According to the Hopgood-Oster reading “Ecofeminism asserts that all forms of oppression are connected and that structures of oppression must be addressed in their totality” (Hopgood-Oster 2). Meaning that Ecofeminism is a critique on the structures and paradigms of our culture not a commentary on individual actions. Women and nature have been intertwined in art and literature since the beginning. We generally picture our earth in a feminine respect as “mother earth” and this has to do with nurturing. Women as child bearers are inherently considered to be caregivers. This is paralleled in how our earth provides the tools we need to survive. Just as a mother feeds and nurtures her child the earth nurtures humanity. The paleolithic period is noted for the abundance of fertility statues with female renderings comparing women with creation and this is paralleled in our current society and culture in movies like Moana with the character Te Fiti. One interesting article I found looking further at the connections between females and divinity in ancient art is going to be linked here: https://www.thecollector.com/divine-feminine-ancient-art/

I felt it would be interesting to look at this association between women and the role of caretaker and the imagery that goes along with that. Women are seen as caretakers due to the fact that they deliver and feed their children as the earth does, making the connection between femininity and caretaking almost synonymous. But how does this apply in a non binary and gender non conforming culture? More and more these days we see families making the decisions that make the best sense for their families over conforming to the typical gender roles. For example, if a woman happened to have a career that makes more money than her male counterpart it could potentially make more sense for that family to have the father stay home with the kids instead, taking up that role that is traditionally reserved for women. In this society, there is flexibility and resources that allow us to have children and still maintain our individuality. Same sex parents as well do not fit with the traditional methodology when it comes to child rearing and caretaking responsibilities. I think as our society and culture becomes more homogenized and less binary we will have less of these binary comparisons, while different bodies have different physical abilities it does not mean that having the ability to create life  and the ability to care for life are inherent. We see women depicted in movies like Moana as the literal representation of the earth due to the creation and caretaking abilities associated with femininity. I hope that as our culture breaks down these binary ideas we can see more representation of men and non-binary genders in caretaking roles to represent a better and more whole image of caretaking. 

4 Replies to “2”

  1. Hi Liz,

    Thank you for your post on this topic! I appreciated the work you did complexifying the topic of the male/female binary and the cultural connotations connected to the role of caretaker. Like you, I am uncomfortable with some of the assumptions that women are inherently more nurturing. I completely agree with you that a more diverse depiction of caretakers is a goal to be worked towards.

    You post reminded me that binary definitions of gender not only impact our views on people, but also how we perceive and interpret events. The anthropologist, Emily Martin, wrote an interesting article on how cultural associations of gender impacted scientists’ interpretations of way in which reproductive systems functioned. Martin analyzed biology textbooks in relation to gendered language and found the texts used highly gendered metaphors (for example: sperm being actively “produced” / uterine lining being passively “lost”). This use of culturally gendered ideas connected to reproduction also limited the types of scientific questions generated. According to Martin, since sperm was most often described as actively “penetrating” an egg, it was only until relativity recently that it was found that the eggs actually actively function to adhere the sperm to their surface. Although the purpose of metaphors is to increase understanding of concepts, hierarchical, binary thinking regarding gender served to constrain instead of complexify.

    The material presented by Hobgood-Oster emphasized the importance of diversity in ecofeminism. Your post helped me connect the importance of diversity of gender, gender portrayals, and our ability to examine and interpret ecological systems. If we are to value society and ecology in terms of a diverse web of interconnected relationships, it is also important to have the language and tools that allow us to describe those lateral relationships.

    Martin, E. (1991). “The egg and the sperm: How science has constructed a romance based on stereotypical male-female roles.” Signs, 16(3). pp. 485-501. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3174586

  2. Hi Liz – you bring up an important topic, especially as it relates to ecofeminism. Just as Mother Nature lends herself to provide and care for humans and animals on Earth, so to do women for those around them. This may mean caring for children, caring for elders, siblings, or community members.

    As I thought more about the concept of women as caretakers, it made me think about the role over the past few years in response to the pandemic. I have included a website below which offers supporting information and statistics. Women may have experienced this first-hand , know of someone close to them, or just heard of what happened to other women during the pandemic. Many made the decision to walk away from their job/career in order to care for family members. This may have happened as a result of a partner earning more and it making more sense for the woman to be the primary caregiver. I suspect that there were households where it had to happen out of necessity. Yes, in a capitalistic world, we all need money, but if there are no other options (daycare facilities, family members, etc.) to send children for care, one will make sure it is provided somehow.

    Through the ecofeminism lens, this can be viewed as the oppression from the patriarchy. As Hobgood-Oster points out, “…ecofeminism simultaneously challenges patriarchies from different angles.” Men, in comparison to women didn’t appear to be having struggles to the same degree, nor left the workforce at the same rate. This wasn’t because men didn’t want to or wanted females to do so, it is a construct of the way that for centuries, men have been the providers while women have been the nurturers. The early months, and even first year or two of the pandemic proved the disparity between the roles of many men and women in regard to wage earning power and caregivers.

    You bring up an important point that as we continue to evolve our definitions and associated images of family, caregiver, and bread-winner, we will likely see a shift in how these roles are played out.

    “Ecofeminism: Historic and International Evolution.” Systemic Alternatives, 18 Jan. 2016, systemicalternatives.org/2016/01/18/ecofeminism-historic-and-international-evolution. Accessed 5 Feb. 2023.


  3. Liz, you beautifully put it, “women as child bearers are inherently considered to be caregivers. This is paralleled in how our earth provides the tools we need to survive. Just as a mother feeds and nurtures her child the earth nurtures humanity”. Earth and women carry the brunt of all of these societal conditions but keep this ecosystem running under such pressures.

    I think so much of this world would flourish if caretaking was not exclusively seen as a women’s job. I grew up in a single parent household so this was my childhood reality but for the next generations to break this stereotype what do you think it would take?

    I work for a company that offers parental leave to both people after babies are born or adoption. I think this is very important. While a couple years ago this same company only offered birthing mothers about 6-8 weeks. Japan is another country that I was really impressed to hear about their paternity leave. They offer a year in multiple ways to both parents. This is so essential to leveling the playing field for women as the primary caregivers and placing equal parts of the responsibility to men and other genders.

  4. Hi Liz! First off, I love that you included Moana, it is one of my daughter’s favorite movies and I think it is an absolutely beautiful movie. Reading your blog post I found it extremely thoughtful how you said that “Women as child bearers are inherently considered to be caregivers. This is paralleled in how our earth provides the tools we need to survive. Just as a mother feeds and nurtures her child the earth nurtures humanity” – I agree with the first commenter that it really speaks to the pressure that women are under to nurture society because when you think about climate change and the detriments that is causing to our planet, if we could have a conversation with the earth, how much pain and pressure would it say it feels on a daily basis just trying to stay alive despite of much of humanities counter efforts?

    You also spoke about the differences in families of today versus families of an earlier era. It immediately made me think of another characteristic of ecofeminism that is stated by Obgood-Oster. She states “ecofeminist positions reflect varied political stances that may be, and usually are, transformed through time and place.” Ecofeminism is fluid, much like society and maybe that is why this fight is so hard. Because while society is changing and evolving that framework of our society is stagnant and that furthers the ecofeminism claim how the patriarchal structures justify their dominance, and until our framework can evolve and grow these issues we are experiencing today will not be resolved. As our learning module states, many ecofeminist believe that feminist theory must include an ecological perspective and that ecofeminism must include a feminist perspective.

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