Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Cited by 22
  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: June 2012

3 - Gender, Eco-Feminism and the Environment


Eco-feminism has several major aims. One project is to connect feminist and ecological perspectives, thought and movements, developing ‘a feminism that is ecological and an ecology that is feminist’, in Ynestra King's (1989) words. Eco-feminist thinking grew from criticism of sexism in the green movement and lack of ecological consciousness in the women's movement into a critique opposing all forms of oppression. Eco-feminist thinkers have also explored conceptual and cultural connections between women and nature, and applied feminist power analyses to problems in environmental philosophy.

Much feminist and eco-feminist philosophical critique has focused on mind/body dualism and the denial of embodiment as the key background for the environmental failure of Western culture. Early eco-feminism challenged dualised conceptions of spirit as transcendent male deity and developed alternative eco-feminist philosophies and spiritualities of embodiment and immanence (Ruether 1975; King 1981; Spretnak 1982). Contemporary ecological feminism often draws on an analysis of mind/body, spirit/matter and male/female dualisms or deep conceptual splits to understand the contribution of gender to the forms of culture and economic rationality that bring contemporary societies into ecological danger zones – the ecological crisis.


Eco-feminist historical scholars Rosemary Ruether (1975) and Carolyn Merchant (1980) and others established major conceptual connections between women and nature in Western culture. Women in this culture have been historically associated with the supposedly ‘lower’ order of nature, with animality, materiality and physicality, and men with the contrasting ‘higher’ order of mind, reason and culture.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Adams, C. J. 1990, The Sexual Politics of Meat: A feminist-vegetarian critical theory, New York: Continuum
Adams, C. 1993, ‘The feminist traffic in animals’. In G. Gaard (ed.) Eco-feminism, Philadelphia PA: Temple University Press
Adams, C. J. 1994, Neither Man nor Beast: Feminism and the Defense of Animals, New York: Continuum
Adams, C. 2003, The Pornography of Meat, New York: Continuum
Carlassare, E. 1994, ‘Essentialism in ecofeminist discourse’. In C. Merchant (ed.) Ecology: Key concepts in critical theory, Atlantic Highlands NJ: Humanities Press
Collard, A. with J. Contrucci 1989, Rape of the Wild: Man's violence against animals and the earth, Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press
Daly, M. 1978, Gyn/Ecology: The metaethics of radical feminism, London: Women's Press
Eaton, D. 2002, ‘Incorporating the other: Val Plumwood's integration of ethical frameworks’, Ethics and the Environment 7(2): 153–80
Hay, P. 2002, Main Currents of Environmental Thought, Sydney: University of New South Wales University Press
King, Y. 1981, ‘Feminism and Revolt’, Heresies 4(1): 12–26
Lloyd, G. 1984, The Man of Reason, London: Methuen
Luke, B. 1995, ‘Solidarity across diversity: a pluralistic rapprochement of environmentalism and animal liberation’, Social Theory and Practice 21(2); also in R. S. Gottlieb 1997 (ed.) The Ecological Community, London: Routledge, pp. 333–58
Mellor, M. 1997, Feminism and Ecology, Cambridge: Polity Press
Merchant, C. 1980, The Death of Nature, London: Wildwood House
Merchant, C. 2003, Reinventing Eden: The fate of nature in Western culture, New York: Routledge
Midgley, M. 1983, Animals and Why They Matter, Athens GA: University of Georgia Press
Mies, M., and V. Shiva 1993, Ecofeminism, London: Zed Books
Moriarty, P. V., and Woods, M. 1997, ‘Hunting≠Predation’, Environmental Ethics 19 (Winter): 391–404
Nicholson, L. 1986, Gender and History: The limits of social theory in the age of the family, New York: Columbia University Press
Plumwood, V. 1993, Feminism and the Mastery of Nature, London: Routledge
Plumwood, V. 1998, ‘Paths beyond human-centredness: lessons from liberation struggles’. In A. Weston (ed.) An Invitation to Environmental Philosophy, Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 69–106
Plumwood, V. 2000, ‘Integrating ethical frameworks for animals, humans and nature: a critical feminist eco-socialist analysis’, Ethics and the Environment 5(3): 1–38
Plumwood, V. 2002, Environmental Culture: The ecological crisis of reason, London: Routledge
Ruether, R. 1975, New Woman, New Earth, Minneapolis MN: Seabury
Shiva, V. 1994, ‘The Seed and the Earth’. In V. Shiva and M. Mies (eds) Close to Home: Women reconnect ecology, health and development, London: Earthscan
Spelman, E. 1988, The Inessential Woman, Boston MA: Beacon
Spretnak, C. 1982, The Politics of Women's Spirituality, New York: Doubleday
Stepan, N. L. 1993, ‘Race and gender: the role of analogy in science’. In S. Harding (ed.) The Racial Economy of Science, Indianapolis IN: Indiana University Press, pp. 359–76
Sturgeon, N. 1997, Ecofeminist Natures: Race, gender, feminist theory and political action, New York: Routledge
Warren, K. J. 1990, ‘The power and promise of ecological feminism’, Environmental Ethics 12(2): 121–46
Warren, K. J. 2000, Ecofeminist Philosophy: A Western perspective on what it is and why it matters, New York: Rowman & Littlefield
Weston, A. 1996, ‘Self-validating reduction: toward a theory of environmental devaluation’, Environmental Ethics 18: 115–32
Weston, A. 2004, ‘Multi-centrism: a manifesto’, Environmental Ethics 26(1): 25–40