Earth Mother Myths and Other Ecofeminist Fables: How a Strategic Notion Rose and Fell

Citation:

Leach, Melissa. 2007. “Earth Mother Myths and Other Ecofeminist Fables: How a Strategic Notion Rose and Fell.” Development and Change 38 (1): 67–85.

Author: Melissa Leach

Abstract:

The notion that women are ‘closer to nature’, naturally caring for land, water, forests and other aspects of the environment, has held powerful sway in certain development circles since the 1980s. Along with the rise in global environmental concern, ‘women, environment and development’ (WED) perspectives gained ground among many donor agencies and NGOs, complementing and sharing core assumptions with earlier-established ‘women in development’ (WID) discourses. The materialist dimensions of WED were bolstered by fables about women’s natural, cultural or ideological closeness to nature grounded in varieties of ecofeminist analysis. This proved a seductive mix for agencies wishing simultaneously to promote environmental protection and WID, as well as for certain forms of feminist activism and sisterhood-construction, such as those around the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. This contribution revisits these narratives and the politics of this strategic fix in the development of international environmentalism and explores the sustained critiques of these ecofeminist fables by feminist scholars and activists from the early 1990s onwards. It provides a critical review of the approach to gender and the environment in some current donor, NGO and other policy documents, which draw little from the feminist critiques of the 1990s. The author reflects on how, and for whom, women–nature links might have practical or strategic value today.

Topics: Development, Environment, Feminisms, Ecofeminism, Gender, International Organizations, NGOs

Year: 2007

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