Ecology and the sexuality of women

A few days ago I received from a former student of the K.U.Leuven faculty of theology, Agnes M. Brazal, a book that she has co-edited together with Andrea Lizares Si on behalf of the group Ecclesia of Women in Asia (EWA): Body and Sexuality: Theological-Pastoral Perspectives of Women in Asia (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press, 2007 – a collection of essays that have been presented at the EWA 2 conference in November 2004). I plan to read the full book, but as I was also looking for the theme of “ecofeminism” to lend some support to my students, I immediately went to a clearly and well documented article by the Latvian theologian Dzintra Ilishko on “Ecological Approach Towards Redefining the Sexuality of Women” (pp. 90-101). The author clearly explains the goals and vision of ecofeminism, linking up patriarchal and dualistic attitudes concerning our understandings of the environment and the sexuality of women. She explains the (Western) context in which the feminist approaches developed, and continues providing some important key challenges for the ecofeminist movement: break down patriarchal structures, challenged dualistic thinking, re-evaluate dominant metaphors, develop a feminist epistemology, expand one’s ecological self, treat the world as the body of God, and develop eco-spirituality.

Her conclusion (p. 99) provides a good summary of her article: “The cultural and ecological crisis in Eastern and Western Europe demands the development of an ecologically sustainable global community, that rejects materialistic philosophy and acknowledges Otherness and Bodyliness. The reality of our multicultural and multireligious world challenges us to think creatively of alternative ways of thinking, living and doing. Ecofeminism, in underlining the connection between the subordination of women, the destruction of nature, and other forms of oppression (class, racial ethnic, etc.) offers a holistic response to the issue“.

The article certainly provides an excellent introduction to ecofeminism, particularly from a Western point of view and I will certainly have it read by my students. I hope, however, that also, in the future, work will be presented from an Asian point of view, taking into account the specific situation and history of Asian women in their societies (I suspect the Western schemes of understanding are only partially applicable here through (post-)colonial thought) as well as the ecofeminist approaches explicitly based on Asian ways of thinking and on indigenous theologies.

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