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News ::
Boston Ecofeminist conference report
22 Nov 2001
Article from the Student Underground on the recent Ecofeminist Action teach-in in Boston
Article from the Student Underground on the recent Ecofeminist Action teach-in in Boston
"Violence comes from seeing diversity as a threat," gender activist Gordene McKenzie said during a workshop on gender and biological diversity at a conference this Saturday. Quoting ecofeminist author Vandana Shiva, McKenzie continued, "The cultivation of diversity is the most important contribution to peace."

Making sense of September 11th was one theme that ran through this Saturday’s Boston Ecofeminist Action teach-in, held at the Copley Square Community Church. Over 50 participants attended a series of workshops, tying ecofeminism with topics ranging from domestic violence to genetic engineering.

"There is a dangerous assumption that everything wild needs to be tamed," McKenzie said, a belief that ecofeminists view as perpetuating the historic oppression of women, animals, marginalized peoples, and the earth. The "taming of savages" that led to the decimation of Native American populations and continues to lead us to war is a result of seeing the world in a dualistic perspective, McKenzie claims.

This duality plays off in our strictly maintained gender roles, and can even be found in George W. Bush’s rhetoric of "absolute evil" and the assertion that "you are either with us or against us." Ecofeminists take to task what they see as a capitalist, patriarchal system held in place by shallow dichotomies such as masculine/feminine, good/evil, and nature/progress.

Though the teach-in was planned months in advance, the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan has shifted the focus to making connections between ecofeminism and war. "Historically, ecofeminists have critiqued militarization, and have been active in anti-war actions," said Helen Matthews, who led a workshop titled "Animals, Women and the Earth." Our society has moved from a text-based to an image-based society, Matthews explained in her talk, and women must reclaim the images that commodify and package their bodies for marketing purposes.

According to Clean Water Action organizer Linda Setchell, ecofeminism can be a redeeming movement for feminism as a whole. "I think the feminist movement has gotten sidetracked by the issue of abortion rights and by identity politics, like race relations and queer politics. We have a history of taking steps to making creative political changes, and we’ve lost that, and we need to get back to it." Citing Naomi Klein’s groundbreaking work No Logo, the bible of many anti-globalization activists, Setchell notes that because of identity politics "we’ve been ignoring the corporations that are taking over everything in sight."

One criticism of the conference, brought up by Setchell, was the lack of action planning that came from the meeting.

"People need to realize that if we allow science and capitalism to continue on their current trajectory, the problems we’re already facing are going to get worse. We don’t have time to make this a generational process - statistics show that 50 years from now we’re going to have a huge mess on our hands."

The emphasis of the conference was more on theoretical frameworks of ecofeminism than planning political action, though that will come soon. "We’re still working on our vision," said organizer Michelle Hersh. One participant, BU Women’s Center member Emily Brandt, saw a positive aspect to "getting people thinking [rather] than acting." Having attended a political rally hosted by Ralph Nader the same evening, Brandt was relieved with the conference’s lack of "an agenda."

One important result of the conference, Matthews suggests, is the building of alliances between activists and connecting different struggles to a larger movement. "I think it’s crucial for progressive movements to support each other, not just out of self-interest, but because of an understanding of an inter-locking system of oppression."

Boston Ecofeminist Action is a grassroots coalition that grew out of a local branch of the nationwide Feminists for Animal Rights. They have been planning the teach-in since their inception last March, and will be continuing their campaign though workshops and slideshows.

Helen Matthews will present her slideshow at the BU Women’s Center meeting on Thursday, December 6. To get in contact with Boston Ecofeminist Action, email bostonecofem (at) or call Michelle Hersh at (617) 484-5349, or visit the BEA website:
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