Comparison of Views on Ecofeminism

It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that the humanity has evolved significantly since the early times. One of the most remarkable advances can be seen in the area of social environment, particularly the idea of gender. It used to be that people perceived binary gender categories as fixed. However, gradually the attention of the public transformed and a new understanding of this phenomenon emerged. Feminism is truly one of the most important developments of the public though in the recent centuries as it presented a whole new perspective on the role of women. As a result, the contribution of the latter in different aspects of social life has been evaluated. This lead to the emergence of ecofeminism. However, there is no single commonly agreed point of view on that concept. While the work of Boserup is seen as a milestone in this field, Beneria and Sen argue that it does not feature a strong theoretical framework, perceives capitalism as a given pattern of economic relations, and does not have a sufficient amount of emphasis on reproduction as a way of oppression of women.

To begin with, it is important to point out that Boserup provides a general perspective on the issue, focusing on the experience in two important regions: Africa and Asia. She points out that when it comes to active participation of women in the agriculture, Africa is a unique region since there are examples of the community where it was done primarily by women (Boserup 3). This is a truly unique situation since in other regions of the world the role of women in the production of food was dramatically different. That is why Boserup compares and contrasts the African experience of women and their counterparts from other parts of the world, particularly Asia. This is expected to provide a sufficient amount of information about ecofeminism.

However, Beneria and Sen criticize this approach, pointing out that it is not grounded on any particular theoretical bases and does not form a framework for other scholars to follow. They insist that Boserup took the empirical approach to the problem and put emphasis on the evidence that she found in Africa and Asia, constructing her theory from those instances (Beneria and Sen 279). Therefore, this approach might be seen as inductive since tries to recreate the general picture by dealing with specific problems. Contrary to that, Beneria and Sen believe that it would have been better to develop a general view of the situation and try to develop a theory that would be able to explain various phenomena in different locations rather than focusing on one specific experience (279). That is why they insist that it is better to view the problem of ecofeminism from a broad perspective and zoom in on the local problems.

Another point of difference between two approaches is the manner in which they treat the development of the economy. According to Boserup, capitalism is the natural goal of the development of every economy (4). She insists that the invention of plough enabled the people to improve the effectiveness of the production which was exactly what they have been trying to achieve all along. In her view, modernization is an important part of the development and the latter can have only a single direction. In spite of the fact that the author accepts that different regions of the world followed their own pattern of development, but she claims that ultimately they all are similar to each other in that sense that the human communities are willing to achieve the increase in productivity through the use of modernization and the oppression of women was a by-product of that.

Beneria and Sen, on the other hand, criticize this point of view. They believe that it represents the Eurocentric view of the development of the civilization with capitalism being the stage that is the pinnacle of the evolution and its ultimate goal. However, capitalism should be seen as only one of the forms that economy and production can take. Therefore, it would not be logical to assume that other nations would follow the same pattern and if they choose a different approach, they should be seen as failures. Beneria and Sen point out that accumulation may be equally effective to modernization which means that the pattern where the female role is emphasized can be beneficial for the community (280). That is why, it would be logical to recognize a diversity of patterns of development and try to appreciate different paths rather than insisting on the one correct variant.

The third point of criticism that is identified in Boserup’s work is the insufficient emphasis on the subordination of women. Thus, this researcher acknowledges that women came to be a marginalized labor force; however, this happened only because the effectiveness of their labor was dramatically low (5). The author does not seem to acknowledge the fact that there were several other factors that resulted in the subordinate role of women. If one follows this logic, one might assume that if women were able to work as well as men, they would be able to enjoy the same level of influence in the social life. The author explains this disparity with the fact that women are more likely to implement modern means of production and, therefore, increase the effectiveness of their labor while women tend to focus on the traditional approaches.

 On the other hand, Beneria and Sen believe that Boserup fails to recognize the force that is largely responsible for the oppression of women – reproduction. The authors insist that while men and women are equally capable of performing agricultural activities, but differ in the way in which they want to manage problems, reproduction is an activity that is available only to women (250). That is why if women are expected to focus more on procreation, men take all the active roles in other parts of the society. This seems to be a natural division of labor which leads to unnatural inequalities between the sexes. The authors only note that there are some other aspects that contributed to this gap. They insist that in all parts of the women are expected to perform domestic work which means that by default they have to spend more time at home while men can be active elsewhere. In addition to that, birth control is something that can change the position of women in the society dramatically.

