Understanding Place

I grew up in a fairly rural area of Massachusetts, and for me, wildness was all around me. I spent much time outdoors when I was young, and spending time with my siblings and neighborhood friends, who are some of my best friends today. When home, we would walk through the woods in our backyard, along the trails and even on highway overpasses where they would lead. This picture below is an image of a trail in the Georgetown-Rowley State forest that lies behind the home I grew up in.

Source: John Peterson, google.com

This space holds many great memories for me, so I felt it worth mentioning. But it became abundantly clear to me, though, when I read Barbara Kingslover’s Knowing Our Place, what space in the world I would be writing about this week. This passage sincerely resonated with me, and confirmed that I had the right place in mind:

People will need wild places…They need to experience a landscape that is timeless…To be surrounded by a…commotion of other species…none of whom could possibly care less about your economic status or your day-running calendar…It reminds us that our plans are small and somewhat absurd.

My version of Kingslover’s landscape is a small beach in Salem, MA where I spent most of my childhood with my family and brought many friends, who all fell in love with it (almost) as much as I did. My mother grew up in the neighborhood where this beach was located, and my grandparents owned that home until I was in my 30s. To this day, it holds a special place in my heart. As kids, we would spend time looking for and capturing any number of sea life and objects we could find. Anything from sea glass and old shells, to mussels, hermit crabs, and barnacles would provide us endless entertainment.

As I got older, it became less about the simple fun of splashing around and collecting old glass, and more about a place to relax, center myself, and reflect. I firmly believe we need this time away from our regular lives to reset ourselves and quiet our minds. We need the reminder that our world is bigger than just us, as we can tend to get us caught up in fast-paced lives and the urgency of everything that is happening right in front of us. But what I did notice as I got older, is that it wasn’t taken care of as well as I remember in my youth.

In her piece entitled Home Work, Tempest Williams talks of legislative action taken on Western land, as it is becoming increasingly used, bought, and sold as if it is something to be owned; something she refers to as ‘the civil war’. Should we regulate wilderness? If not, she is concerned, it could become overused and ruined; but if we do, it might not be able to be enjoyed by the very people that love the land the most. She states: “…This is not hard to understand: falling in love with a place, being in love with a place, wanting to care for a place, and see it remain intact as a wild piece of planet.”

This quote resonated with me because it made me think of my own “place” and how much I love it. I care about it because it is part of my childhood identity. When I saw the care of it going downhill, it really made me sad. It used to have crystal clean water and, each year, a comb-through to remove debris and brin in new sand. Now the water is oily with gasoline, and new sand simply dumped over the old; so much so that the high sand causes the beach to meet the street, when before, the high wall it is packed up against would safely shield a child from the sun while enjoying some ice cream. Without access to a clean, functioning beach, how will children in future generations enjoy the simple pleasure of a day at the beach, learn about sea life or reflect on their connection to this space and the world around them as they grow older?

The readings from Williams and Kingslover stress the importance of nature, connecting to it, and respecting it. It should be enjoyed and appreciated, while still preserving it for generations to come. Williams perfectly encapsulates the concept of needing nature in our lives in Home Work, and how pertinent it is to connect to the wildness of it when she states: “It’s hard to take yourself very seriously when confronted face-to-face with a mountain lion or the reality of no water in the desert…stars no longer seen by most as they are erased by urban life.”

Photos are my own, unless otherwise credited.

What is Ecofeminism? Part II

The term “Global South” may sound like it’s referring to a specific part of the world, but in actuality it is more of a metaphor for lower-income and lesser-developed countries. Asian, African and South American countries fall into this category, and are affected by what is called environmental degradation, on a more serious level than other countries. Environmental degradation is an issue that affects many people around the world, yet it’s one that women are found to be uniquely affected by. It entails anything from the disturbance or “destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of wildlife” to the deterioration of environmental “resources such as air, water and soil” (unescwa.org).

Red countries below indicate the ‘Global South’

Source: Wikipedia

When the sanitation, access and safety of our world’s resources fail, women suffer. I was intrigued by the UN Water article we read, which described the issues women and girls are facing; many of which likely wouldn’t occur to most people residing in the ‘Global North’. Their safety is put at risk, simply by having to share restroom facilities with men and boys, and aren’t involved in decisions made around sanitation services, and thus are assured “their continued marginalization” (unwater.org). Aside from issues surrounding safety and cleanliness, women’s hygiene and pregnancy needs are not being adequately met.

The piece that really stuck with me after reading this, was the fact that women and girls are typically the ones that fetch water for their families. I wanted to learn more about this, so I referred to a Unicef article, which explained this process, which they referred to as a “colossal waste of time” for these women (unicef.org, 2016). “In sub-Saharan Africa,” they explain, “one roundtrip to collect water is 33 minutes on average in rural areas and 25 minutes in urban areas”, numbers that vary depending on location. Men are only reported to contribute a fraction of this time to fetching, with time spent being reported as being from 6-10 minutes. This time spent takes away any time women and children could be in school or working to support their families. This issue alone well advocates for the need of having running water in all homes, in order to make things generally safer for women.

Source: freepik.com

The readings of Agarwal and Hobgood-Oster both delve into this dire issue in their works, but bring up different points. One of the main similarities the authors discuss is that femininity is deeply connected to nature and the Earth. Agarwal mentions many different scholars and their opinions on ecofeminism, all of which are of varying degrees of how tightly tied to nature women are. But, she says, “they accept the view that women are ideologically constructed as closer to nature because of their biology” than men are (Agarwal, 121). What Hobgood-Oster didn’t really mention in her essay was this breakdown of how non-white women are affected by the lack of diversity in nature. While she recognized that more women of color need to be in positions of authority when it comes to environmental issues, I felt that her reading focused more on the oppressive relationships between what she referred to as ‘dualistic hierarchies’. One point she does make in regards to criticism of ecofeminism is that many people don’t ascribe to this movement as they feel it doesn’t represent all the different nuances that feminism contains.

