Course combines feminist concerns with environmental activism

The Portland State University Women’s Studies department will offer a course next semester exploring “ecological feminist spirituality” and the potential for an “ecological revolution.”

Ecofeminist Spirituality” is a senior-level course taught by Dr. Frodo Okulam, and primarily aims to explore “different forms of ecofeminist spirituality” including “feminist biblical interpretation” as well as “goddesses and spirituality.” 

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“The insight of Ecofeminism is that the oppression of women and the exploitation of the earth are related,” Okulam told Campus Reform, adding that “in its least radical form…it would use existing laws to reform our relationship with nature.” 

But Okulam also teaches students about other variations of ecofeminism. In a handout she often provides to students, for instance, she explains that there are Socialist Ecofeminism, Radical Ecofeminism, and Spiritual Ecofeminist schools of thought. 

The most radical of these, she says, is Socialist Ecofeminism, which “would end the domination of women and nature inherent in the capitalist economy’s exploitation of both” and “transform the structure of power itself.” 

Spiritual Ecofeminists would seek “a balance within our ways of knowing, so that neither mind nor body are seen as opposed to one another,” she added. “They do not argue for the primacy of women over men, but against practice of…hierarchical power itself.”

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Though Okulam said that next semester’s syllabus isn’t yet ready, a copy of the previous syllabus indicates that the class is a cross between environmental science, biblical studies, and feminist theory. 

The last time the class was offered, in Fall 2016, students explored topics such as “What is sacred to me, etc?” as well as “How do I envision the relationships among humans, the earth, and the divine or sacred?” 

Selected readings included Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing, Gay and Gaia: Ethics, Ecology, and the Erotic, and The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods.

When asked what she hopes students will learn from the class, Okulam responded by quoting one of her former students, who said that “Going forward I will continue to look for ways to stay connected and deepen my connection with the natural world as well as look for ways to be an activist for the environment.”

“That deep connection with the natural world is the takeaway I think the students have from the Ecofeminist Spirituality class,” Okulam asserted. 

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