The two approaches to ecofeminism that were developed by Boserup as well as Beneria and Sen tend to differ greatly, but each of them features own benefits when applied to the experience of the third world countries. Thus, the first position is useful because it is able to place these countries in the right historical context. Vakoch insists that in many cases the African countries did not participate in the important global events which made them left out of the social evolution (36). This is particularly true for the countries of Sub-Sahara and can be justified by the historical facts. Moreover, the imperialistic endeavors of the European countries did contribute to the evolution, but by default, they provide a lower position of the African nations. That is why the traditional views on the role of women were rejected as they did not comply with the dominant views of the Europeans.

Furthermore, the perspective of Boserup is also beneficial since it is able to explain the current inequalities that women in Africa face. This point of view shows that the contemporary problems are the result of the pattern of development that the African people can adopt long ago as a part of the European oppression. Indeed, the colonizers did not bother to adjust their perception of the economy to the local realities: they simply made the locals to follow the patterns that they brought with them. As a result, the traditional pattern of production was abandoned and the people in Africa can suffer because of the oppression of the Europeans. This resulted in further weakening of the role of women who were deprived of an active role in agriculture and had to assume a more passive position similar to their European counterparts.

The framework that was developed by Beneria and Sen also features some benefits when applied to the experience of the third world countries. For example, it is able to explain why the path that was chosen by the African nations should be seen as a unique solution rather than a failure. Sturgeon (62) insists that the perception of African nations as failed nations rests on the comparison of their patterns of production with the European nations. Beneria and Sen insist that the unique approach that the African nations practiced as well as the unique patterns of social life that exists served as an advantage (251). In other words, this perception is able to explain the current problems that the African nations face as a result of the European colonization. However, it is not the oppression per se that should be blamed for rather the fact that the Africans were deprived of the opportunity to follow the patterns that were adjusted to the local life.

Finally, one cannot help noticing that this framework is also quite helpful since it outlines the major aspects of oppression of women and shows the factors that prevent them from gaining equality. Nhanenge points out that throughout history reproduction was seen as a natural occupation of women and was not even considered as a something that prevents them gaining the right position in the society (183). So, Beneria and Sen point out that recognition of reproduction as one the ways that the society used to oppress women is essential to feminism (257). This is particularly the case in Africa where the changes in the population required women to give birth to many children to ensure that the birth rate exceeds child mortality. In addition to that, the authors also show that in the absence of proper birth control measures resulted in the further oppression of women.

Having examined all the points that were mentioned in the paragraphs above, one might come to the conclusion that there are significant differences in the way in which Boserup, as well as Beneria and Sen, view ecofeminism. Thus, the former tries to develop an understanding of it based on the examination of the evidence obtained from Africa and Asia. The author tried to explain the oppression with the help of objective logic, rooted in capitalism which is seen as the ultimate pattern of production. The subordination is explained as a result of marginalization of women. Contrary to that, Beneria and Sen note that this point of view lacks a proper theoretical framework that other scholars might work with. Moreover, it fails to recognize the benefits of the traditional pattern as well as the role of reproduction in the process of oppression of women.

Works Cited

Beneria, Lourdes, and Gita Sen. “Accumulation, reproduction, and” women’s role in economic development”: Boserup revisited.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 7, no. 2, 1981, pp. 279–298.

Boserup, Ester. Woman’s Role in Economic Development. Earthscan, 2007.

Nhanenge, Jytte. Ecofeminism: towards integrating the concerns of women, poor people, and nature into development. University Press of America, Inc., 2011.

Sturgeon, Noël. Ecofeminist natures: race, gender, feminist theory, and political action. Routledge, 2016.

Vakoch, Douglas A. Ecofeminism and rhetoric: critical perspectives on sex, technology, and discourse. Berghahn Books, 2011.

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: October 27, 2021] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
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[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]
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