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.
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