An unlikely connection

Words by Maggie Alva. Photos by Linnea Syversen.

For a long time, I have been fascinated by the connection between environmentalism and feminism – or rather – the question if there is a connection at all. I have been studying both subjects at university and in my spare time, but rarely did they interconnect. Searching for more literature on my own, I discovered ecofeminism, which had its glory days in the 1970s, and was defined like this:

"Ecofeminism, also called ecological feminism, branch of feminism that examines the connections between women and nature. Its name was coined by French feminist Françoise d’Eaubonne in 1974. Ecofeminism uses the basic feminist tenets of equality between genders, a revaluing of non-patriarchal or nonlinear structures, and a view of the world that respects organic processes, holistic connections, and the merits of intuition and collaboration. To these notions ecofeminism adds both a commitment to the environment and an awareness of the associations made between women and nature. Specifically, this philosophy emphasizes the ways both nature and women are treated by patriarchal (or male-centered) society. Ecofeminists examine the effect of gender categories in order to demonstrate the ways in which social norms exert unjust dominance over women and nature. The philosophy also contends that those norms lead to an incomplete view of the world, and its practitioners advocate an alternative worldview that values the earth as sacred, recognizes humanity’s dependency on the natural world, and embraces all life as valuable." 

(Source: Encyclopedia Britannica)

Shirt from Røde Kors Secondhand-shop. Skirt from Velouria Vintage. 

Shirt from Røde Kors Secondhand-shop.

Criticism of the term and its meaning are many: some feminists think it’s too wishy-washy, focusing on spiritual terms and the individual’s experience of connection with nature, rather than practical solutions for protection of nature and equality between the sexes. Others think environmentalism should be a subject of it’s own, as not all feminists necessarily are environmentalists, and working for goals such as wanting equal pay at work does not necessarily entail that you are also engaged in changing the company’s environmental policies.

 

Today, the connection between the two subjects does however seem to be having a renaissance – the increased attention to climate change and the mainstreaming of feminism has made both subjects available to the public to a much larger extent than previously. Many are now seeing the connection between ethical production of clothes and food and the impact it has on both nature and on the people we share the planet with: in the fast fashion industry, most factory workers are women, and a majority of the poor in the world (who also become the first victims of climate change) are women as well. Looking at facts like these, we see a closer connection between feminism and environmentalism than ever before. Both concepts are part of an increasing notion of solidarity, based on the knowledge that the choices we make as consumers both will have a direct impact on the people making the products we buy, and long-term environmental consequences from the production and lifecycle of these items.

T-shirt from Fretex. Bomber-jacket from Velouria Vintage. 

Dress from Velouria Vintage. 

The fashion industry may seem glamorous on the surface, but in reality, it is one of the most damaging industries on Earth. Consequences of clothes production range from irrigation of the soil where naturally diverse environments are replaced with monocultures of plants for fabric fibers, to CO2 emissions from the production, toxic waste from the dyeing process and last, but not least, the MOUNTAINS of garbage that are a result of the very short life span of so-called "fast fashion".

Dress from Fretex.

Looking at the consequences of clothes production, the fashion industry therefore becomes the unlikely connection between environmentalism and feminism. Consumer culture and fast fashion has dire consequences for both women and the Earth, both directly and indirectly: Directly through the exposure to harsh chemicals and working conditions, and indirectly through the long-term consequences of climate changes. Changing our approach to fashion can therefore have a major impact on the lives of our fellow women and on our planet. Buying less, buying secondhand, upcycling and supporting brands that commit to safe working conditions and sustainable production methods, are some of the actions we each can take to contribute. It might not seem like much, and you might think “what difference does it make what one person does?” but in reality, we’re so many that if each person just changes this one habit, it will collectively make a HUGE difference. If you, as a Westerner, choose spend all your shopping money for the next year differently, you can be the make-it-or-break-it point for that secondhand store or sustainable fashion brand. You can be one of the few customers they need to make their business profitable, instead of being one of millions who put money into the chain stores that treat our fellow women like modern slaves, paying them next to nothing, making them work inhumane hours and keeping them away from their families. What sounds like a small personal decision, can have huge consequences if enough people make the same one. Being “the change you want to see in the world,” actually works.

 

*All the clothes in this editorial are from secondhand stores in Oslo, Norway, both privately owned and charitable ones. We have not in any way been paid to feature these items, nor will we profit from the store’s potential sale of them. 

Dress from Fretex.