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The Biotic Woman: Intro to ecofeminism

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ecofeminism, noun: a philosophical and political movement that combines ecological concerns with feminist ones, regarding both as resulting from male domination in society

With "green" being all the rage the last few years, it's no wonder environmental issues have become so mainstream. But media savvy and socially responsible feminists know that environmentalism and ecofeminism are not new ideas, even as many of the relationships between the planet and women's rights become more salient as the earth warms and we suffer the effects. Bitch has always been keen to deconstruct naked PETA advertisements and sexual meat metaphors. To continue some of that analysis and add a whole mess of my own, I'll be blogging here about ecofeminist issues—an admittedly wide range of topics that will incorporate many ideas about the planet, animals, and feminism, and the relationship between the subjugation of all three.

To me, ecofeminism is not a rigid belief system but instead incorporates many aspects of feminist activism under one environmentally conscious umbrella. For me, a large part of that work is veg*nism, by which I mean either vegetarianism (which I used to practice) or veganism (which I currently practice) or some combination of the two. Admittedly, I don't see much disconnect between environmental issues, feminism, and animal rights issues (not to be confused with animal welfare, which I'll discuss in another post).

I appreciate that many of these ideas have been circulating in feminist and/or lesbian communities for decades, and I'm so pleased to continue to learn from those who came before me. The myriad communities fighting gendered and speciesist injustice and environmental degradation are widespread. Indigenous women in communities of the Global South are living the extreme and often horrific results of global warming and are working to make this reality understood. The recent crisis in Haiti is a stark reminder of how much environmental issues are so closely linked to everyday survival. In the United States and Canada, rural women have also been longtime leaders in environmental feminist movements, and as someone with a family background rooted in rural poverty, I'm excited to explore that history as well. Despite this well-documented past—and much like other schools of thought or ideological labels I've embraced over the years—an ecofeminist model made sense to me long before I knew there was a word to describe it.

I'm someone who values firsthand experience, which is admittedly ironic since when I write I often ask my readers to take my word for something. Personally, videos, photos, and even horrible stories are only so effective without the real world counterpart. It can be easy to shut out facts removed from your own experience, but it's much harder when you've met people living with the damaging effects of climate change, or you've spent an afternoon with an abused sheep who decides to trust you anyway. As a writer and journalist based in Copenhagen, I live in an unusually eco-friendly city and had the pleasure of meeting some of the women at the forefront of the environmental movement during COP15 last month. Before I moved to Denmark, I lived in Boston and volunteered at a small farm animal sanctuary outside of town, which was where so many of these issues finally crystallized in my mind. For me, all of this is a practice, a journey. I accept that I can always do more and make imperfect decisions along the way, and I don't believe in monolithic definitions of most things. Environmentalism and veg*nism are certainly two diverse sets of beliefs, though I do hope they often overlap.

In the next weeks, I'll be looking at a variety of intersecting issues including the human cost of chocolate, the use of fur in northern climates and indigenous cultures, soy and soybean farming, nuclear power's environmental effects, ideas for carbon-free transit, the links between racism and animal oppression, and how you can be a pro-choice vegan. I'll deconstruct and highlight ecofeminist issues in the news, like today's New York Times editorial about Big Food. I'll also be looking to a lot of female and feminist leaders on environmental and animal rights issues and featuring their words hopefully even more than my own. I'm looking forward to critically engaging in these issues, receiving your feedback and comments, and learning from the Bitch community!

Photo from Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary, first posted on factory takeover.

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Comments

24 comments have been made. Post a comment.

thankyouthankyouthankyou

first off, the reason i became so into fighting for children's rights (esp. girls around the world) was the same reason i got into fighting for animal rights - both groups are considered property under most law, and even what supportive laws do exist, are not used as they should be most of the time. As a vegan/AR femiist I am constantly alienated form sites like jezebel that insist on Tucker- Max-like bravado about "those loser/annoying vegans" and loving bacon in response to any post on this topic. plus, anyone writing about it is never vegan and usually not even veg, usually posting right off the bat they're "not picky' and thus are socially accepatable i.e. eat fish/seafood, wear leather, and make exceptions constantly usually due to social pressure.

even working and living in a suppoesdly vegan friendly and alternative lifestyle sorta place like nyc for years now, i am constantly amazed at the shaming and version of mansplaining that goes on when you try and explain why you are vegan, why you are into animal rights (vs welfare), and so forth.

and like i said, it hurts a helluva lot more when it's your fellow feminists doing it, and saying you're crazy idiots and just shut off and eat bacon, it's like being told to stop bitching about rape culture and just get alid already. it totally negates the veracity and concern of anything you may be saying, and tries to make you the butt of a mena joke so that the other person's thoughts aren't challenged and they feel superior to you.

anyways, i REALLY REALLY look forward to this series.

did I mention I'm looking forward to it???

