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The Good-Natured Feminist: Ecofeminism and the Quest for Democracy

Catriona Sandilands
Copyright Date: 1999
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttsdzf
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  • Book Info
    The Good-Natured Feminist
    Book Description:

    The Good-Natured Feminist inaugurates a sustained conversation between ecofeminism and recent writings in feminist postmodernism and radical democracy. Starting with the assumption that ecofeminism is a body of democratic theory, the book tells how the movement originated in debates about “nature” in North American radical feminisms, how it then became entangled with identity politics, and how it now seeks to include nature in democratic conversation and, especially, to politicize relations between gender and nature in both theoretical and activist milieus.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8886-9
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Mothers, Natures, and Ecofeminists
    (pp. xi-xxii)

    Women’s concern for the natural environment is rooted in our concern for the health and well being of our family and community. . . . Because we have traditionally been mother, nurse, and guardian for the home and community, women have been quick to perceive the threat to the health and lives of our families and neighbours that is posed by nuclear power proliferation, polluted waters, and toxic chemicals.

    Ontario Advisory Council on Women’s Issues,Women and the Environment

    This book begins with a message that may sound familiar to anyone in touch with the current trend toward the “greening”...

  5. Part I On the Subject of Ecofeminism
    • 1 A Genealogy of Ecofeminism
      (pp. 3-27)

      I first encountered the wordecofeminismin 1987 when I was a master’s student doing research for a term paper in a course in feminist sociology. Freshly arrived in the big city of Toronto, which I then perceived to be completely devoid of nature (I grew up in Victoria on Vancouver Island, where nature may not have been more plentiful but was certainly bigger), I was absolutely thrilled to discover that a word already existed to represent my deepest personal and political desire, the inclusion of an environmentalist perspective in feminist theory. I craved a language that would describe my...

    • 2 Identity: Another Genealogy
      (pp. 28-47)

      In her bookEarth Follies,one of Joni Seager’s chief criticisms of ecofeminism is “that it can lead to an apolitical ennui—it can be interpreted as undermining the rationale for women to take political action. If we humans are essentially or naturally dichotomized by sex-linked traits, there is a certain futility in trying to change human cultural practices.”¹ While I have gone on record as a critic of certain apolitical tendencies in ecofeminism,² I think that Seager fundamentally misunderstands the fact that most ecofeminist invocations of identity, even many essentialist and naturalized ones, are very political indeed. The point...

    • 3 From Difference to Differences: A Proliferation of Ecofeminisms
      (pp. 48-74)

      In his ambitious 1994 text outlining the shape of radical ecological movements in postmodernity, Michael Zimmerman argues that “of the three branches of radical ecology” he considers, the other two being social and deep ecology, “ecofeminism is the most complex. During the past decade it has become increasingly sophisticated and self-critical.”¹ I couldn’t agree more: in the realm of theory alone, ecofeminists have taken diverse strands from feminist spirituality, social ecology, transpersonal psychology, Foucauldian genealogical criticism, Heideggerian philosophy, antiracist pedagogy, postcolonial literary criticism, and gay and lesbian history (to name but a few) and have woven from them a vibrant...

    • 4 From Natural Identity to Radical Democracy
      (pp. 75-94)

      In a 1990 essay exploring the relations between ecofeminism and deep ecology, Marti Kheel observed the following:

      It is out of women’s unique, felt sense of connection to the natural world that an ecofeminist philosophy must be forged. Identification may, in fact, enter into this philosophy, but only to the extent that it flows from an existing connection with individual lives. Individual beings must not be used in a kind of psychological instrumentalism to help establish a feeling of connection that in fact does not exist. Our sense of oneness with nature must be connected with concrete, loving actions.¹

      In...

  6. Part II The Quest for a Radical Democratic Politics
    • 5 Cyborgs and Queers: Ecofeminism and the Politics of Coalition
      (pp. 97-124)

      It is my contention that one of the most pressing questions faced by ecofeminists and other democratically inspired political actors surrounds issues of coalition and affinity. In ecological politics, it is only through some sort of a coalitional move—a desire to speak with and of but not for the Other—that nature can be spoken in a democratic forum, given that its presence cannot be grasped through the taking up of a natural identity (indeed, given that nature actually shows a moment of disjuncture between subject position and subject, thus offering a route into the questioning of the possibility...

    • 6 Ecofeminism, Universality, and Particularity
      (pp. 125-149)

      The tension between antagonism and equivalence is framed both by issues of identification and its transgression and by the contemporary significance of coalition as a political form. On the one hand, identity groups—women, “people of color,” queers, workers, and the like—are engaged in a process of categorical interrogation in which the discursive processes that render solid political categories are subject to important questioning. On the other hand, there remains a need for politics to encourage the process of articulation, the formation of a version of a collective beyond any individual constituency. Both are possible; it is not the...

    • 7 Ecofeminism, Public and Private Life
      (pp. 150-178)

      The tensions between antagonism/equivalence and between universality/particularity involve modes of political speech appropriate to a radical democratic politics; in a sense, both tensions are born from questions about representation, about the ability of any political form to stand in for a cacophony of experiences, interests, and desires. In these tensions, the centrality of diversity to political speech is abundantly clear; where equivalence and universality represent a move toward a hegemonic politics, one capable of collecting diversity and representing or producing solidarity, the totalizing and suturing potential of these moves is constantly disrupted by the appearance of difference, the impossibility of...

    • 8 The Return of the Real: Ecofeminism and the “Wild” Side
      (pp. 179-207)

      The Real, like the repressed, has been with us all along; first mentioned in chapter 4, it lurks as a limit to language in the democratic tensions outlined throughout Part II: in the gap between reality and representation, on the unreachable horizon of universality, and behind the movement between private and public. It is only fitting that I discuss it directly only in this final chapter: the return of the Real, like the return of the repressed, acts as a final reminder of the unspoken kernel that is both source of and limit to the democratic discourses that circulate around...

  7. Conclusion: The Lack of Conclusiveness
    (pp. 208-210)

    Women’s concern for the natural environment is rooted in our concern for the health and well being of our family and community. . . . Because we have traditionally been mother, nurse, and guardian for the home and community, women have been quick to perceive the threat to the health and lives of our families and neighbours that is posed by nuclear power proliferation, polluted waters, and toxic chemicals.

    Ontario Advisory Council on Women’s Issues,Women and the Environment

    It doesn’t sound quite so bad the second time around, does it? There is promise in this kind of statement; it...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 211-234)
  9. Index
    (pp. 235-246)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-247)