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California State University, Dominguez Hills
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Created: June 22, 2004
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Latest Update: June 22, 2004

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Index of Topics on Site Definitions and Basic Concepts from Gaia & God.
The text from which this piece is drawn is Gaia & God: an Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing by Rosemary Radford Ruether, a professor of theology at Garret-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois. First published in 1992. First HarperCollins Paperbaack Edition Published in 1994. ISBN: 0-06-066967-5 (pbk).

Some excerpts from the text are available at Ecofeminism by Rosemary Reuther. Backup. This piece gives much of the same material as I have discussed in this file. The excerpts are found on Spunk, an anarchist library. You never can tell where you might find something useful. Cast aside prejudices and open the doors of your mind to many perspectives. That's one of the things I like about Rosemary Ruether. She doesn't reject ancient or modern theologies because she doesn't agree with them. She tries for illocutionary understanding, to figure out why they came up with that cosmology and that theology, and then to discover what she might learn from that. I like that lady.

Definitions of Ecology, Feminism, and Ecofeminism in Gaia & God:

  • Ecology
    "[Ecology] . . . examines how . . .natural communities function to sustain a healthy web of life and how they become disrupted, causing death th plant and animal life. Human intervention is the major cause of such disruption." (At p. 1.)

    "Deep ecology . . . [takes this to another level] . . . examine[s] the symbolic, psychological, and ethical patterns of destructive relations of humans with nature. It particularly saw Western culture, sanctified in Christianity, as a major cause of this destructive culture." (At p. 2.)

  • Feminism
    "[L]iberal feminism . . . seeks equality of women with men in liberal, democratic societies;" (At p. 2.) We can change relationships between men and women if we really want to.

    "[S]ocial feminism . . . declares that such equality is not possible without a tranformation of the social relations of ownership of the means of production and reproduction." (At p. 2.) We can only change relationships between men and women if we change the social structure.

    "Radical feminism declare[s] that the issue [is] deeper, that we [have] to look at he patterns of culture and consciousness that sustain male domination over and violence to women." (At p. 2.) We can only change relationships between men and women if we understand how domination and control developed in the first place, and take steps to remove the infrastructure that supports domination and control.

  • Ecofeminism
    "Ecofeminism brings together . . . ecology and feminism, in their full, deep forms, and explores how male dominatiion of women and domination of nature are interconnected, both in cultural ideology and in social structures." (At p. 2.) Changing relationships between men and women involves recognizing that domination of and control over Mother Earth is very much like domination and control over women. We can only change the patterns of domination and control if we learn to understand how they develop and how they inflict structural violence and harm, even if no real harm was intended, for all things are interrelated.
    "One of the most basic 'lessons' of ecology for ethics and spirituality is the interrelation of all thiings." (At p. 48.)

    Discussion Questions

    1. How does ecofeminism challenge some of our academic rules on disciplines?

      Consider that where you start off with simple ecology or simple male/female relationships, you discover that you have to cover bioloby, cosmology, theology, feminist social theory, answerability. Most of the complex questions of everyday life require cross-disciplinary understanding. Example of conceptual linking.

    2. How does answerability fit into ecofeminism?

      Consider that we cannot understand how the patterns of dominance and control inflict structural violence and harm, if we silence the people, plants, and animals to whom the harm is done. Example of conceptual linking.

    3. How does cosmology fit into ecofeminism?

      Consider that our beliefs about how the cosmos was created, ownership and control of the cosmos, the relation of good and evil, and of life and death are essential to our belief and our relation to nature and our relation to each other as male and female.

    4. How does theology fit into ecofeminism?

      Consider the role of spirituality in human life. Consider beliefs about the soul in terms of mortality and immortality. Consider that societal institutions are designed to provide guidance for those who stray away from the normative values and beliefs of the group.

    5. What is ecofeminism's postion on individual rights in relation to the community?

      Consider ecofeminism's position on the inter-relatedness of all things. Ecofeminism abhors domination and control over nature, as well as over humans. That should leave room for individualism, constrained by the understanding that the earth and the cosmos are webs of interrelationships.

    6. What does Rosemary Ruether mean by "deeper?"

      Consider that she is telling us that things are not always as they appear at first glance, or within a specific context. We need to look at the social context, look for spurious relationships, listen and look in good faith to hear the voice of the Other, so that we do not fall into the trap of seeing only one perspective.

      That is perhaps what she means when she says that no quick technological fix will do. We need to understand how we got to this poiint and take preventive action to protect the future. She believes that we can only do that by delving deeply intoall relationships from the cosmos on down to interpersonal human relationships, AND human-nature relationships.

      A shift to "ecologically sustainable" patterns "cannot be done only on the level of technological "fixes" without reshaping patterns of social domination between men and women, and between rich and poor classses and nations. For these are the social underpinnings that promote and allow such profligate and wasteful exploitation of the biosphere." (At p. 48.)



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