Teaching and Learning Resource (TLR)
Introduction to Ecofeminism
Culture, Ecofeminism, nature, science.
Writing in the mid 1980s, Val Plumwood observed: The last decade has seen the appearance of a body of literature whose theme is the link between the domination of women and the domination of nature. This has been labelled ecofeminism.(1) Plumwood went on to note that there is no single ecofeminist position, and concluded that in order to engage critically with ecofeminist thought, there is a need to distinguish between quite different positions which have been lumped together under the ecofeminism label. In the years since Plumwood wrote her critical review, the literature has grown but has not become any less diverse. For anyone who wishes to get to grips with this important component of environmentalism, therefore, the need to differentiate between positions is as great today as it was in the 1980s.
The aim of this TLR is to provide students with an introduction to ecofeminist thinking within contemporary environmentalism. In particular, it seeks to help students think critically about (i) key similarities and differences between competing ecofeminist approaches, (ii) the historical context of these approaches (with reference to the Enlightenment and the European Scientific Revolution) and (iii) their implications for social change.
5. Learning outcomes
After using this TLR, students should:
Students should be broadly familiar with contemporary environmentalism and should have some knowledge of the historical context (especially the Enlightenment and the European Scientific Revolution) within which environmentalism has emerged. Where students do not have this knowledge, a number of other TLRs are recommended for use prior to this one. (See Section 13 - Links with other TLRs.)
7. How to use TLR
The TLR has been designed to be used broadly as follows.
i) Introduce the TLR, reviewing the nature of the content, the aims and learning outcomes, and the way in which the TLR will be used.
ii) Divide the class into groups of five students, and allocate one reading (see Section 9 - Stimulus Material) to each student such that the students in each group each have different readings.
iii) Instruct each student to read her/his reading, answer/make notes on the study questions that have been prepared for her/his reading, and prepare copies of her/his notes to give to the other group members at the start of the next session. (See Appendices A to E for the study questions relating to Readings A to E respectively.)
Parts (i) and (ii) of Stage 1 could be completed in about 30 minutes of class time. Part (iii) could be begun in whatever class time remained, but would need to be completed during private study time.
i) Working in groups - each student should give the other members of her/his group a copy of the notes s/he has prepared, and read the notes prepared by her/his colleagues.
ii) Working in groups - the students should identify the key issues raised by their readings, seek to clarify their views on any questions that the readings might have raised, and discuss the extent to which they are convinced by the arguments they have encountered in the readings.
iii)Conclude the session with an all-class discussion of the key points to have emerged from the group discussions. This might lead on to a wider discussion of, for example, the relative strengths and weaknesses of the different ecofeminist approaches, and/or the implications of these approaches for different kinds of social (eg agricultural, cultural, economic, educational, industrial, political, recreational, scientific) activity.
Stage 2 could be completed in 60-90 minutes of class time.
8. Instructions to students
As directed by tutor.
9. Stimulus Material
This TLR is based around the following readings:
A. Barry, J (1999) Environment and Social Theory. London: Routledge. Chapter 5, Gender, the non-human world and social thought. (pp. 107-126)
B. Mellor, M (1992) Breaking the Boundaries. Towards a Feminist Green Socialism. London: Virago Press. A Personal and Political Introduction. (pp. 1-16)
C. Merchant, C (1992) Radical Ecology. The Search for a Livable World. London: Routledge. Chapter 8, Ecofeminisms. (pp. 183-210)
D. Mies, M and V Shiva (1993) Ecofeminism. London: Zed Books. Chapter 1, Introduction. Why we wrote this book together. (pp. 1-21)
E. Pepper, D (1996) Modern Environmentalism. An Introduction. London: Routledge. Chapter 2.6, Ecofeminism. (pp. 106-12)
10. Degree stage
This TLR has been designed to be used at degree stages two and three, although it is possible that the learning outcomes could be achieved by students towards the end of stage one (ie in semester two or the third term of the first year).
11. Resource requirements
There are no particular resource requirements for this TLR.
The only preparation required for this TLR is to ensure that students have access to the readings specified in Section 9 - Stimulus Material.
13. Links with other TLRs
This TLR has been designed as part of a set of TLRs to be used (ideally) in the following order:
However, it can be used independently of TLRs (1) to (4) provided that students satisfy the pre-requisites as specified in Section 6, and does not need to be followed by TLRs (6) and (7) in order for the learning outcomes to be achieved (see Section 5).
14. Follow-up activities
Students should be encouraged to read all of the readings used with this TLR. See also Section 13 - Links with other TLRs.
15. Recommended reading
For students who wish to deepen their knowledge of the ideas encountered in this TLR, the following are recommended:
For students who wish to deepen their knowledge of environmentalism, the following are recommended:
The following website is devoted entirely to ecofeminism. It contains, amongst other things, information about ecofeminism, an extensive bibliography, and links to other websites concerned with ecofeminism. http://www.ecofem.org
Study Questions for Reading A
Barry, J (1999) Environment and Social Theory. London: Routledge. Chapter 5, Gender, the non-human world and social thought. (pp. 107-126)
Study Questions for Reading B
Mellor, M (1992) Breaking the Boundaries. Towards a Feminist Green Socialism. London: Virago Press. A Personal and Political Introduction. (pp. 1-16)
Study Questions for Reading C
Merchant, C (1992) Radical Ecology. The Search for a Livable World. London: Routledge. Chapter 8, Ecofeminisms. (pp. 183-210)
Study Questions for Reading D
Mies, M and V Shiva (1993) Ecofeminism. London: Zed Books. Chapter 1, Introduction. Why we wrote this book together. (pp. 1-21)
1. What do you think Mies and Shiva mean by each of the following, and on what grounds do they criticise each one?
2. What in general are the key features of ecofeminism as described by Mies and Shiva?
3. How do Mies and Shiva distinguish between spiritual and political ecofeminism?
Study Questions for Reading E
Pepper, D (1996) Modern Environmentalism. An Introduction. London: Routledge. Chapter 2.6, Ecofeminism. (pp. 106-12)
(1) Plumwood, V (1986) Ecofeminism: An Overview and Discussion of Positions, Australian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 64, pp. 120-38.