I’m more apt to lean towards Agarwal’s view on ecofeminism, as it takes into account that feminism, women, and nature aren’t necessarily painted in such broad strokes. Hobgood-Oster’s work realizes that racism plays a part in the discussion around ecofeminism, but Agarwal goes a little deeper. In her essay The Gender and Environment Debate: Lessons from India, she references work by Carolyn Merchant. She states that in regard to her stance on ecofeminism, it “fails to differentiate among women by class, race, ethnicity” and other characteristics, which she feels leaves out other important forms of oppression that aren’t specifically about gender.

Works Cited:

Agarwal, Bina. “The Gender and Environment Debate: Lessons from India.” Feminist Studies, vol. 18, no. 1, 1992, pp. 119–58. JSTOR, https://doi.org/10.2307/3178217. Accessed 13 Feb. 2023.

“Collecting Water Is Often a Colossal Waste of Time for Women and Girls.” UNICEF, https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/unicef-collecting-water-often-colossal-waste-time-women-and-girls.

“Environmental Degradation.” United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, 31 Dec. 2015, https://archive.unescwa.org/environmental-degradation.

“Water and Gender: UN-Water.” UN, https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/water-and-gender.

What is Ecofeminism?

Ecofeminism is a completely new concept to me, as I’m sure it is for many people. It took me some time to fully grasp the concept, as there are many different facets to this movement that can make it overwhelming to understand. While there is not a singular defined meaning of the term, Hopgood-Oster’s piece on ecofeminism defines it and its characteristics well. The reading states that ecofeminism “asserts that all forms of oppression are connected and that structures of oppression must be addressed in their totality.” In other words, any oppression against women, nature, or in regards to race, must be part of the conversation when discussing ecofeminism. Oppression against nature is at the core of this movement, as it is similarly structured to that of the oppression of women. They are both part of patriarchal structures that see the oppressed subject as providing something they need, and it being used to the oppressor’s advantage. For instance, early civilizations saw the earth as something that would provide certain provisions for them, and they took these things as they needed them. The same can be said for women, who are needed to bear children, and as the world progressed, they were consistently seen only in relation to other men, and not as their own persons. These parallels are what helped me better grasp the concept.

These patriarchal structures I mentioned are seen in what Hopgood-Oster refers to as “dualistic hierarchies”, such as the balances in “heaven/earth, male/female, human/animal”. It is the ongoing fight between any and all of these oppressive systems that must be deconstructed in order to reach equality in that relationship. Of these examples, the human/animal dichotomy intrigued me the most. The authors likened this to a master and slave relationship, a point which was reinforced by another author, Carol Adams. She “has made explicit links between androcentric, patriarchal treatment of other-than-human animals, particularly focusing on the meat producing industries of the United States, and the exploitation of women.” Not only do humans oppress animals and use them for meat, they are also widely used in fashion and beauty industries.

I chose to model this blog after a website that had a well-rounded view of how women lived their lives. Part of supporting feminism is knowing that we don’t have to fit into a box; we can have many different interests. Some women might think that buying into fashion and beauty can reinforce the stereotype that we are here to look good for others, as we don’t receive the same allowances that men do in regards to their looks. We can certainly enjoy each of these things for their own sake, but I was intrigued by the idea of women having interests and hobbies that may seem directly counterproductive. If we are to resist oppression of any kind in our fight for equality, can we still support an industry that shamelessly uses animals and their products to their advantage?

Many animals are killed each year in order to make fur coats, boots, purses, and other products. According to Alex Assoune of panaprium.com, this annual number is in the billions, worldwide. In the US, “around 159 million animals are slaughtered each year for the leather industry, which is four times more than in 1980”, a number he cites from the Food and Agriculture Organization website (Assoune). Many of these animals suffer in brutal conditions and are eventually executed in violent ways, according to PETA’s website. “Fur and leather items are often deliberately mislabeled” in “countries where animal welfare laws are virtually non-existent”, so it’s not necessarily always clear whether genuine animal products and skin are being used (peta.org).

Source: Wikipedia

Similarly, the cosmetics industry tests its products on animals, according the The Humane Society. Animals “have substances forced down their throats, dripped into their eyes or smeared onto their skin before they are killed” (humanesociety.org). Yet millions of women, many are likely feminists as well, are still using all of these products. I think this is a interesting example of perpetuating a system that we are trying to overturn. How can we be part of an oppressed system and still contribute to oppression in another form? In a counter-point to Carol Adams, a thought from Mary Stange’s books, Woman the Hunter and Gun Women address this very thought. She feels that “women are natural hunters, therefore in a predatory relationship with animals” and that “the woman-animal connection should be reevaluated.” This thought illustrates that we are aware we are supporting this imbalance, and need to become more aware of this so we can focus on change. The topic of ecofeminism and what it entails is quite vast, but it helps us view various types of oppression in a new light. Looking at things in this way can help us realize how much of a part we are playing in systems of oppression, and do what we can to create change.



Assoune, Alex. “Leather, Wool, and Other Clothing Made from Animals.” PETA, 14 Dec. 2022, https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-clothing/.

“Ending Cosmetics Animal Testing.” The Humane Society of the United States, https://www.humanesociety.org/all-our-fights/ending-cosmetics-animal-testing#:~:text=Animals%20are%20still%20suffering%20and,end%20cosmetics%20testing%20on%20animals.

Hobgood-Oster, Laura. “Ecofeminism: Historic and International Evolution.” Systemic Alternatives, 18 Jan. 2016, systemicalternatives.org/2016/01/18/ecofeminism-historic-and-international-evolution/.