Lecture addresses relationship between women, nature


The oppression of women and the oppression of nature are interconnected and mutually reinforcing, an idea embraced by the ecofeminist movement addressed at a lecture yesterday.

“We need to understand that we aren’t separated from nature; we are nature too,” said Valerie Carroll, instructor in women’s studies. “We need to stop treating nature and marginalized humans in such arrogant ways.”

Ecofeminism is as complex as the people it seeks to defend and protect, manifesting itself in different, but connected, areas. It can be viewed as a philosophy or as a sociopolitical movement, among others.

As a philosophy, ecofeminism seeks to understand the interconnections of women and other marginalized groups with the Earth, while criticizing the status quo and seeking justice for all.

“All of this is about justice,” Carroll said. “Nature is in need of justice too.”

In the lecture, held in Union 212 at 4 p.m. yesterday, Carroll cited examples of ecofeminism, like the green belt movement in Kenya, which started as an effort to restore the environment by planted trees but ended up addressing women’s justice and poverty as well.

Ecofeminists also attempt to explain the roots of discrimination and injustice.

Western culture has divided its worldview into two sides, Carroll said. On one side, there are human beings, civilization, mind, rationality, men and masculinity. On the other there are animals, wilderness, body, emotions, women and femininity. They are viewed as opposing elements.

This worldview separates and oversiplifies complex human reltionships, with no gray areas or in-betweens.

“It is not just an oversimplified model, it is also a value judgment,” Carroll said. “This permeates our thinking and culture.”

By examining the English language, the connection between women and nature becomes clear. Women are often referred to as animals, like “chicks,” “foxes” or “bitches,” while nature is often referred to with feminine terms — “Mother Earth,” “virgin timber,” “penetrating into the wilderness” and “fertile earth” are some common examples.

“Ecofeminists are not saying women and nature are not connected,” Carroll said. “We are connected, but men are too, everyone is.”

The problem with this type of language is the terms mentioned are often devalued, and when culture devalues something, it is easier to allow it to be exploited and harmed.

As a feminist movement, ecofeminism analyzes gender and equality issues through a gender lens “by asking gendered questions — ‘Does this affect women differently?’ ‘Does this leave women out?'” Carroll said. “With these questions, ecofeminism takes seriously over half of the world’s population, which is the women.”

At the end of the lecture, Carroll gave the audience three points to action. The first is to start viewing the world with gender lenses, the second is to realize no man is an island and we are all interconnected and the third is to reject all “isms” of denomination.

“Racism, speciesism, sexism,” she said. “They are all wrong. Period. We don’t need to discuss it.”

Sofia Pablo-Hoshino, audience member and graduate student in political science, said she appreciated the practicality of Carroll’s lecture, giving real-life examples of ecofeminism.

“I liked that she focused on specific situations,” Pablo-Hoshino said. “She talked about what can be done to solve the issues.”