Marcy

you know why you get told to shut up?

because you just compared eating bacon to rape.

actually...

no, zie compared it to rape supportive culture, which is a very insightful connection. just like not everyone blow-torches dogs or slashes the throats of cows, not everyone rapes other people. however, we do live in a society where the act of rape is normalized by patriarchal misogynist discourses, similar to how we live in a society where the consumption of brutally tortured and slaughtered animals is normalized by carnist discourses.
furthermore, a la "the sexual politics of meat," these systems mutually reinforce each other, making a vegan AR feminist position extremely sensible.

thank you so much for doing this... I only know of one other blog out there that clearly connects these issues (Animal Rights and AntiOppression). I'm so excited!

animals aren't people.

animals aren't people. they're animals. when "intersections" are made between oppressed people and animals, you're not elevating animals up, but bringing marginalized people down even more.

a white hetero cisgender man is never compared to animals. people of color and women are.

I fully anticipate more classist analysis about animal rights, rather than food justice. for many people in poverty, having chicken at dinner, if they have dinner at all, is the healthiest food they'll eat all day. and somehow they're oppressors?

I believe there can be great feminist discussion about ecofeminism and food justice. but animals don't have rights. they're animals.

Fail

You just did a fantastic job validating her point.

fail, because you didn't read what I said.

and here is a newsworthy and timely example of exactly what I'm talking about, courtesy South Carolina's lieutenant governor, Andre Bauer:

"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed! You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that."

It's offensive that he compared people on government assistance to animals, so why is it ok for liberals/progressives to compare animals to oppressed/marginalized people?

Actually...

White heteto cis men are frequently referred to as "pigs," especially the types who end up in law enforcement. If they are conformist types, they might also be called "sheep," though this gets repurposed by white hetero cis men who lead religious groups because then, being a sheep and being shepherded is righteous.

Food justice doesn't have to be about hating people who eat meat, and I never said people who do are oppressors. I'm looking for models that can encourage compassion for all, not just for people and not just for animals. Compassion is not monolithic. Also, I grew up extremely poor, as I mentioned in passing, but I stopped eating meat at age 12. Beans, legumes, and rice are healthy, accessible, and cheap too.

ok, to clarify

I agree - compassion isn't mutually exclusive.

However, I disagree on a fundamental level on comparisons between people and animals, see above comment on Andre Bauer.

Thanks

I too grew up poor (welfare & food stamps kid, single mom parent, deadbeat dad) and went veg then vegan at a young age. And I've always donated to human causes as well included ones that fight poverty, racism and so forth. It's not a conflict. It's liberation and mutual aid, in my mind. I hate this "Us vs Them" mentality, that assumed putting down animals or even other activist groups in general raises up any other person/group/etc. And of course, there's the massive ecological factor of veganism that factors in, with global climate change and pollution affecting the world's poor disproportionately and yet factory farming waste is a bigger cause of climate change by now than gas-guzzling vehicles. It's all connected.

bacon and rape

Try typing "I love raw bacon" into google image search, and turn the safe search off. See what comes up. There are thongs with this written over it and acutal women wearing bikinis made out of raw bacon.

Also, if you think about the breeding sows that either were, or bore your bacon, they most certainly were raped. In today's larger breeding facilites, hundreds or thousands of mother pigs are lined up in cages just barely bigger than their bodies (where they spend their whole lives), so they cannot turn around. They then get a 'teaser', a male boar, to parade down the middle of the two rows of mother sows. Then people come by and shove sperm ejecting devices into their bodies one by one until they are all pregnant. A similar process is used for cattle, except that they are taken to a big rack that the reports directly from industry workers have actually nicknamed the "rape rack."\

http://postanimality.wordpress.com/reading-that-we-do-not-see-in-america...

And women who are supposedly

And women who are supposedly against oppression can't stand facing themselves when they hear bacon and rape together like that, they have to tell you to shut up cause they can't formulate an excuse for their complicity in the exploitation and killing of others.

p.s.

oh and thanks for pointing out we're not all PETA supporters, says an ex-PETA supporter vegan. for both animal rights hypocrisies they commit, and feminist reasons. that's like asuming every one with feminist inclinations supports camille paglia. not true.

grab the nearest nonhuman & do a silly wiggly *happy dance*

I know it's only Monday, but this is the shiniest news I've heard all week!

