Ecofeminism: an introduction

Each March, the UIUC Women’s Resource Center and YWCA co-sponsor a truly special, if underpublicized event: the Annual Campus Ecofeminism Summit. This year’s keynote speech featured a remarkable guest speaker: LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, the Lakota activist and historian who founded the first anti-DAPL resistance camp in North Dakota last spring. However, despite excitement over her visit (and despite the fact that this year marked the eighth celebration of the summit), many of us around campus don’t really have much of a grasp on what the word ecofeminism even means. In order to remedy this challenge and explore the meanings of the term, the WRC and YWCA centered their March 13th edition of their biweekly Hot Topics discussion series on the topic. The discussion was led by facilitators from the YWCA and Margaret Golden, an environmental and feminist activist from the student group Students for Environmental Concerns.

The two-hour discussion began by giving us all a basic definition of ecofeminism, which is as follows: “a philosophical and political movement that combines ecological concerns with feminist ones, regarding both as resulting from male domination of society.” In essence, ecofeminism seeks to explore the intersections between gender oppression and environmental degradation, and the ways in which battling against one of these issues obligates us to also battle the other. Driving these intersections is the belief that these inequities of social justice are instilled and perpetuated by the capitalist patriarchy that runs our global society. This system, in which men have most of the control and access to resources, results in nature, women, and other marginalized groups being exploited as means to an end: profit. In order to deconstruct this system, environmental and feminist activists would greatly benefit by coming together to advocate for both causes.

After a long conversation about the meaning of ecofeminism and how the capitalist patriarchy has affected our environment, small groups were formed to discuss ecofeminist solutions that could be implemented on our campus to work towards the improvement of our society. The core of many of these ideas was education, as the solution for issues of social justice so often is. Ideas ranged from those as broad as “engaging people that climate change isn’t immediately effecting” to as concrete as the development of a class, workshop, or certificate in ecofeminism for STEM majors. Also proposed was a program to reduce food waste in the dining halls, introducing environmental chairs to Greek houses, and increasing collaboration among student activist groups. Of course, these ideas are just the beginning. There is a plethora of ways that studying and practicing ecofeminism can bring about a tangible change to the system, and I encourage you all to explore them today.

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