Jennifer Reed’s “From Ecofeminism To Ecosexuality: Queering The Environmental Movement”
Concerns with the environment as well as concerns with social arrangements based on sexuality and gender have spurred a wide variety of social movements. The ecosexual movement is an emerging grassroots social movement that begins at the intersection of environmental and sexuality issues. As a cultural theory, ecosexuality draws from a wide range of scholarly fields including environmental studies, ecofeminism, and queer theory. In this essay, I examine the conceptual antecedents of ecosexuality from a social scientific perspective and show how the ecosexual movement resists dominant modern ideology in a quest for social change and social justice. Questions my essay addresses include: Where did the need for ecosexuality and its practices of love arise from, within cultural discourse? How is ecosexuality meeting these needs, and what added possibilities is this opening up?
First, I describe the core attributes of the modern era critiqued by early environmental social scientists, philosophers, and feminists. These emphasize the dualistic, hierarchical nature of the relationship between humans and the environment in this historical period when the quality of the environment began degrading. During that time, the dominant worldview shifted: initially humans were seen as situated within nature as part of the environment, and eventually they came to be seen as separate from nature and were idealized as masters over the environment. Next, I trace connections between environmental and gender issues through select works from within the intuitive writings of ecofeminism that align with the wider social science project and its scientific methods. These, coupled with insights from within feminist political ecology, dovetail into the comprehensive field of ecogender studies.
Contemporary feminist scholars demonstrate that gender and sexuality are separate but interrelated social constructs. For example the idea of a “heterosexual matrix” — a preordained alignment of sex, gender, and sexuality — became popular during the modern era (Butler 1990). However, the field of ecogender studies does not fully explore the relation between sexuality and gender. I propose to address this problem through the exploration of queer theory and the analysis of social movements through a queer lens. These add an explicit focus to the understanding of sexuality as a fundamental organizing principle of our society and our planetary life.
More specifically, queer theory critiques and challenges the sexual order where heterosexuality is viewed as normal. Queer theorists call this perspective heteronormativity, and observe that variants such as homosexuality are labeled as deviant. A heteronormative view aligns sexuality, biological sex, gender identity, and gender roles, creating a “sex hierarchy” that privileges some while marginalizing others (Rubin 1984). Utilizing a queer lens to examine environmental issues provides a way to better understand the ecosexual movement. Queer theory shines a light on the sexual order as a field of power, and challenges the wider ideology of dualism and hierarchy that organizes the modern era.