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Gender, Nonhuman Animals, and Education  

Annie Schultz

Educational theorists are increasingly concerned with the areas of environmental education, ecological education, and animal studies. As social and political efforts to “go green” and make our industrial and personal habits more sustainable and ethical increase, schools as socializing agents take up these initiatives. Students already engage with nonhumans in significant ways in schools: they might interact with live nonhuman animals in extracurricular activities; they might dissect nonhuman animals in their science classes; they might eat the bodies of nonhuman animals at lunch; and they might read about literary or poetic representations of nonhuman animals in English classes. A continuously developing area of educational theory is how the ways in which students engage with nonhuman animals is gendered. Posthumanism and ecofeminism are philosophical paradigms that educational theorists engage with to think through the ways hierarchies of sentiency, humanity, and rationality are propagated by literary, cultural, and metaphorical representations of nonhuman others. There is a long history of women-animal comparisons that is evident in the literature and other cultural artifacts that we teach about in schools. Many students are also served animals as food in school cafeterias. Ecofeminist scholars and scholars of educational philosophy are likewise concerned with the gendered aspects of animal bodies as food and how the ontological representations of the bodies of women and their labor manifest in schools. Educational researchers are investigating these literary, metaphorical, and cultural comparisons.

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Ecofeminism and Education  

Jennifer Hatten-Flisher and Rebecca A. Martusewicz

Ecofeminism is a theoretical, political, and educational movement that draws specific parallels between the domination of women and other marginalized groups, and the degradation of nature. While much of ecofeminist thought is focused on examining the interconnectivity between social and environmental injustices, ecofeminism is as vast and varied as its feminist and ecological roots. Yet, ecofeminism is not without its critics. After being widely accused of essentializing women’s relationship with nature, the term fell out of favor with a lot of scholars in the 1990s. Those who have remained loyal to the term have argued that this was an unfair mischaracterization of the larger foundational ideas within ecofeminist work. Given the global environmental and social crises currently sweeping the planet, ecofeminism offers important, albeit diverse, theoretical, practical, and pedagogical perspectives for developing effective responses to such interrelated crises. As such, scholars across a variety of disciplines are revisiting (and reclaiming) ecofeminist thought. In the field of education, ecofeminism is influencing the ways that we approach questions of justice by offering an intersectional framework that insists on recognizing the interconnected roots of racism, sexism, poverty, ablism, and other social problems with ecological degradation. An ethics of care is woven throughout to form the basis of a pedagogy of responsibility whereby students learn to both critique these cultural foundations of violence and identify practices and relationships that help to create healthy sustainable communities.