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Ecofeminism, Religion, and the Arts in the West  

Jane Caputi

Since its inception in the 1970s, ecofeminism has maintained a persistent and extensive engagement with the arts. This manifests itself when theorists take up analyses of ecologically relevant worldviews enmeshed in works from the fine arts, literary texts, musical compositions, political activist art, and popular and commercial arts. Many writers, composers, and artists also produce ecofeminist works (implicitly or explicitly). The curator of the 2020 exhibit ecofeminism(s), Monika Fabijanska, lambasted “Western patriarchal philosophy and religions” that legitimate both misogyny and ecocide. In her view, “the foundation of ecofeminism is spiritual feminism, which insists that everything is connected . . . nature does not discriminate between soul and matter.” In the branch of ecofeminism that pays close attention to spirituality and religion, some seek to reclaim and/or generate an ecofeminist theology, often by invoking a non-heteropatriarchal and decolonial understanding of Mother Nature/Mother Earth as the original terrestrial force/source. This force/source contains female, male, and everything else, and holds powers of creation, destruction, transformation, and rebirth. Art historian Mary Garrard observes that Western culture demoted Nature from a “power” to an “environment.” Arguably, this has been to eliminate a rival, as the ruling notion of God is purely male, a father, heavenly, transcendent, the sole and omnipotent creator, and, as prophesied in the New Testament, the ultimate righteous destroyer of the elements and Earth. Ecofeminism has evolved to become more pointedly anti-essentialist, intersectional, and decolonial as it makes connections between men’s violence against women (including both trans and cis women) and other marginalized peoples and the treatment of land, animals, plants, and elements. Ecofeminist theorists and artists demand total social, political, and spiritual transformation. Many also acknowledge that the active and intelligent life force/source (sometimes called Mother Nature/Mother Earth) is changing irrevocably in response to the egregious actions of some humans. What is especially apparent in the fusion of ecofeminist and Afrofuturist perspectives is that the exigencies of the current environmental crisis demand awareness that nature is and always has been the “power,” including the power that is understood as God.