Environmental Law & Feminism
The Oxford Handbook of Feminism and Law in the United States
23 Pages Posted: 21 Jul 2020 Last revised: 22 Feb 2022
Date Written: July 21, 2020
Environmental degradation and gender-based discrimination date back millennia. The modern legal movements to curb these two forms of human behavior, however, are still young and emergent. Environmentalism and feminism both respond to harms brought about by systemic failures that enable or even advance patterns of subordination. For environmentalism, the focus is on constraining unbridled ecosystem destruction. For feminism, the focus is on discovering and unraveling the systems and hierarchies that subordinate women.
Although pervasive connections between feminism and environmental law have been recognized since the emergence of modern environmental law, little was done during the first few decades of legal development to cultivate or respond to these linkages. The onset of climate change and the maturing of climate law, however, is bringing renewed attention to the under-explored relationship between environmental law and feminism.
This chapter explores the important, but poorly understood, historic and contemporary relationship between environmental law and legal feminism. It shows how, until recently, these two areas remained largely fragmented even as understanding of the convergences between the fields grew. It then traces how the evolution of ecofeminism, the environmental justice movement, and the climate justice movement are advancing thinking at the intersection of environmental law and feminism and the law. In particular, it suggests that as both environmental law and feminist legal theory increasingly seek to situate ongoing challenges within larger structures of power and inequality, they draw closer together creating opportunities for intellectual exchange and coalition building.
Keywords: ecofeminism, environmental law, international environmental law, environmental justice, climate change, climate justice, social justice feminism
JEL Classification: K3, K30, K32, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation