Paper presented at the National Communication Association 1998 Convention, New York, NY.
Leila R. Brammer
Gustavus Adolphus College

In 1974, the term "ecofeminism" was conceived by d'Eaubonne as a connection of the ecology and women (Morgan, 1992, p. 4). In 1978, Susan Griffin's Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her poetically acquainted others with the idea, but the diffusion of the idea did not become apparent until after the meltdown at Three Mile Island when six hundred women attended a conference called "Women and Life on Earth: A Conference on Eco-Feminism in the Eighties" (Caldecott and Leland, 1983, p. 6).

Ecofeminism is a joining of environmental, feminist, and women's spirituality concerns (Spretnak, 1990, pp. 5-6). As the environmental movement along with environmental crises raised the consciousness of women to the decay of the earth, they began to see a parallel between the devaluation earth and the devaluation of women. Women began to see the link as not a false construction of weakness, but as a strong unifying force that clarified the violation of women and the earth as part of the same drama of male control (King, 1990).

Ecofeminists claim to be part of a distinct social movement. In a book on ecofeminism, Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism (1990), Diamond and Orenstein claim ecofeminism is a social movement and offer the book as a statement of its ideology (p.xiii). Many other contributors directly state that ecofeminism is a social movement (e.g. Eisler, 1990, p. 23; Quinby, 1990, p. 127; Plant, 1990, p. 155), and implicit in all the writings is the conception of ecofeminism as a social movement. Others outside ecofeminism also consider ecofeminism as a movement (Van Gelder, 1989; Clausen, 1991). Ms. Magazine devotes a section to ecofeminist concerns. Rush Limbaugh makes frequent disparaging comments about ecofeminists, usually referring to eco-femi-nazis. In addition, academic writing, to this point, has predisposed the status of ecofeminism as a movement (Nash, 1989; Warren, 1990; Lahar, 1991; Cuomo, 1992; Salleh, 1992).

However, others contend that ecofeminism has not yet developed into a social movement. Sale (1987) argues that it is "too early to speak of ecofeminism as a 'movement'" (p. 302) and that it is

best thought of less as a movement than a philosophy--or perhaps not movement at all, in the traditional sense, nor even some kind of "tendency" within a movement but rather a way of re-regarding the world that can be brought to bear on a whole variety of movements and tendencies. (p. 304)

The traditional paradigm of social movements serves as the basis of this dispute.

One of the areas where ecofeminism is found lacking in the traditional paradigm of social movements is the area of action. The common view is that social movements engage in protest and direct action; however, ecofeminism calls for consciousness raising, healing, and a communion with nature. There is little direct action. Some call for concern and to be involved in crucial issues. Others call for intellectual work to form a holistic conception of ecofeminism (Diamond and Orenstein, xii). Furthermore, there is no group of ecofeminists, no declared leader, and no vague form of organized activity (other than a few intellectual conferences and books). A few organizations have included the word "ecofeminism" in their title, such as Ecofeminists for Animal Rights, but they are not a subgroup of the larger Ecofeminists (Morgan, p. 10). In addition, most groups that can be identified as ecofeminist in nature do not identify themselves as ecofeminist.

Ecofeminists do participate in the formation of ideology and recruitment in that conferences and books are explicitly for the development and spread of ecofeminist thought. The message has spread. More and more people identify themselves with ecofeminism, conferences are held, articles are written, and books are published and bought. But, ecofeminism has not resulted in collective action in the way Black Power as a philosophy did. This issue is one that is shared by many environmental groups, and, through an examination of ecofeminism, new ways of thinking about other such groups can also be pursued.

This clash of popular belief on what constitutes a social movement comes out of a similar, growing debate on the nature of social movements. Developments, such as ecofeminism, are a growing phenomena and present a challenge to movement theory in all fields. Rhetorical analysis is the key to understanding phenomena like ecofeminism because their manifestation is rhetorical. The purpose of this paper is to go about meeting that challenge by uncovering what ecofeminism is and, at the same time, add to movement theory by constructing a valid, useful means for analyzing the rhetoric in such phenomena. In order to construct this theoretical argument, a discussion of an alternative view of social movements will be followed by a proposal for analyzing the rhetoric of these phenomena which will allow an analysis of the nature of ecofeminism.

