What is Ecofeminism-Part 2

Through her writing, Bina Agarwal is able to bring us closer into the lives of the women living in India, and the multitude of challenges that they have had to endure due to deforestation, environmental degradation, scientific knowledge and of course power and profit driven mobilization efforts that have led to the lives, families, and communities of India being disrupted by the efforts of oppressive domination through the lens of environmental decay. 

In her article, Agarwal writes about the ways that women’s lives are affected by environmental degradation. She italicizes the words to bring attention to the issue,  she then explains the issue in greater length. For consideration for the length of this blog post, I will share 4 examples. She writes, “On Time. Because women are the main gatherers of fuel, fodder, and water, it is primarily their working day (already averaging ten to twelve hours) that is lengthened with the depletion of and reduced access to forests, waters, and soils…On Income. The decline in gathered items from forests and village commons has reduced incomes directly…On Nutrition. As the area and productivity of village commons and forests fall, so does the contributions of gathered food in the diets of poor households…On Health. Apart from the health consequences of nutritional inadequacies, poor rural women are also more directly exposed than are men to waterborne diseases and to the pollution of rivers and ponds with fertilizer and pesticide runoffs, because of the nature of the tasks they perform, such as fetching water for various domestic uses and animal care, and washing clothes near ponds, canals, and streams (Agarwal 138,140,141). 

In addition to many other ways and additional interpersonal factors that make it hard to be a working woman in India, the list from above are only a few examples of how poor communities, and women are so affected by the ways in which they have had to try and navigate the expanding difficulties that they have had to face.

Comparing the two pieces of writing by Agarwal, and Hobgood, there are very distinct differences and similarities that I was able to identify within both articles.

Similarities from both articles  Differences in both articles 
The oppression of women and the natural world was expressed when in relationship to men and power structures  Bringing in the values of the women’s movement was only observed in Hobgood’s article. 
Recognition of women’s oppression all around the world, not just in India I felt as if there was a more broadened look on male to female dominance in Hobgood’s article, than in Agarwals. 
Scientific knowledge has been used for the purposes of further domination, destruction, and power dynamics in the hierarchies that pose threats to Indian women and their communities lives Hobgood’s article discussed symbol systems that are apart of domination culture like the book of Genesis being related to religion 
Violent approaches of control are obvious when it comes to dominating women and ecosystems that provide resources for their health and others  Animal rights are only discussed in Hobgood’s article than in Agarwals 
Protests have emerged from women and grassroots organizations in pursuit of environmental justice. In Agarwal’s article, the connection of reproduction, a women’s cycle, and nature, are mentioned in the beginning of the article but not discussed in Hobgood’s article. Only maternal mortality was discussed briefly. 
Ecofeminism has been criticized  by both academics, and activists in pursuit of a more inclusive conversation around feminism and care for the environment for which we live in.
Both articles challenge the fact that more distinct differences need to be made when talking about oppression and who’s involved underneath it

Personally, I found Agarwal’s article more appealing. Why? Well, I have to admit that I am a little bit biased in my decision but also believe that I have a reasonable argument. Before moving to New York State, I was a Birth Doula in Massachusetts. I was able to be with, and be a part of many wild, and intense births! I really appreciate Agarwal’s inclusion of women’s reproductive ability being tied to the biological process that is also able to incorporate nature if desired. In the article Agarwal states that, “…the connection between women and nature was clearly rooted in the biological processes of reproduction…’Women’s monthly fertility cycle, the tiring symbiosis of pregnancy, the wrench of childbirth and the pleasure of suckling an infant, these things already ground women’s consciousness in the knowledge of being coterminous with nature…they accept the view that women are ideologically constructed as closer to nature because if their biology” (Agarwal, 121). Water births, and home births are ways for women to be closer to nature in a more physical way. Generally it can be more peaceful, relaxing and grounding to birth with just your family around and a close nit group of women like a birth Doula and or a Midwife for extra support. It is my hope that if/when I become a labor and delivery nurse, that I am able to help women have the best birth that they can achieve! It’s vital in my opinion that women are able to experience the best birth that they can while birthing a child. It’s one of the most if not the most transformative moments in a woman’s life! So why not try and make it the most comfortable, and cherish-able moments in a women’s life?!

Work Cited

Agarwal, Bina. “The Gender and Environment Debate: Lessons from India.” Feminist Studies, Inc., vol. 18, no. 1, 1992, pp. 119–58, https://doi.org/10.2307/3178217.

‌Hobgood-Oster, Laura. Ecofeminism: Historic and International Evolution. Jan. 2016, pp. 1–18, systemicalternatives.org/2016/01/18/ecofeminism-historic-and-international-evolution/. Accessed 7 Feb. 2023.


One Reply to “What is Ecofeminism-Part 2”

  1. Hi Alina,
    It was a pleasure to read your post, it was both informative and well written for anyone interested in reading about the non-Western perspective of ecofeminism. I particularly appreciated how you broke down each of the factors that Agarwal discusses in her piece regarding the effects that environmental degradation has on women. I too found the non-Western perspective of feminist environmentalism most appealing as it recognizes that not all women are affected equally by the destruction of nature, but rather our material link with the environment has a profound impact on our livelihood. As outlined in the lives of rural women in India, they are connected with the land, hold knowledge about the land, and this is a matter of survival for them. In addition to the points you outlined in your blog, I also found the non-Western perspective to be more proactive in how to effectively address the effects of environmental degradation as women become activists in environmental movements in order to protect their own survival. As you highlighted in Agarwal’s point on health, women in the Global South are more likely to be responsible for tasks such as gathering firewood for fuel, water, and caring for animals in addition to domestic duties. Agarwal also states, “An additional source of vulnerability is the agricultural tasks women perform. For instance, rice transplanting, which is usually a women’s task in most parts of Asia, is associated with a range of diseases, including arthritis and gynecological ailments….In India, pesticides are associated with limb and visual disabilities” (Agarwal 141). I find this to be an important aspect to be analyzed from an ecofeminist perspective, especially using the non-Western perspective as women are connected to the environment both through labor and natural resources. In much of the Global South women make up a large percentage of agricultural workers. In India specifically, 50-69% of women are working in the agricultural sector (Seager 140-1). When the environment is being degraded due to power and profit driven forces, this creates harm to women especially. You touch upon many of the impacts such as pesticide runoff and fertilizer use; however, Joni Seager also describes the gendered economic impact that arises from the mechanization of how we treat our natural resources in agriculture. She writes, “Cash and export crops are frequently regarded as ‘mens crops’ and subsistence crops as ‘women’s crops’” (Seager 139). Not only is the environment being stripped of the diversity of food and soil health, but the crops that do generate profit are being controlled and owned by men who hold much more authority in many countries. Women are being deprived of resources needed to support their livelihood and the Earth is being deprived of care. This ties into why it is important to consider all perspectives of ecofeminism theory. The non-Western perspective allows us to understand how women of the Global South are affected by harmful ecological treatment. It teaches us that not all women experience the same impact. And it works to value the importance of diversity in all forms of life, human and non-human as without this, survival will be infeasible.

    I also wanted to add that I find it amazing that you worked as a birth doula! I have taken some courses in women’s health/women’s reproductive health and have always found it fascinating!

    If you’re interested in reading more of Joni Seager’s work, here is the citation for her book which I used to reference the statistics on women in agriculture. It is filled with a number of different factors impacting women across the globe.
    Seager, Joni. The Women’s Atlas . Penguin Random House, 2018.

    Kylie Coutinho

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