D’Eaubonne Coins the Term “Ecofeminism”

The term “ecofeminism” was coined to designate the relationship between ecology and feminist theory, a concept built on the critical connections between the patriarchal domination of nature and the exploitation of women. It became an umbrella term covering a variety of positions, including historical, ethical, literary, political, and theoretical considerations of how one treats women and the Earth.


Ecofeminism grew rapidly during the 1980’s and 1990’s among women from the environmental, antinuclear, and lesbian-feminist movements and spread widely beyond the borders of Europe. The first ecofeminist conference, held at Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1980, inspired the growth of ecofeminist organizations and actions. The University of Southern California hosted a conference titled “Ecofeminist Perspectives: Culture, Nature, Theory” in 1987, which became the model for similar conferences. These meetings led to the publication of important anthologies of ecofeminist perspectives. Front Homosexuelle d’Action Révolutionnaire

Karen J. Warren Warren, Karen J. became perhaps the most widely known American scholar, philosopher, and writer on ecofeminist topics, making hundreds of presentations in such diverse places as Argentina, Sweden, Canada, Australia, Russia, Costa Rica, and the United States. Her beliefs were that despite many differences among ecofeminists, they agreed that important connections could be made between the domination of women and the domination of nature. An understanding of this tenet is crucial to feminism, environmentalism, and environmental philosophy. A primary project of ecofeminism was to make visible these connections between women and nature and to dismantle them where they remained harmful.

The various historical, conceptual, empirical, and symbolic ecofeminist connections indicated a need for new ecofeminist epistemologies. These epistemologies, or ways of knowing, challenge mainstream views of reason, rationality, and knowledge. Val Plumwood, Plumwood, Val a widely known Australian ecofeminist, has stated that new ways of recognizing humans as part of nature, instead of separate from it, are necessary. For Plumwood, ecofeminist ways of knowing must create ethical selves that do not maintain and promote harmful dualisms, especially between humans and nature. Inherent in this philosophy is the belief that the patriarchal set of basic beliefs, values, and assumptions is oppressive when it explains, justifies, and maintains relationships of domination and subordination.

Internationally, a variety of regional, ethnic, and cultural ecofeminists exist. Vandana Shiva, Shiva, Vandana an Indian ecofeminist, frequently invokes Hindu concepts and goddesses in her writings. If women are most adversely affected by environmental problems, as some believe, it makes them better qualified to be experts on environmental affairs and places them in a privileged position to create new practical solutions.

Ecofeminism is a movement that has grown in size and importance, judging by the surge of publications and university courses on the subject. The more that is discovered about ecological concerns, the more pressing the problems appear. Data from the social sciences suggest that an understanding of women and the environment points to women’s deep knowledge regarding forestry, water collection, farming, and food production. Many ecofeminists regard the movement as an ethical one, believing that the interconnections between the treatment of women, animals, and the rest of nature require a feminist ethical response. D’Eaubonne coined the term to highlight women’s potential for ecological revolution. Ecofeminism is a grassroots political movement driven by pragmatic concerns involving the health of women and the environment; science, development, and technology; the treatment of animals; and peace, antinuclear, and antimilitary activism. Ecofeminism
Environmental awareness;ecofeminism

Further Reading

  • Eaton, Heather, and Lois Ann Lorentzen, eds. Ecofeminism and Globalization: Exploring Culture, Context, and Religion. Lanhan, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003. A collection of essays exploring the ways ecofeminist theory might contribute to many areas of public life in the twenty-first century.
  • Eaubonne, Françoise d’. “What Could an Ecofeminist Society Be?” Ethics and the Environment 4, no. 2 (1999): 179-184. A model of goals to work toward for the future.
  • Marks, Elaine, and Isabelle de Courtivron, eds. New French Feminisms: An Anthology. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980. Contains a historical overview of French feminism as well as core writings of most of the important French feminists, including d’Eaubonne.
  • Warren, Karen J., ed. Ecological Feminism. New York: Routledge, 1994. Remarkably rich collection of essays illustrates many different ecofeminist viewpoints from important proponents of the field.

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