November 13, 2009

Ecofeminist Gardening - Rambling

The first thing I ever read that made ecofeminism come alive for me is Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide by Andrea Smith. It seems like such an odd place to start connecting environmentalism and feminism, especially since Smith never once mentions ecofeminism. However, much of her books involves ecofeminist philosophy and ethos. I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about ecofeminism, Native American women and men, and the cost of racism, sexism, and the disregard of our environment. She weaves between these issues beautifully, and she makes them very easy to see. It's an emotionally difficult book, and many people cry. It's worth it.

Ecofeminist philosophy is a way of looking at the world holistically and connecting human cost and environmental cost so that one cost isn't necessarily greater than another because they are so deeply interconnected. The clear cutting of rain forests is connected to the global disparities in wealth. It isn't just a human issue, and it isn't just an environmental issue. It's both. This is probably what most attracts me to ecofeminism because environmentalism lacks the human element and feminism lacks the environmental element. Ecofeminism is a bridge between the two, and it's my preferred worldview. When in doubt, I ask what an ecofeminist would do or believe.

Environmentalist philosophy can take you a long way when it comes to gardening with a supporting philosophy, but it doesn't account for growers. It also seems to have an undertone that humans are separate from nature and should not be involved with the natural world - that humans only pollute. Feminist philosophy can cover issues surrounding growers, but it generally only talks about nature when it comes to 19th century idea that women are natural and men are civility. Not much there, right?

So what would make an ecofeminist garden? I think it would come from a respect of nature and humanity. It would be humble for sure because I can't imagine a vanity garden being an easy sell as ecofeminist. It would be vegetables and fruit. It would be making your own compost. It would be using plants that are suited for the climate. It would be seed sharing. It would be growing your own. It would be recognizing that there is a potential human/environmental cost when purchasing a plant. It would be connecting the pesticide used on plants to the child down the street with cancer. It would be growing your own cut flowers rather than importing them from Ecuador. It would be changing expectations for what the land should look like. It would be making do with what you've got. It would be a lot of the things many gardeners do already.


  1. RH~~ Interesting topic. I don't know if "pretty" leans too heavily on the feminine but I think it's an equally important part of caring for our environment. Sure we need to respect the wildlife and the nature of the topography [wetland, old-growth forest, etc] but I think it can be balanced with what you said about changing expectations of what the land should look like. Especially urban areas. Let's make 'em pretty! And never underestimate the power of green, healthy, diverse plantings.

    I think this generation has made great strides in this endeavor. I always think back to the big cities in the 1970s when the smog was so bad people needed masks. Today, the air is cleaner and many fauna have been removed from the endangered list. There will always be room for improvement but I believe we've come a long way.

  2. I didn't know that my overall "preferred worldview" (not that I'm perfect in every realm all the time) had a name. I am already doing many of the things you mention, but I'm inspired by your thoughtful post to keep trying harder.

  3. Your post is very interesting. I completely get the concept but the name "ecofeminism" threw me off. I never would of thought that going one step further and applying what are ecological issues equally to the rest of humanity as feminine or feminist. Thanks for the thoughtful post to make me think.

  4. Great post. I have been exploring the connection between the feminine aspect (in both men and women)and environmental issues since my teens. It's a fascinating concept and brings up the whole thing about men and their feminine side (suppressed) and women and their masculine aspect (turbo charged in the West)and our natural "wildness" that is destroyed as our natural wildernesses are wiped out.

    Your post made me think of a conversation I once had with a homeopath who had recently returned from S. America. She was writing a paper on the connection between the rain-forests (as the lungs of the earth) and the rise in asthma in children. The common experience of people in the Amazon is the feeling that the forest is one huge creature, and everything living within it is just part of the whole. I believe humanity and nature are the same. Men, women, children, masculine, feminine, nature, culture. We are all interconnected. We're all one.


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