Movements as Meaning

The structural analysis offered by the rhetorical tradition is not particularly helpful explaining a movement such as ecofeminism because these phenomena are more ideological than structural in nature. It is not structure but meaning that is important in the analysis of this type of movement.

Cathcart provides the rhetorical definition of movements which can serve as a starting point to developing a rhetorical analysis of these type of movements. Cathcart (1972) directly opposes the old definitions growing out of other fields and formulates a rhetorical definition based in dramatistic theory. He believes that the place to find movements "is not a historical place, but a dramatistic situation where moral strivings for a salvation bring human agencies into contact" (p. 87). Cathcart further argues that "reciprocity or dialectical enjoinment in the moral arena . . . defines movements and distinguishes them from other dramatistic forms" (p. 87). Cathcart's rhetorical definition of movements focuses on stasis as a way to locate movements and drama as the key to analyzing it.

McGee (1980) makes a similar argument. Central to McGee's conception of social movements is his critique of traditional view of movements as a phenomenon with structure. McGee contends that social movements inherently have structure because they are undertaken by people in society, but structure should and cannot be the focus of a rhetorical study. McGee argues,

A consciousness is presumed by the concept "movement" which requires meaning, order and pattern in human experience even when these regularities must be manufactured. A theory of movement, therefore, must determine the identity and meaning of the consciousness which inspires us, as citizens and scholars, to seek and see "movement" when we look at historical and social facts. (p. 242) McGee insists that theory be totally reconceptualized and the new theory based in "'movement' existing as a figure or meaning within the ground/context of human communication" (p. 242). In conceptualizing movements as meaning the theorist will need to "prove rather than presume the existence of 'movements(s)' . . . by observing changes in the "ideographic structures of social norm systems" (p. 243).

Both McGee and Cathcart conceptualize movements based on rhetorical theory rather than formulations from other fields; however, as other disciplines move toward understanding movements as symbolic rather than structural, rhetorical theory needs to respond. Indeed, the alternative views indicate that understanding the symbolic meaning of movements is the appropriate approach to movements. McGee contends that a rhetorical study is the key to uncovering the meaning aspects of movement (p. 244).

A Methodology
for Uncovering Meaning

Analysis of Meaning

In undertaking a analysis of movements, McGee suggests using his concept of ideograph (1980) and/or the "treatises in critical science," by Habermas, Feuer, Gouldner, Eco, and Foucault (p. 243). While further study might point toward developing methods based in their theories, an alternative starting point is the idea of symbolic action. Creating meaning through symbolic action forms a basis for communication theory. Symbolic action, is as Cathcart argues, dramatistic in nature. Cathcart presents a dramatistic view based on a Burkeian approach, but, McGee's conception, seems more in line with Bales, Bormann, and Fantasy-Theme Analysis.

The connection is apparent in how McGee establishes the existence of movements. McGee argues,

When people use new words--or obviously attribute new meaning to old words--we can assume that consciousness of their environment has "moved" by measure of the difference in descriptors themselves or in meanings. (p. 243) The place where McGee finds movements is the place where Bales and Bormann identify dramatizing. Bales (1950) observes, One's feelings fuse with the symbols and images which carry the feeling in communication and sustain it over time. One is psychologically taken into a psychodramatic fantasy world, in which others in the group are also involved. Then one is attached also to the other members. Bales not only provides a connection to consciousness but also to the formation of identity within groups.

Symbolic convergence theory adds to the idea of identity formation and consciousness. The theory contends that individuals' meanings for symbols converge to create a shared reality for participants. Bormann (1983) elaborates,

If several or many people develop portions of their private symbolic worlds that overlap as a result of symbolic convergence, they share a common consciousness and have the basis for communicating with one another to create community, to discuss their common experiences, and to achieve understanding. (p. 102) This creation of shared consciousness through shared definitions of symbols is exactly what McGee argues establishes the existence of a movement. Since it is symbolic convergence theory which merges and aides in the explanation, it is only natural to use fantasy-theme analysis to uncover how consciousness operates within the movement. In addition, Bormann's references to rhetorical movements throughout his initial article on fantasy-theme analysis make it clear that he conceived that it be used for the study of movements.

Fanatasy-Theme Analysis

Fantasy-theme analysis centers around the belief that people chain out fantasies which form together to create an acceptable view of reality--a rhetorical vision. A rhetorical vision is a "symbolic drama that contains a dramatic scene, dramatic characters (heroes, villains, supporting players), plotline (scenarios), and a sanctioning agent" (Cragan and Shields, 1981, p. 3). Each element acts to create a common symbolic reality to be shared by a large group of people. The base unit of communication is the fantasy theme which is a complete dramatic statement. These themes vary then to the extent in which each element is important in the scenario. Overall rhetorical visions powerfully draw people together as "meaning, emotion and motive are contained in the rhetorical vision, and people caught up in the vision will act it out as their sense or understanding of social reality dictates" (Cragan and Shields, p. 3).

Another important concept for this study is that of saga. The idea of sagas grew out organizational research. A saga is "a collective understanding of unique accomplishment in a formally established group" (Clark, 1972, p. 179). Dottlich (1981) establishes a connection between saga research and fantasy-theme analysis. His argument is that both are constructed similarly. For example, Clark (1970) writes,

The organizational motif becomes individual motive, much more than a statement of purpose, a cogent theme, a doctrine of administration, or a logical set of ideas. Deep emotional investment binds participants as comrades in a cause. . . . An organizational saga turns an organization into a community, even a cult. (p. 234). Sagas create a uniform commitment to organizations by providing something on which to pull everyone together. Within a group, different rhetorical visions may be found united by a uniform commitment to an overarching saga.

Fantasy-theme analysis requires uncovering fantasy themes within rhetorical artifacts, in order to construct a rhetorical vision of the group. The most important fantasy themes are identified and then used to develop the rhetorical visions. In this case, the rhetorical visions will then be used to determine the depth and strength of the saga. The interaction of these elements determines reality for the group and provides insight into group motives, cohesion, values, and style. This provides a basis for a rhetorical criticism of the vision.

Rhetorical Artifact

Finding appropriate artifacts that express a complete statement of a movement such as ecofeminism is difficult. In order to analyze ecofeminism as fully as possible, a compilation of views was chosen.

In Reweaving the World: The Emergence of Ecofeminism, Irene Diamond and Gloria Feman Orenstein have assembled a varied collection of essays which offer assorted theoretical, philosophical and practical views of ecofeminism. The book grew out of a conference held in March of 1987, but also includes writings by some who were not in attendance, in order to provide "a more comprehensive statement about the global emergence of ecofeminism" (p. vii). In this way, the collection brings together those most involved and most identifiable with ecofeminism.

As a whole, then, the book is a statement about ecofeminism, its theoretical groundings, its aims, its struggles, its ideology, and its diversity. Diamond and Orenstein contend, "The presence of these different strains indicates that ecofeminism is not a monolithic, homogenous ideology" (p. xii). A fantasy-theme analysis should help understand where these diverse strains integrate to form a movement.

A Rhetorical Analysis
of Ecofeminism

An analysis of the essays in the collection yielded three distinct rhetorical visions linked together by a saga. Each vision grows out of distinct differences in the groups which came together under ecofeminism. While each vision decidedly results in a separate strain of ecofeminist thought and action, they are linked together three dimensionally under the saga of ecofeminism (Figure 1). In the discussion of these three visions, the way they construct their view of the past, present, action, and future will analyzed.

Spiritual Vision

The spiritual vision constructs the earth as a sacred being known as the Goddess or Gaia. Starhawk portrays the dramatic scene in broad strokes,

[O]ur primary understanding [is] that the Earth is alive, part of a living cosmos. What that means is that spirit, sacred, Goddess, God--whatever you want to call it--is not found outside the world somewhere--it's in the world: it is the world, and it is us. Our goal is not to get off the wheel of birth nor to be saved from something. Our deepest experiences are experiences of connection with the Earth and with the world. (p. 73) Those sharing the vision undergo a sacred experiencing of the earth as they share and celebrate a glorious past where women were valued equally with men.

Past. Adherents to this vision have shared an analogy that depicts the creation of the world as a process of birth, just as women give birth daily.

Not bombs, not explosions, not abhorrence; rather she sees the event for what it is, a birthing moment, the Great Birth. The elementary particles rushed apart in their trillion degree heat, yes, and became stars, yes, and all of this a swelling, an egg, a mysterious engendering that is the root reality behind all the various facts. (Swimme, 1990, p. 181) The vision sees creation as a beautiful, nurturing, intensely natural moment and one in which women continually engage. Because women weave life like the earth was weaved, women have a unique unity or special connectedness to the earth. In the past, that connectedness was acknowledged and valued.



Figure 1


Devaluation of women and nature linked.
Men (via Patriarchal society, Western development, etc.)
exploit, control, despoil women and earth for gain.
Earth and its creatures are at point of crisis.
Need to change, create new consciousness
All live together in equality and harmony.


Feminist Vision
Women and children are hurt most.
Humans are dependent upon the Earth for survival.
Justice for all is the primary value.
Changes must be made now to protect women.
Localized action to stop immediate threats.

                    Spiritual Vision                                                                                             Environmental Vision

                            Earth and all life forms                                                                                          Earth is an ecosystem,
                    are sacred and must be preserved.                                                                            where all life is connected together.
                  Humans must commune with Earth.                                                                      Humans must live in balance with nature.
                     Primary value is spirituality.                                                                                  Primary value is balance/harmony.
                Change must be made to reclaim past.                                                                      Change must be made to insure future.
       Discover Mother Earth and live in communion with her.                                                         Live in balance with nature, recycle.


Adherents share fantasies that dramatize an age that 5,000 years ago where the earth was a matriachate, based on the worship of the Goddess. Women and men were equally valued. These societies were "not warlike. They were not societies where women were subordinate to men. And they did not see our Earth as an object for exploitation and domination" (Eisler, p. 23). This golden age was a "partnership society," where no one was dominated or dominator and "[d]iversity is not equated with inferiority or superiority" (Eisler, 29). Women who share this vision see the golden age of the matriarchate as a kind, inclusive alternative to patriarchal society and religion. Mara Lynn Keller (1990) dramatizes the past as follows: "The Mother Earth Religion did not glorify the sacrifice of her children, but celebrated their birth, enjoyment of life, and loving return to her in death" (p. 41). However, waring, dominating, patriarchal society intruded on this utopia and it was destroyed.

The "connection between the demise of the Goddess, the rise of patriarchy, and the rape of the environment" provides the basis for this vision (Abbott, 1990, p. 35). Science and technology as tools of men and the dominator society are villainous agents in the exploitation of the Goddess Earth. Those who share this vision personify patriarchy as the embodiment of human science and technology which is "inherently progressive, which systematically denigrates ancestral cultures, and which asserts that human beings are entitled to dominion over nature" (King, 1990, p. 108). Such fantasy types serve to arouse strong abhorrence of science and technology so that even the enlightenment is looked upon as evil (Diamond, 1990, p. 280). In the end, the dominator society took over and raped and plundered earth and women at will.

Present. In developing the present scene the dominator society is depicted as continuing without any signs of stopping or slowing. In fact, the rush to development has put more and more peoples and animals under its control and pushed the evergiving earth to the point of crisis. There is some recognition of the crisis for people in developing nations, but overall concern is for the animals of the world. All life is connected; "the destinies of the oak trees and all the peoples of the Earth are wrapped together" (Swimme, p. 22). But more importantly is that all life is sacred. The destruction of any living being is a disaster.

While they are concerned about pollution, these women dramatize the loss of species, the wearing of furs and feathers (Spretnak, p. 4; Swimme, p. 15), and the needless death of animals for food (Abbott, p. 39) as signs of the destruction of the earth. King contends,

No part of living nature can ignore the extreme threat to life on Earth. We are faced with worldwide deforestation, the disappearance of hundreds of species of life, and the increasing pollution of the gene pool by poisons and low-level radiation. (p. 106) The earth as the Goddess and the animals as kin are calling to these women. In a series of dramatic fantasy types Quinby portrays the present in terms of "The cries of factory farm animals, the suffocation of fish in poisoned waters, the sounds of flood waters rushing over deforested land--these are also voices we need to heed" (p. 126). But central is a personified Mother Earth who calls most dramatically. Now we only have to look, to listen, to our beloved planet to see that tranquility is not the best word to describe her condition. Her volcanic passions, her hurricane storms of temper, her tremblings and shakings, her thrashings and lashing indicate that something other than serenity is goings on. (Allen, 1990, p. 53) The earth is being exploited and harmed but not destroyed. The earth is eternal and is now entering into a "new consciousness," which we must recognize and join (Allen, p. 54).

Action. This vision seeks to reclaim and renew the golden age of the past. They believe that an earth-centered consciousness needs to take hold upon the earth. There are two levels of action.

The first is a personal experience of beginning a communion with nature (Spretnak, p. 7). Orenstein (1990) argues, that

ecofeminism calls for an endarkment--a bonding with the Earth and the invisible that will reestablish our sense of interconnectedness with all things, phenomenal and spiritual, that make up the totality of life in our cosmos. (p. 280) Women must recognize the Earth as their mother and join in a communion with her. Rituals of the seasons and cycles need to be renewed in order to achieve unity with the nurturing mother (Merchant, 1990, p. 101). We need to notice the birds and trees, and enjoy our "tour through the natural world" (Spretnak, p. 7). Even in the city, the center of development and patriarchy, the Goddess can be found and worshiped (Javors, 1990). Women then share these personal odysseys with other women and weave networks of sisterhood. From these networks, other women (even men) can be reached and brought in communion with the Goddess (Starhawk, p. 74). While communion and worship are the main goals, there is a call for these groups then to take action to save the earth (p. 75). It is not clear what the direct action might be, but it seems to be joining with others, particularly the Greens, in their efforts to save the earth. The action clearly includes prayer and ritual as the main features.

The result of this action would be a new covenant with earth and all living things. All life would be recognized as sacred and valued, and all could live in unity with each other. There would be no dominated or dominator. Society would operate on the basis of equal value for all living things. It would be a "new synthesis, one that will gather together 'both branches and roots' of the human world, a vision of tremendous healing power that rise up from the depths of the unconscious and stretches out to include every galaxy" (Swimme, p. 17).

Feminist Vision

The main value of this vision is that of justice for all parties. While the present world only allows justice for those who are in power, they conceive a world where all people and their needs are equally valued. This is distinct from the spiritual vision and its valuing of spirituality and equality of all of nature. This vision is, also, distinct because it concentrates on direct action at the local level to make lives better for women. Further, this vision does not construct the past as a glorious world that needs to be reclaimed.

Past. In fact, this vision does not have a developed past. There is an implicit sense that in the past humans were more connected with nature. They point to the developing countries as examples of that connectedness and direct dependence on nature. They argue that men were separated from nature by development and have continued to widen the gap through further development. As a result, men devalued nature and the natural. Women were also devalued and the patriarchal society took hold, devaluing and exploiting the earth and women. The earth is not, in this vision, innately living or sacred. The earth must be valued because people are dependent upon it for life. All life on earth is linked together; therefore, exploiting one life hurts all the others.

Present. Women are hurt most by the exploitation of the earth because they are the most vulnerable in patriarchal society. The main focus is on women who are more at risk because they suffer double oppression of poverty, race, education, or nation. One such group that this vision recognizes as primary victims of exploitation are women in developing countries.

These women are seen as the most vulnerable of the vulnerable and it is these women who are being victimized more and more by Western development. Shiva's (1990) contribution deals primarily with the problems of what she terms "Maldevelopment." The argument is that Westernization actually decreases the quality of life for women in developing countries. Traditional agricultural methods are abandoned, cash crops which deplete the delicate ecosystems are substituted for subsistence crops, and natural resources are taken or destroyed. Men must move to the cities to obtain jobs, but it is the women who are now left alone to work longer and harder to acquire less food and needs for their children. As in the case of Somalia, the end result is mass starvation. This vision sees women as worldwide victims of oppression fighting for their very lives and the lives of their children. The focus is not on saving trees, animals, or soil because it is sacred, but rather because it is necessary for the survival of people. King writes,

Yet this is not a sentimental movement--lives depend upon the survival of the forest. For most of the women of the world, interest in preservation of the land, water, air, and energy is no abstraction but a clear part of the effort to simply survive. (p. 118) While there is a great concern in this vision for those in other countries, there is also a recognition of similar practices that victimize women within our own country. Quinby notes the disproportionate incidence of cancer among the poor who are forced to take jobs with greater risks of cancer, to live in "cancer-prone cities," and who are least able to afford the exorbitant costs of medical treatment. These conditions are exacerbated in Blacks, falling the heaviest on Black women and children. (p. 125) These groups are also the groups who have traditionally the least access to power in the patriarchal system. This view holds that not only are these groups forced to work and live in bad conditions while denied medical care, but patriarchal society strives to make their lives worse. The areas where they live become the dumping grounds of patriarchal industrialization. Nelson (1990) observes, that incinerators and dumps are not built in the more affluent neighborhoods because those people have political power and access; however, in poor neighborhoods, where most of the people are renters, women and children, and have limited access to political power, opposition is less of a threat.

This vision depicts patriarchal society as operating with malicious forethought. Their argument is that women and children who are poor are subject to these living conditions, which are life shortening and threatening in order to keep them in submission. They also argue that women become a scapegoat for those exploiting the environment. Nelson observes,

Both the "fetal protection" approach and the "toxic gender gap" perspective are scapegoats of a sort. They allow environmental health to be a "women's problem," something women are particularly vulnerable around and/or worried about. Women's "delicate biology" and "fragile psychology" virtually become the cause of the problem. (p. 182) When women are not considered the scapegoat, they are used as a signal for polluted areas. Diamond (1990) observes, "It has been argued that in an economy built upon a growing trade in toxic material, drugs, and radiation, babies are the best 'canaries' we have--that pregnancy can provide a warning much like the canary did for coal miners" (p. 210).

This vision has a stronger notion of women as direct victims of oppression struggling for their lives and of humans as an important part of the world. King writes, "[T]here is no point in liberating people if the planet cannot sustain their liberated lives, or in saving the planet by disregarding the preciousness of human existence not only to ourselves but to the rest of life on Earth" (p. 121). The vision encompasses a stronger sense of urgency and agency resulting in direct action rather than creating a consciousness of communion with Mother Earth.

Action. Women are capable of taking and maintaining strong stands against the further exploitation of the planet. The call is for all women to act directly at the local level to stop all pollution and all destruction. The result is "resistance politics operating at the microlevels where power is exercised" (p. 124). The collection is filled with heroic, almost epic, tales of women fighting at the local level. King writes about the Chipko Andolan (tree hugging) movement in India. Women respond to developers bulldozing their forests by wrapping their bodies around the trees. This act of bravery to save the trees is symbolic of the connection of the trees to their lives. Nelson tells of the struggles of women against pollution and toxicity in their environments. Hamilton (1990) recounts the successful battle by women in "a poor, residential, Black, and Hispanic community" against the city's decision to place an incinerator in their neighborhood. All of these fantasy themes of direct action are held up as examples to follow in daily life. These are the heroes doing battle where they are oppressed, on their own turf. There is a shared consciousness that battling at the local level is the place where women can be the most successful because they know the power structure, can organize around the problem, and can access power more easily.

Future. The goal of this vision is not the return to a prehistory because it is seen as impossible and undesirable (King, p. 120). The goal is to develop a healthy relationship with nature built around the needs of all peoples. King speaks of a "stewardship of evolution," which would focus on the continual and future needs of all humans (p. 120). The future requires a creation of a new consciousness, where development and progress are not necessarily good and where people and the quality of their lives is dominant.

