Feminist political ecology

Feminist political ecology is a feminist perspective on political ecology, drawing on theories from post-structuralism, feminist geography, and cultural ecology. Feminist political ecology examines the place of gender 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 2006: 209). Feminist political ecologists suggest gender is a crucial variable – in relation to class, race and other relevant dimensions of political ecological life – in constituting access to, control over, and knowledge of natural resources.

Linking gender hierarchy with environmental degradation

Feminist political ecology attempts to include gender as a "key element" in political ecology analysis (Hovorka 2006: 209). It is informed by several decades of feminist scholarship on the material and cultural links between gender hierarchy (where the masculine is valued more than the feminine) and the domination of the natural world. Ecological feminist scholars working in different disciplines, such as Carolyn Merchant (1980), Val Plumwood (1993; 2002) and Vandana Shiva (1989), laid the foundations for this field by providing empirical evidence and conceptual tools for the systematic analysis of the twin devaluation/domination of nature and the feminine.


The study of the relationship between environments, gender, and development has grown in importance because of the restructuring of economies, environments and cultures at a global and local level (Mitchell 2000). 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. A key moment on the development of the approach was the publication of Feminist Political Ecology, edited by Dianne Rocheleau et.al. at Clark University in 1996. The book showed how usage of environment and labor patterns are gendered, but also how certain environmental problems have particularly negative effects on women (Rocheleau et al. 1996). These concerns were largely absent in the better-known political ecology volume Liberation Ecologies, which was published in the same year and also developed at Clark (Peet & Watts, 1996).

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" (Rocheleau 1995: 460) had not represented the "different publics (differentiated by gender, class, locality, and occupation) within the Federation (p460)". 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" (p459).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 (p461)". 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" (p461), instead of separating them from the context, rendering them invisible.

In a Botswana study on urban poultry agriculture, Alice J. Hovorka (2006) 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 2006:209). Before urbanization took off, 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" (p211). With urbanization, land use is becoming more accessible to Botswana women. But studies have revealed that "women's access to social status and productive resources remains limited compared to men's" (p213). 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

  • New research in feminist political ecology moves "from a focus on women's vulnerabilities and the silencing of gendered and subaltern knowledges to stress the global significance of women's embodied practices, emerging social movements, and collaborative action". —Stephanie Buechler and Anne-Marie Hanson (2015)
  • "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." —Alice Hovorka (2006)
  • "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 1995.
  • "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 affecting who stayed and who left. And how class and gender intersected with migration patterns in rural Puerto Rico." —Jan Monk

See also


  • Buechler, S. and A. Hanson. 2015. A Political Ecology of Women, Water and Global Environmental Change. Routledge.
  • Elmhirst, R. 2011. Introducing New Feminist Political Ecologies. Geoforum 42(2):129-132 (special issue)
  • Hovorka, A. 2006. The No. 1 Ladies' Poultry Farm: A Feminist Political Ecology of Urban Agriculture in Botswana. Gender, Place and Culture 13(3): 207-255.
  • Merchant, C. 1980. The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution. New York: Harper Collins.
  • Mitchell, Don. 2000. Cultural Geography. Blackwell.
  • Peet, R. and M.J. Watts (eds.). 1996. Liberation Ecologies. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Plumwood, V. 1993. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. London: Routledge.
  • Plumwood, V. 2003. Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason. London: Routledge.
  • Rocheleau, D. 1995. Maps, Numbers, Text and Context: Mixing Methods in Feminist Political Ecology. Professional Geographer 47(4):458-467.
  • Rocheleau D., B. Thomas-Slayter and E. Wangari (eds). 1996. Feminist Political Ecology: Global Issues and Local Experiences. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Shiva, V. 1989. Staying Alive: Women, Ecology and Development. London: Zed Books.
  • Richardson, Douglas, Noel Castree, Michael F. Goodchild, Audrey Lynn Kobayashi, Weidong Liu, and Richard A. Marston. The international encyclopedia of geography: people, the earth, environment, and technology. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2017.
Feminist ethics

Feminist ethics is an approach to ethics that builds on the belief that traditionally ethical theorizing has under-valued and/or under-appreciated women's moral experience, which is largely male-dominated, and it therefore chooses to reimagine ethics through a holistic feminist approach to transform it.

Feminist political theory

Feminist political theory is a diverse subfield of feminist theory working towards three main goals:

To understand and critique the role of gender in how political theory is conventionally construed.

To re-frame and re-articulate conventional political theory in light of feminist issues (especially gender equality).

To support political science presuming and pursuing gender equality.Feminist political theory encompasses a broad scope of approaches. It overlaps with related areas including feminist jurisprudence/feminist legal theory; feminist political philosophy; female-centered empirical research in political science; and feminist research methods (feminist method) for use in political science the social sciences. Indeed, one scholar notes that, insofar as almost all versions of feminism involve "demonstrating the ways in which politics, understood as power relations, is present in our everyday lives," one could reasonably "describe feminist theory as a whole as a kind of political philosophy." What frequently distinguishes feminist political theory from feminism broadly is the specific examination of the state and its role in the reproduction or redressing of gender inequality. In addition to being broad and multidisciplinary, the field is relatively new, inherently innovative, and still expanding; the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains that "feminist political philosophy serves as a field for developing new ideals, practices, and justifications for how political institutions and practices should be organized and reconstructed."

Index of feminism articles

This is an index of articles related to the issue of feminism, women's liberation, the women's movement, and women's rights.

Political ecology

Political ecology is the study of the relationships between political, economic and social factors with environmental issues and changes. Political ecology differs from apolitical ecological studies by politicizing environmental issues and phenomena.

The academic discipline offers wide-ranging studies integrating ecological social sciences with political economy in topics such as degradation and marginalization, environmental conflict, conservation and control, and environmental identities and social movements.

Water access and gender

Water access and gender are intricately linked in many parts of the world today and also historically. Discrimination in access to water occurs along many lines, including gender. Women and girls are more likely to be expected to collect and provide water for their families in less developed countries. Men and women are affected differently by water crisis situations. The study of how water access and gender are related is part of Feminist political ecology (FPE). Dealing with inequalities of water access falls under international human rights law.

Women and the environment

In the early 1960s, an interest in women and their connection with the environment was sparked, largely by a book written by Esther Boserup entitled Woman's Role in Economic Development. Starting in the 1980s, policy makers and governments became more mindful of the connection between the environment and gender issues. Changes began to be made regarding natural resource and environmental management with the specific role of women in mind. According to the World Bank in 1991, "Women play an essential role in the management of natural resources, including soil, water, forests and energy...and often have a profound traditional and contemporary knowledge of the natural world around them". Whereas women were previously neglected or ignored, there was increasing attention paid to the impact of women on the natural environment and, in return, the effects the environment has on the health and well-being of women. The gender-environment relations have valuable ramifications in regard to the understanding of nature between men and women, the management and distribution of resources and responsibilities and the day-to-day life and well being of people.

Women in climate change

The contributions of women in climate change have received increasing attention in the early 21st century. Feedback from women and the issues faced by women have been described as "imperative" by the United Nations and "critical" by the Population Reference Bureau. A report by the World Health Organization concluded that incorporating gender-based analysis would "provide more effective climate change mitigation and adaptation."

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Feminist theorists

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