Ecofeminism, according to Hobgood-Oster, is “simultaneously serving as an environmental critique of feminism and a feminist critique of environmentalism.” It is the connection between feminism and the environment. It is basically the belief that feminists must take care of nature, as it is a part of our world. Feminism is about equality. The earth/nature must be seen as our equal, otherwise we are hypocritically saying we are better than. Nature deserves rights as well, as it is also living. Ecofeminism wants to fight all forms of oppression. Typically, when we think of being oppressed, we think of the issues feminists have been championing for years – equal pay, the right to choose, etc. Intersectionality in feminism means that we need to fight for everyone. This includes those who may not have a voice or a platform to advocate for themselves. This is where ecofeminism comes in. The earth cannot verbally speak for itself. As feminists who care about rights, we need to step in and speak for the silent. Ecofeminism says that all forms of oppression are connected. In order to bring change, we need to consider all forms of oppression.
One of Warren’s eight connections between women and the environment I found interesting was her third point, “Empirical and Experiential Connections.” This is linking women and women’s actions to hurting the environment. Warren writes about it on a large scale – health risks borne primarily from women and children, or public environmental policy harming families. To look at it from an everyday issue, we could consider the use of pads/tampons. We know that using disposable items (take the war on straws, for example) is harmful for the environment. There are a growing number of states making regulations banning straws or plastic bags because they are wasteful. It may only be a matter of time until they come for disposable women’s products. It could be argued that somebody using multiple tampons a day, even just for one week out of a month, is more wasteful than using a single plastic straw a day. According to The Huffington Post, the average person who has a period will use more than 11,000 tampons or pads in their lifetime. This can be hurting not only the environment, but the user as well. Since tampons/pads are considered medical devices a la the FDA, companies are not legally required to tell us what all goes into the making of them like they would have to on a food label. The majority of mainstream pads/tampons contain non-biodegradable plastic – about the equivalent of four plastic bags. In addition to the plastics, many sanitary items contain bleached and nonorganic cotton. These are known to carry pesticides and herbicides. While the FDA claims that these carcinogenics are a negligible amount that won’t hurt the user…why would we WANT to be putting that in such a sensitive area?
This goes back to Warren’s third point about experiential connections between women and the environment. This is a feminist issue that affects anyone who experiences a period, and it is directly harming the environment by how we react to it. As feminists who want to respect the environment, we should find another way.
There are other more sustainable options that could be explored. I am not suggesting that people should just give up their feminine care products. I do think that an ecofeminist approach to periods could be using reusable products, such as a Diva Cup (https://divacup.com/)
Brendan. “Warren’s Introduction to EcoFeminism.” There It Is, 21 Jan. 2014, thereitis.org/warrens-introduction-to-ecofeminism/.
Hobgood-Oster, Laura. Ecofeminism: Historic and International Evolution . 18 Aug. 2002.
Mosbergen, Dominique. “The Ugly Truth About Tampons And Pads.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 28 Feb. 2019, www.huffpost.com/entry/plastic-free-tampons-pads_n_5c0e88a6e4b06484c9fce988.
6 Replies to “What is ecofeminism and what does my period have to do with it??”
Are there reasons why you suggest use of the diva cup? Does the company itself strive for environmental methods as opposed to the makers of similar products? As we’re learning that pads and tampons are terrible for the environment in addition to our bodies, are there other products you have heard of that have similar approaches? I have seen a great deal of advertising for Thinx (https://www.shethinx.com/), being reusable the same way the diva cup is. I am getting my iud out in April and while I’m considering what method of birth control next, it is entirely possible that I am about to enter the realm of women who have periods again. It’s been nine years since that was the case, so I am really out of the loop when it comes to period products.
I see what you’re saying in the beginning of your blog that there is a “connection between feminism and the environment.” In order to solve ecological problems there needs to be a female perspective. You make a great point when you say, “The earth/nature must be seen as our equal, otherwise we are hypocritically saying we are better than.” Ynestra King asserts eco feminist are based on certain principles and one of them is in regard to equality when we think in terms of the women –nature relationships. “Life on earth is an interconnected web, not a hierarchy. There is no natural hierarchy; human hierarchy is projected onto nature and then used to justify social domination.” (Ecofeminist Principles notes).
You bring up an interesting example based from Warren’s Empirical and Experiential Connections. Although I have heard of this I wasn’t aware of its use. It’s a unique option that could work for people that are open to something different. Arguably it will save many tampons or pads from being a threat to the environment because it is reusable. Hmmmm, this is a tough one for me. Thank you for the link to the website it was informative. It certainly seems that the BPA-free, no added chemicals, plastics or dyes is better to put in your body than other disposable products. Since they recommend getting a new one once a year the waste involved would be significantly less than other period care.
I think we also need to be careful not to place too much blame (and I know that wasn’t your intention) on female contributions to environmental degradation. It’s also important to remember not to give too much attention to gender binaries and dualism. E one of the claims eco feminism makes is that patriarchal structures thrive on “dualistic hierarchies” such as heaven/earth, mind/body, male/female, and white/ non-white. It is because of these that there is no equality within our society.
Morning Mandi, What a great post!
Warren discussed male injustices of women in her description of “ethical connections”, where she describes the indirect behavior and degradation by male. The many products that are made by man, are not produced with care for women but with more misogynistic reasoning, such as money and power. The things you mentioned like bleach and other harmful chemicals are all products that should not be on the human skin, let alone private areas. It should not be this hard for male to put down their androcentric views and use real love instead of control. This would mean that they can truly see the world around them, and understand that products that are harmful to women’s health, are also bad for the the women in their own lives (mother, sister, daughter), as well as the environment. At the end of the day, women have to take matters into there own hands and truly examine what goes into our bodies, as well as the environment. I believe ecofeminists have started the movement on this.
Mandi! I really appreciate you taking the time to write about the issue of what is really in the tampons that we use every month. I was actually shocked when I first read about the rayon and bleach that are in most menstrual hygiene products. I personally made the switch to organic tampons and I have actually noticed a crazy difference in my cramps and the heaviness of my period! Plus, they’re better for the environment too, it’s really a win – win. I think that using the diva cup would be a good alternative to non organic tampons and pads, but do you think that there could be harmful plastic in those that would be bad for the environment and also that sensitive area too?
Hi Mandi! I very much enjoyed your post and the perspective you took on using eco-friendly feminine hygiene products. Not to be too personal, but I fairly recently made the switch to the DivaCup after learning information similar to what you shared in your post about the materials that pads and tampons contain. Not only are DivaCups reusable as medical-grade silicone, they’re cost efficient for the users. Women who may be experiencing lower financial situations or poverty wouldn’t have to worry about the extra expenses of using disposable pads and tampons every month. Their website does claim that the DivaCup is environmentally friendly, to what means I have not searched into, but I do stand by reusable feminine hygiene alternatives to pads and tampons. I would like to ask if you personally believe that making a switch from disposable to reusable hygiene products can assist with bettering the environment in a substantial way?
In your explanation of ecofeminism, I would personally argue that intersectionality is a bit more extensive than including those who do not have a voice. I think you made an amazing point to bring up intersectionality, however I feel as though intersectionality is more of a standpoint to analyze the overlapping oppressions people may have and recognizing that people do not face the same oppressions, for example being a lesbian woman of color compared to a disable white woman. A lesbian woman of color could be experiencing three such forms of discrimination if we looked at their position in society, those being racism, homophobia, and sexism, whereas the disabled white woman could face ableism and sexism. Adding ecofeminist ideals to the concept of intersectionality makes so much sense to me! If we add the overlap of environmental factors into the mix, such as women in agricultural societies living in poverty not being able to provide themselves with sustainable food sources, there could be a clear link to ecological issues within the realms of intersectionality! I would love to hear your thoughts on how ecofeminism could be added into the mix of intersectionality.
America has problems with safe drinking water, although women only fetch it on some reservations, where sanitation is ineffective also. National Geographic in October 2019 reported that the Navajo Reservation had 8000 homes lacked access to water, and 7500 -insufficient sewer facilities. No mention of their safety being in jeopardy. How can we forget Flint Michigan in 2014. The Flint Ecofeminists voices are silent, but none for the Navajo-I have not heard. Western Ecofeminist essentialist views fail to show how some women in certain countries like India help shape their environment. This shaping was reinforced in a video that Cassandra showed about women from many countries standing up against politicians and big business to protect their environments. In my blog I wrote that Hobgood-Oster and Warren focused on scholarly articles, perspectives, interpretations of Ecofeminism etc, but not a concrete understanding of women’s subjugation, yet knowledge of their environment as did Agarwal.