The Spiritual is Political
Gender, Spirituality, and Essentialism in Forest Defense
Keywords:ecofeminism, environmental philosophy, feminist spirituality, essentialism, environmental activism
Here I analyze expressions of spirituality in radical activism, especially the women’s and transgender direct action forest defense movement in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, to explore questions related to ecofeminism, politics, spirituality, and the charge of essentialism. I utilize theoretical writings critical and supportive of ecofeminist spiritualities, juxtaposed with the experiences of ecoactivists drawn from interviews and activist writings. I elaborate how Forest Defenders engage in earth-based ritual and spiritual practice as part of their efforts to protect old-growth ecosystems, at times invoking feminine and/or maternal representations of nature. Because of this, many academic schools, e.g. rationalism and postmodernism, repudiate these spiritualities, and ecofeminism altogether, on the grounds that it promulgates an ‘essential’ link between women and nature, and is apolitical. Since, contrary to these assumptions, women’s forest defense clearly aims to alter the terrain of the political, I ask whether there is an unrecognized politics to the accusation that activist ecofeminist spiritualities are ‘essentialist’ that serves to marginalize ecofeminism as a discourse, politics, philosophy, and movement.
Biehl, J. 1991. Rethinking Ecofeminist Politics (Boston: South End Press).
Carlassare, E. 1993. ‘Essentialism in Ecofeminist Discourse’, in C. Merchant (ed.), Ecology (New Jersey: Humanities Press): 220-34.
Cuomo, C. 1998. Feminism and Ecological Communities: An Ethic of Flourishing (New York: Routledge).
Diamond, I., and G. Orenstein (eds.). 1990. Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books).
Dowie, M. 1995. Losing Ground: American Environmentalism at the Close of the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press).
Gaard, G. 1997. ‘Toward a Queer Ecofeminism’, Hypatia 12.1: 114-38. doi:10.2979/HYP.19126.96.36.199.
Gottleib, R. 2003. A Spirituality of Resistance: Finding a Peaceful Heart and Protecting the Earth (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Little_eld).
Haraway, D. 1991. ‘A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century’, in Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge): 149-81.
Jaggar, A. 1983. Feminist Politics and Human Nature (Totowa, NJ: Rowman & Allanheld).
Mallory, C. 2006. ‘Ecofeminism and Forest Defense in Cascadia: Gender, Theory, and Radical Activism’, Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 17.1: 32-49. doi:10.1080/10455750500505408.
Mann, B. 2006. Women’s Liberation and the Sublime: Feminism, Postmodernism, Environment (New York: Oxford University Press). doi:10.1093/0195187458.001.0001.
McRae, P.S. 2000. ‘The Pagan Spirit in the Earth First! Movement’, Earth First! Journal 21.1: 74-75.
Plant, J. (ed.). 1989. Healing the Wounds: The Promise of Ecofeminism (Philadelphia, PA: New Society).
Plumwood, V. 1993. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature (New York: Routledge).
Ream, T. 2002. ‘In the Spirit of Earth First!’, Earth First Journal 22.4. Online: http://www.earth_rstjournal.org/article.php?id=119 (accessed 3 March 2010).
Ruether, R.R. 2005. Integrating Ecofeminism, Globalization, and World Religions (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Little_eld).
Sandilands, C. 1994. ‘Lavender’s Green? Some Thoughts on Queer(y)ing Environmental Politics’, Undercurrents 6: 20-24.
———. 1997. ‘Mother Earth, the Cyborg, and the Queer: Ecofeminism and (More) Questions of Identity’, NWSA Journal 9.3: 18-40. doi:10.2979/NWS.19188.8.131.52.
———. 1999. The Good-Natured Feminist: Ecofeminism and the Quest for Democracy (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).
———. 2001. ‘Desiring Nature, Queering Ethics: Adventures in Erotogenic Environments’, Environmental Ethics 23.2: 169-88.
Seager, J. 2003. ‘Rachel Carson Died of Breast Cancer: The Coming Age of Feminist Environmentalism’, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28.3: 945-72. doi:10.1086/345456.
Starhawk. 1982. Dreaming the Dark: Magic, Sex, and Politics (Boston: Beacon Press).
———. 1989 . The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979; 10th anniversary edn, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989).
———. 1990. ‘Power, Authority, and Mystery: Ecofeminism and Earth-based Spirituality’, in Diamond and Orenstein 1990: 73-86.
———. 2002. Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising (Gabriola Island, BC: New Society).
Sturgeon, N. 1997. Ecofeminist Nature: Race, Gender, Feminist Theory, and Political Activism (New York: Routledge).
Taylor, B. 1994. ‘Earth First!’s Religious Radicalism’, in C.K. Chapple (ed.), Ecological Prospects (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press): 185-209.
———. 2010. Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press).
Warren, K. 2000. Ecofeminism: A Western Perspective on What It Is and Why It Matters (New York: Rowman & Little_eld).
How to Cite
© Equinox Publishing Ltd.
For information regarding our Open Access policy, click here.