Generally, I just prefer that the larger feminist/progressive blogs not cover animal issues *at all*, since when they do, it's usually from a hostile, anti-vegan, speciesist perspective. Bitch is better than most, but still, it's awesome to see an actual vegan guest blogger for a change. Yay Bitch! Yay Brittany! Yay Olive!

Also, @ Anon - thanks for the timely illustration of why we need more vegan/vegetarian/animal-friendly feminists writing in mainstream feminist spaces.

exactly

I also love how bullies, mansplainers, and similar types always post as Anonymous. Always followed by put downs and verbal abuse instead of helpful discourse. Which is why it's so heartening to see non-flamewar-types post here as well. Yay!

To folks saying "but we're humans and they're animals", actually, we're all animals. We're a different species of animal. Just like I don't accept things being called "gay" or comparing a guy to a female in order to put them down, I don't accept put-down comparisons based on animals. And there are always intersections of various movements, helpful (when working together) and hurtful (my group has more valid problems than your group, my group gets help before your group, you can only be in my group if you don't identify with another group, and so forth), but with the united need to challenge the status quo and to liberate.

Anyways, extremely excited about this series. It's not that I expect to agree with everything or everyone to agree with me, but a fresh perspective would be much appreciated from the usual speciesist dialogue.

THANK YOU!

This is awesome. I'm so happy to hear that Bitch will be focusing on this. It can feel very lonely being a vegan and a feminist. Want to contribute to an upcoming book about the connections? www.connectthedotsmovement.wordpress.com.

Thank You!!!

Oh thank you so much! I support you 100% and very much look forward to what you have to say. It is obvious from some of the comments that education on these subjects is much needed.

Thank you thank you thank you!!!

That just sealed the deal

That just sealed the deal for this ecofeminist vegan that sees the intersectionalities of oppressions. I'm subscribing!

YES

I'm so happy about this.

Finally!

As I raised the topic in my article on The Hypocrisy of Anti-PETA Feminists recently:

http://www.thescavenger.net/feminism-a-pop-culture/the-hypocrisy-of-anti...

It's tiring to see feminist media only post blogs on the subject of animal rights when it's to condemn PETA, and never to associate the unity of oppressions.

Thinking of non-humans as 'less than' doesn't help them or any other human. If we weren't so speciesist and didn't consider animals as 'less than', it wouldn't be an insult to compare ourselves to them. And as one poster has pointed out we ARE animals. Get over it.

Great that Bitch is starting this series, especially as a staff member at Bitch, when an article on this was suggested, basically said it had been done to death and was therefore presumably not 'trendy' enough for your organisation.

I look forward to future blogs and discussions.

Katrina Fox
Editor of The Scavenger online magazine (Salvaging what's left after the masses have had their feed)
www.thescavenger.net

welcome!

Glad to have your voice and experience, Brittany! We need more thoughtful explorations of these interlinked oppressions. I look forward to reading more. Yay!

Thanks Shannon!

I have your blog post about vegans having good sex open in a tab right now! Great minds think alike (or at least somewhat similarly... usually :)

I am so excited to read this

I am so excited to read this blog series! This week I started reading the work of Temple Grandin for the first time, and it's got me thinking about how working for animal rights, as Grandin continues to do, can be liberating for the humans who do the work. Learning about Grandin's autism, and her thought and speech processes, is changing the way I understand self-expression. It seems like an autistic woman is expected to be doubly silent, so Grandin's work is truly inspiring!

Thanks Lo!

I have mixed feelings about Grandin, but one thing I appreciate about her is that I believe her work can help folks who never thought about some of these intersections start being more compassionate towards all living beings. That she profits from the factory farm industry, for which she consults, is troubling to me though. I used to have a friend/coworker who had Asperger syndrome and had a similar bond with animals that I do. In the spirit, I reviewed one of Grandin's books recently:

http://feministreview.blogspot.com/2009/10/animals-make-us-human-creatin...

American Beauty

I really appreciate this blog, and hope that ecofeminism continues to grow in popularity and critical aptitude.

I was wondering if anyone sees Econfeminism and the emergent subject-identity which calls itself Critical Animal Studies as compatible fields?

Here is a reading of the film American Beuty which tries to brighten these parallels:

http://postanimality.wordpress.com/reading-that-we-do-not-see-in-america...