scorecardOPINION: Ecofeminism — a diversified perspective on Mother’s Day
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OPINION: Ecofeminism — a diversified perspective on Mother’s Day

OPINION: Ecofeminism — a diversified perspective on Mother’s Day
SustainabilitySustainability3 min read
It's been over forty years since Francoise D’Eaubonne introduced the term "ecofeminism" with the publication of Le Feminisme ou la Mort in 1974. Since then, ecofeminist ideas have evolved through various interpretations and critiques. Nature has often been portrayed with feminine qualities, partly due to the influence of male-dominated literature and societal norms. However, the term "ecofeminism" now encompasses diverse perspectives, with some hesitancy to use it due to concerns about essentialism and neglect of women's specific circumstances.

By the late 1980s ecofeminism had begun to branch out into two distinct schools of thought: radical ecofeminism and cultural ecofeminism. Radical ecofeminists argue that patriarchal societies link women and nature to exploit and devalue both. While feminism advocates for equal rights for all genders, it's notable how we often feminize nature yet associate wilderness with masculinity. Simone de Beauvoir's exploration of femininity in The Second Sex contributes to a feminism focused on liberation. Historically, the consciousness of humankind has been seeking liberation. The path towards liberation has been close to nature.

“Nature is like a woman who enjoys disguising herself, and whose different disguises, revealing now one part of her and now another, permit those who study her and assiduously to hope that one day they may know the whole of her person”- Denis Diderot’s beautiful analogy of nature and woman is a testament of timelessness of life’s origin and essence.

Cultural ecofeminists attest this analogy and advocate for embracing the connection between women and the environment, suggesting that women's roles and biology make them more attuned to environmental issues. They believe this association enables women to better understand and protect the environment's sanctity.

As Noble prize winner, Amartya Sen said; “Advancing gender equality may be one of the best ways of saving the environment and countering the dangers of overcrowding and other adversities associated with population pressure. The voice of women is critically important for the world’s future – not just for women’s future”.

The Chipko movement in India is a famous example of women’s power, where women led non-violent protests to safeguard forests. The Chipko movement started in Garhwal Himalaya in the 1970s as a notable example of non-violent resistance dedicated to safeguarding India's forests and got global publicity with the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

Undeniably, the prevailing ideology of corporate capitalism plays a pivotal role in the transformative global shifts reshaping humanity and its environments. Crittenden’s (2000) work elaborates on the ecofeminist scholarship that examines the interrelation between injustices faced by women and animals, often advocating for vegetarianism as a moral imperative. Ecofeminism critiques various facets of a detrimental mindset, including:

  • Domination: This perspective portrays the world in stark terms of superiority and inferiority, permitting the morally superior to assert dominance over those deemed inferior.
  • Objectification: It involves dehumanizing or devaluing individuals beyond one's immediate circle of empathy, diminishing their moral worth.
  • Dissociation: This psychological mechanism fosters dichotomies like human/nature or rationality/emotion, severing emotional connections and facilitating domination and objectification.
The main point here is that currently, ecofeminist principles contribute to building a world that promotes health and well-being, whereas self-centered ideologies typically hinder moral development, at best. Countries are increasingly entangled in the growth of the emerging global economy, which primarily serves the interests of multinational corporations.

A culture focused on fulfilling material desires to the fullest, centered on self-interest and primarily human-centered goals, will view the environment purely as a means to an end. Land is perceived as capital, and what we label as 'natural resources' are merely seen as tools to drive efficient production and consumption. This limited care for the nonhuman world results in humans determining an acceptable level of pollution; that is, there is no standard of pollution outside of what we decide is best for gorging our product-hungry appetite.

On the contrary, an ecofeminist outlook, adopting an ecocentric view that includes rights for all, prioritizes values like virtue and compassion over selfish profit-driven motives. It advocates for the full representation of oppressed and marginalized voices in moral, economic, and political choices, thereby rejecting practices that undermine democracy. Empathetic connection is encouraged and incorporated into morality, while morality is incorporated into politics and business. Therefore, individuals in business aren't segregated into behaving like Dr. Jekyll in their personal lives and Mr. Hyde in the cutthroat realm of economic rivalry.

This is essentially a gestalt shift from a limited Hobbesian view of humanity centered on virtue, which emphasizes accountability, empathy, and recognition of individual identity as part of a complex interconnected strands of life.

Prof Krupa Rai is an Associate Professor in the department of Marketing & International Business at K J Somaiya Institute of Management (KJSIM).

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are of the author/interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of Business Insider India. The article has been partly edited for length and clarity.