Climate change, global warming, increase in global temperature- terms that have become more tangible to us than it ever was. Environmentalists around the world are talking about the importance of realizing and acting now! However, it is important we look at the environment not as a separate concept but with interlinks of different aspects of the society.
One of them being – ecofeminism. It is important to support eco-feminism because it aims to rethink both the feminist and environmental movements. It describes how gender and nature interact with each other. Eco-feminism, also known as ecological feminism emerged in the year 1974 in order to encourage respect for both women and the natural world. The fundamental goal of eco-feminism was to address and remove all kinds of dominance while acknowledging and appreciating human interdependence and connection to the land.
Women and other marginalized groups are particularly exposed to the adverse effects of climate change and environmental degradation, particularly in developing nations. It recognises that environmental problems are inextricably linked to sociocultural difficulties, as well as cultural, social, and political challenges.
It comes with different school of thoughts, mainly- liberal, cultural and socialist eco-feminism. Liberal eco-feminism builds that one must study patriarchal domination with an eye towards ending the associations between women and nature because this mindset encourages the exploitation of women and nature for cheap labour and resources.
On the other hand, cultural eco-feminism, which emerged in the early 1970s, reclaims women-nature relationships as freeing and powerful representations of women’s ability to care for nature. Some cultural ecofeminists contend that women’s reproductive powers give a biological link to nature, putting women “closer to nature” than males, they argue that such linkages enable women to be more sensitive to environmental holiness and degradation.
This idea has been criticized by social ecofeminists for making essentialist, universalist, and ahistorical claims about both women and nature. Social eco-feminists claim that there is no essential (biological, natural, innate) nature of women.
ECO-FEMINISM IN INDIA:
One of the earliest ecofeminist movements in India is the famous chipko movement in 1974. Dalit women in Andhra Pradesh’s Medak district started a similar initiative. Dr.Vandana Shiva is one of the leading ecofeminists in India and around the world, Shiva holds colonialism responsible for the “destruction of nature and women’s work”, and underlines how what might be considered development by many actually doesn’t benefit women and nature in the way that it “perpetuates domination and centralisation through patriarchal control”
IS ECO-FEMINISM RELEVANT IN THE CONTEMPORARAY WORLD?
Women involved in environmental justice issues and women representing minority cultures have worked to establish their own sense of eco-feminism, which includes local cultures and spirituality, a celebration of their roles as mothers and caregivers, and an acknowledgement of how Western colonization undermined those beliefs.
Women in tea plantations of Assam are doubly marginalized – firstly as isolated and unassimilated descendants of migrant laborers, and secondly as women.
The labor-intensive task of collecting tea is primarily performed by women. This is due to the belief that women’s hands are more suited to picking the delicate tea leaves for processing. Factory work, which is higher paid, has better facilities, and is considered to be more respectable and prestigious, is mostly done by males, despite the fact that women employees interviewed during the research stated that they are just as capable of undertaking industrial work as men.
CRITICISM OF ECO-FEMINISM :
The most common objection leveled to ecofeminism is based on the concept of essentialism, or “the view that objects have fixed qualities.” Some argue that comparing women with nature promotes the gender standards dichotomy that feminism aimed to eliminate.
Janet Biehl, a social ecologist and feminist, has criticised ecofeminism for focusing too much on a mystical link between women and environment and not enough on women’s real situations. She has also said that ecofeminism is an anti-progressive movement for women, rather than a forward-thinking idea.