Environmental Vision

The prominent value in this vision is living in balance or harmony with nature. Instead of exploiting the ecosystem of the earth for our needs, we need to change our lives to live within the system. This vision is a central point between the two previous ones, but it is distinct from both, in that it calls for personal action directly impacting the quality of life as well as political concern. Similar to the feminist vision, it does not place importance in the past.

Past. There is an implicit belief that the past was a time when people lived in balance with nature. People were forced because of lives directly linked to the earth to value it and its resources. The coming of development broke that link for many and the earth's resources were exploited and the earth was wasted.

Present. The exploitation continues into the present, especially in our throw-away society. Catherine Keller sketches a scene in which,

The Earth is being wasted--devastated, with a violence echoed by the crude contemporary idiom of "waste the sucker"; it's being used up, its profound resources squandered, its lush abundance consumed, its complex surfaces worn out. (p. 249) In this vision, it is not that the earth is sacred or that exploitation is harming people now. The focus of this vision is the future. Once it is all used up, there will nothing left for future generations.

The damage and waste come about because of the dominant anthropocentric belief that the world was created for man. This belief holds that God resides elsewhere and all of the earth is man's domain. This view is drawn from the biblical creation story, where God presents all the animals to Adam to name. Man then uses earth for his gain. Zimmerman portrays a counter drama,

The huge quantities of poisonous industrial and municipal wastes, the nuclear weapons, the destruction of the living Earth--all are manifestations of what amounts to human self-worship. Having "killed" God, humanity arrogated itself the Divine position in the Great Chain of Being. Human beings became the origin and measure for all value, truth, and meaning. (p. 141). Although, in this fantasy, all humans are at fault, it is men who are primarily responsible and men continue to act upon that belief in business, science, and technology. Kheel (1990) uses hunting as an example. While granting that women hunt, she constructs it as a male need to dramatically act out the conquest of nature. The hunter may appreciate the beauty of nature, but only in the guise of being built for his consumption.

In the same way, this vision links violence toward women and violence toward the earth. The dominant, patriarchal view holds that women, too, are created for the consumption of men. Plant (1990) argues

We have painfully seen that it is the same attitude that allows violence toward us that also justifies the rape of the Earth. Literally, the images are the same. We also know that we just as capable, generally speaking, of enacting the same kind of behavior. (p. 159) While it is men who are responsible for the violence toward women, it is women and men alike who are responsible for the waste of the earth. Women living out their lives in developed society are responsible for the damage they inflict upon the Earth.

The images of the earth are of devastation on an tragic level. The visions are almost hopeless. In their dramatic construction of the present, one gets the idea that there is little left to save, but they do look toward the future. Catherine Keller contends, "Yet this apocalyptic sort of message would not be worth repeating if it weren't also the case that there is still great life and responsiveness in the Earth as well" (p. 249).

Action. The action in this drama is based on the following philosophical view:

Only by recognizing that humanity is no more, but also no less, important than all other things on Earth can we learn to dwell on the planet within limits that would allow other species to flourish and to follow out their own evolutionary destiny. (Zimmerman, 140) This consciousness is dependent upon all developing the same sort of connection that women have to nature (Kheel, p. 136). Human community must be rebuilt on mended relationships with the natural world. The result is personal action focusing on living in balance with nature to help save the planet.

The action is living on the basis of the philosophy. Truly adapting to the needs of nature. This bioregionalist attitude is embedded in the following fantasy theme by Plant:

Bioregionalism means learning to become native to place, fitting ourselves to a particular place, not fitting a place to our predetermined tastes. It is living within the limits and the gifts provided by a place, creating a way of life that can be passed on to future generations. (p. 158) Fitting into the natural balance of nature is mostly a personal struggle, but, through networking with others, it can become an united effort involving many. Russell uses an analogy to reflect the shared vision: "I also saw I had the choice to live as a healthy cell, joining with other healthy cells, to function as part of the Earth's immune system" (p. 228). The result was Eco-Home, where wastes are reduced and recycled, energy conserved, food is grown organically, and investments are made in projects to save the earth. There they live with the world on a limited basis but attempt to spread their lifestyle to others. In this vision, these are the heroes, battling within their own homes to become better consumers and better Earthmates.

