What is Ecofeminism?

Ecofeminism recognizes the interconnectedness of all beings: humans, non-human animals, and nature. Ecofeminism recognizes the links between capitalism, patriarchy, racism, violence against women, and Euro-colonialism (or ‘settler colonialism’).

The word ‘ecofeminism’ might be new, but the pulse behind it has always driven women’s efforts to save their livelihood and make their communities safe. From the Chipko forest dwellers of North India some 300 years ago to the mothers of coalmining Appalachia right now, the struggle to create life-affirming societies goes on. It intensifies today as corporate globalization expands and contracts, leaving no stone unturned, no body unused.[…] Ecological feminists are both street-fighters and philosophers.

‘Only connect’ – this sums up what the perspective is about. Ecofeminism is the only political framework I know of that can spell out the historical links between neoliberal capital, militarism, corporate science, worker alienation, domestic violence, reproductive technologies, sex tourism, child molestation, neocolonialism, Islamophobia, extractivism, nuclear weapons, industrial toxics, land and water grabs, deforestation, genetic engineering, climate change and the myth of modern progress. Ecofeminist solutions are also synergistic; the organization of daily life around subsistence fosters food sovereignty, participatory democracy and reciprocity with natural ecosystems.
– Dr. Ariel Salleh, Foreword, ‘Ecofeminism’

“Ecofeminism, a ‘new term for an ancient wisdom’ grew out of various social movements – the feminist, peace and ecology movements – in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Ecofeminism sees parallels between the exploitation of nature and the exploitation of women, parallels that are understood in the context of patriarchy.”
– Dr. Vandana Shiva, Marie Mies, ‘Ecofeminism’

Colonization, Patriarchy, and Animals

Capitalist patriarchal systems such as racist settler colonialism not only strip the rights of Indigenous people around the world from the First Nations of Canada to Indigenous Palestinian people, but degrade and destroy the environment and condition humans to behave violently toward each other and toward non-human animals. Capitalist patriarchal systems believe there is not enough and the Earth and animals exist for exploitation; that humans are superior to all species and within the human species men are superior to women, white people are superior to people of colour, and so on. This system is rooted in violence, domination and oppression. Ecofeminism seeks to solve the world’s issues by dismantling patriarchy and reviving connection between humans, non-human animals, and the environment.

The capitalist patriarchal world system:
“This system emerged, is built upon and maintains itself through the colonization of women, of ‘foreign’ peoples and their lands; and of nature, which it is gradually destroying.”

“This capitalist-patriarchal perspective interprets difference as hierarchical and uniformity as a prerequisite for equality. Our aim is to go beyond this narrow perspective and to express our diversity and, in different ways, address the inherent inequalities in world structures which permit the North to dominate the South, men to dominate women, and the frenetic plunder of ever more resources for ever more unequally distributed economic gain to dominate nature.”
– Dr. Vandana Shiva, Marie Mies, ‘Ecofeminism’, Zed Books

What Does This Have to do With Dog Training?

It’s important to recognize animals kept as pets are captive animals. We control when they play, exercise, go outside, eliminate, eat, drink water, receive love and affection, and interact with other dogs which is critical to their mental and physical health. Most dog training has been rooted in patriarchal concepts: that you are the ‘boss’, the ‘pack leader’ the ‘alpha’; you must be dominant at all costs otherwise your dog won’t ‘respect’ you. These are myths, they are not true, they are not backed by science and they are dangerous. They are patriarchal. To believe that your dog is to obey you at all costs, that you are free to do as you please but your dog is captive, unable to function freely without your consent, is inhumane. Even a lot of well-intentioned positive trainers and people who love dogs are guilty of not recognizing we treat dogs very poorly and from a human-centric/human-superior perspective. We have been raised in a capitalist patriarchal (euro-colonial) construct that encourages speciesism. Speciesism is defined as the assumption of human superiority leading to the exploitation of animals. It dictates we are above all other species (and that within the human species there is a hierarchy of superiority based on gender, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc).

We do things to dogs (and other animals) most of us wouldn’t dream of doing to each other: beating, kicking, choking, torturing, poisoning, shooting, and killing. However there are those who would do these things (and have) to other humans. These atrocities are happening daily to Indigenous people around the world. We recognize these acts as crimes against humanity, violations of human rights. We recognize the agents of these acts as monsters; humans who were not born evil but have forgotten their compassion and humanity, convincing themselves to be righteous in their violence. There is a direct link between how humans treat each other and how we treat other species. The connection is found with capitalist patriarchy – where everything and everyone exists to be exploited.

Within the realm of canine-human relationships, the solution to this problem is learning canine language. By learning how canine’s communicate, we break the first barrier in improving the human-canine relationship. We foster greater empathy and compassion for dogs (and all animals) by understanding them. Recognizing they are captive animals and recognizing the conditioning of capitalist patriarchy and speciesism will also create a foundation of mindfulness in our training. It allows us to not be so rigid and demanding, punishing and bullying of our dogs. And in the matter of stray dogs (or ‘feral’ dogs), learning canine language and practicing mindfulness allows us to respect the canine as a species, understanding that they are not taking up space in our world, rather we share the land, the environment and the resources with all sentient beings. We must do our part to be better stewards of the planet, respecting each other and fellow species. When we adopt a code of non-violence in thoughts, words and actions, we see the world around us transform.

“How we treat our animals
is directly related to how we treat ourselves, our family and our friends.”
~ Paul Owens