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Feminist political ecology is a feminist perspective on Political ecology, drawing on theories from Post-Structurialism, Feminist Geography, and Cultural Ecology. Unlike (but often associated with) ecofeminism, Feminist Political Ecology does not essentialize women by equating the oppression of women with the domination of the environment. Instead it examines gender’s place in the political ecological landscape, exploring gender as a factor in ecological and political relations. Specific areas in which Feminist Political Ecology is focused are development, landscape, resource use, agrarian reconstruction and rural – urban transformation (Hovorka 209).

Contents

Essentializing Women

The idea of women’s oppression being synonymous with the domination of the environment is exemplified by Eco-Feminism’s stance as seeing a need for a “more feminine morality, one stressing cooperation and nurturant concern for all (human and other) life (Warren 129)". This victimization of women renders gender in political and ecological relations invisible. Feminist Political Ecology attempts to include gender as a “key element” in understanding the issues with which Political Ecology is concerned (Hovorka 209).

Research

The study of the relationship between environments, gender and development has grown recently because of the restructuring of economies, environments and cultures at a global and local level. Women and men are being viewed as actors who affect environmental management, resource use, and the creation of policies for health and well-being. Feminist political ecology does not view gender differences in environmental impact as being biologically-rooted. Rather, they are derived from social constructs of gender, which vary depending on culture, class, race, and geographical location, and they change over time between individuals and societies.

In a study on the Rural Federation Of Zambrana-Chacuey (a peasant federation) and an international nongovernmental organization (ENDA-Caribe) in the Dominican Republic, Dianne Rocheleau examines social forestry within the region. Women are involved in the forestry industry, but previous research (summary numbers, “regional maps of forestry-as-usual (460)” had not represented the “different publics (differentiated by gender, class, locality, and occupation) within the Federation (460)”. Rocheleau’s study draws upon post-structuralism to “expand our respective partial and situated knowledges through a politics a science that go beyond identity to affinities then work from affinities to coalitions (459)”.In other words, the study does not assume that the identity of a person defines them, but instead focuses on “affinities” (defined as “based on affiliations, and shared views of interests, subject to change over time”). The purpose of this was to “address women within the context in which they had organized and affiliated themselves (461)”. The purpose of the study was to include women in the general study of the area in a way that gave justice to the “ecological and social contexts that sustain their lives (461)”,instead of separating them from the context, rendering them invisible.

In a Botswana study on urban poultry agriculture, Alice J. Hovorka examines the implications of fast-paced urbanization on social and ecological relations in a Feminist Political Ecology framework. Men and women are both involved and affected by development issues, so therefore “gender is an integral part of a key element of agrarian change and rural-urban transformation (Hovorka 209)”. Before urbanization, socially constructed gender roles played a huge part in gendered experiences of the landscape. Gender determined the different roles, responsibilities and access to resources. It is important to note that although Botswana women gained the right to vote in 1966, they remain excluded from political power. Gender issues are rarely raised in this country where “powerful conventions restrict women’s domain to the household and women’s autonomy under male guardianship (211)”. With urbanization, land use is becoming more accessible to Botswana women, however, studies have revealed that “women’s access to social status and productive resources remains limited compared to mens (213)”. Traditional gender roles affect women’s economic situation, their access to resources and land, their education, and their labor market.

Quotes on Feminist Political Ecology

“Feminist Political Ecology aims at analyzing gendered experiences of and responses to environmental and political-economic change that brings with it changing livelihoods, landscapes, property regimes, and social relations.” -- Alive Hovorka

“Rather than “adding women” to standard methods of empirical research it was possible to include gender as a subject of study, to incorporate feminist post-structuralist perspective into the research design, and to apply it to an analysis of social and environmental change within the region." -- Dianne Rocheleau

“My first feminist paper was published, out of research I did in the late 1970s on sex difference in migration and social change in rural Puerto Rica. It had to do with how rural industrialization, reflecting US development policies, was impacting on who stayed and who left. And how class and gender intersected with migration patterns in rural Puerto Rico.” -- Jan Monk

References

  • Hovorka, Alice. (2006) - The No. 1 Ladies' Poultry Farm: A Feminist Political Ecology of Urban Agriculture in Botswana. Gender, Place and Culture 13(3): 207-255.
  • Mitchell, Don. (2000) - "Cultural Geography".
  • Rocheleau, Diane. (1995) - Maps, Numbers, Text and Context: Mixing Methods in Feminist Political Ecology. Professional Geographer 47(4):458-467.
  • Warren, Mary Anne. (1980) - "Ecology and Feminism." The Nature of Woman: An Encyclopedia and Guide to the Literature.
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