and prioritize mental hygiene. Educate yourself on your anatomy, be active in your reproductive care, utilize Wellness Centre services like yoga or group therapy, donate to Chattanooga Cares, seek spiritual guidance, read, exercise regularly, look into preventative herbal medicines, meditate, create artistically and musically.

  4. Educate yourself. Know the history and ecology of your own hometown, communicate your beliefs with your state representatives, visit the University Archives, be critical of the narrative you are fed.

  5. Consume responsibly. Use refillable water bottles, opt for menstrual cups instead of pads and tampons, shop second hand, eat locally,compost, purchase consciously and know the production and ethical history of beauty products you use.

  6. Develop mantras. Think critically and develop various ethos to govern your interactions with others. Consider body, mind, spirit, and community and recognize their interconnectivity.

Complex layers of intersectional feminism, environmental justice, and systemic domination provide the foundation for this intertwining theory and movement. Scientific, political, and spiritual aspects of ecofeminism allow students to understand current global issues holistically.