Future. The future is dependent upon all adopting this strategy of living with the Earth. We can fit into the ecosystem by recycling resources and utilizing renewable resources. This can only come about through a total change in consciousness. This vision, like the others, promotes an entirely new way of life. Plant offers a vision of that future which would result in an

"egalitarian society--a society that would be based on the full participation and involvement of women and men in the process of adaptation and thus in the maintenance of healthy ecosystems" (p. 159). Disputes would be solved on this basis. Zimmerman contends, "the disputes would take place with the presupposition that all entities concerned have "rights" that must be taken into account in the decision-making process" (p. 140). As a result, this society would operate on the basis of what is best for the whole of society (p. 149).

Ecofeminist Saga

These three distinct visions are all linked together under an ecofeminist saga. The consciousness created by sharing the saga includes the base fantasy themes and types of each. The shared fantasies are based in the link between the devaluation of women and nature by men. Men use this linked devaluation to control, despoil, manipulate, and use women and nature for their gain. Western development and industrialization have further separated man from nature, thus continuing and exacerbating the exploitation of both women and nature. All visions call for fundamental change, based in realigning values. In the new egalitarian system, all are equal and no one is exploited for the gain of another. All live together in harmony.


The analysis shows that ecofeminism is truly not a movement in the traditional sense and may now be, as Sale argued, the shared dramas that inform other traditional movements. Each vision comes out of the three groups out of which ecofeminism emerged. Each of these visions is still differentiated and not well integrated into a collective view of ecofeminism. On the whole, these groups remain separate and distinct because the saga is limited and unable to unite all of the fantasies of each under its umbrella. To some extent, this is because the basis of ecofeminist consciousness is built upon sharing fantasies that deny uniform, constraining thought.

This results in what is termed a "saga" but is indeed not operating at that level. Ecofeminism serves as a term of identity that may unite these groups at conferences, in books, and in the popular press, but does not create uniform commitment to a uniform mission. Certainly, the general theory of what is wrong and what should be is consistent among the visions, but there is little agreement on the specifics or how to get there. Ecofeminism is an identity umbrella, without a mission statement which could create commitment and concerted, collective action.

As such, ecofeminism is left to operate as a midly unifying rhetoric for diverse interests and networks. And the same appears to be generally true of the different visions under ecofeminism. All three tend to operate as a consciousness resulting in personal change, with a concern for the wider world. Because of the call for localized action, the feminist vision has the most opportunity to result in collective action, but, for now, their heroes are those who are operating on the local level to solve problems directly impacting them. While this seems to be step away from new social movements, those ascribing to the feminist vision in this collection are not those that they hold up as heroes. The writers give the theoretical view of what is and should be, and only utilize these heroes as what can be done. However, because they call for localized direct action, this vision is the closest to traditional collective action.


These new phenomena do operate as identity networks offering a philosophy for living. The focus is on raising a collective consciousness in order to fundamentally change the structure of the world. This is a new form of action which operates entirely at the symbolic level, and there are many such groups within the larger structure of the environmental movement. Rhetorical analysis proved useful in uncovering how this process works within groups.

The utilization of fantasy-theme analysis allows the researcher to uncover meanings and understand how they operate within the movement. The result is a better understanding of what ecofeminism and the level at which it operates for those who identify with it. Also, this study provides a view into how other such movements may operate as identity and consciousness for participants.

Further study should focus on how other rhetorical methods can help inform an understanding of these movements. An exploration of the use of Foucault, Habermas, and other theorists of ideology would be useful. Also, it would interesting to attempt an explanation of why these new movements are growing so rapidly in response to society.

As a whole, this conception has promise of developing a method of understanding and analyzing these new phenomena. This study forges an important link with other fields where rhetoric is central and useful in discovering how the process of meaning operates in the creation of consciousness and identity.


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References for Analysis

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