Intersectional Ecofeminist Communication: A New Paradigm for Environmental Communication

Fred Murphy Photography

Intersectional Ecofeminist Communication: A New Paradigm for Environmental Communication

Engagement at the nexus of environmental and feminist communication studies, until recently, has been cursory. A new field, Intersectional ecofeminist communication studies, aims to address this engagement and offers guiding principles for approaching environmental communication challenges. 

Singer, Norie Ross. 2020. Toward Intersectional Ecofeminist Communication Studies. Communication Theory, 30(3): 268–89. 

Both nature and environmentalism continue to be oppressed by patriarchal systems of communication and culture. These current communication and cultural norms make achieving gender justice increasingly difficult. Globally, women of color face disproportionate impacts from these norms. Attempting to address this oppression has spurred struggles within environmental communication outlets that have perpetuatedrather than solved, these challenges. To address these, environmental communicators must give more attention to gender intersectionality to improve communication of environmental issues. Fortunately, ecofeminist research – an umbrella term for approaches that critique present systems oppressing women and nature – is emerging. 


In recent Communication Theory article, Dr. Norie Ross Singer of Saginaw Valley State University, discusses the timeliness and importance of including intersectionality in ecofeminist communication. Intersectionality acknowledges multiple categories of identity such as race, gender, and class, and rejects any universal categorization of an individual or group’s experiences. Dr. Singer reviews an abundance of ecofeminist literature to recognize the research and champion the field as one with advantages for communicating current environmental problems. 


According to Singer, connecting ecofeminism with intersectionality in environmental communication brings unique advantages. One advantage is that it uniquely reveals and resists practices that perpetuate environmental injustices and destroy nature. Singer discusses further advantages of intersectional ecofeminist communication approaches to allow for new, more inclusive frameworks to emerge.  


Historically, the westernized male dominated arena, both within and beyond environmentalism, has disciplined sexuality in ways that present certain gender identities as either absent, irrational, erotic, or radical. In contrast, intersectional ecofeminist communication includes historically subordinated arenas such as queer ecofeminism. This recognizes the interconnectedness of oppressed identities, with special concern for how oppression has negatively impacted the gay, lesbian, and transgender communities. Also, worth noting is that Singer amplifies this principle through analyzing the alliance of ecofeminism and environmental justice advocacy. 


Singer outlines three guiding principles for intersectional ecofeminist communication studies. As a first principle, intersectional ecofeminist communication resists systems that subject women and nature to mutually existing oppressions. Through resistance, intersectional ecofeminist practices reframe the boundaries of gender and nature as meaningful. Secondly, Singer outlines the principle of cultivating theories that grow social alliances while also respecting differences. Importantly, Singer states that intersectional ecofeminist communication applies to a fluidity of genders and their connections to environmentalism. Lastly, there is a call for intersectional ecofeminist communication approaches that unite around a social change vision of the coexistence of intersectional gender justice and ecological sustainability. Intersectional ecofeminist communication approaches reject conventional denial of nature’s independent value. Furthermore, it actively rejects framing humankind as the most powerful entity controlling nature, which is a masculinity-based belief guided by the ideals of white heterosexual designed systems.  


These approaches actively affirm feminists’ and environmentalists’ concerns and practices that independently center nature rather than centering humans in nature. Singer establishes that intersectional ecofeminiscommunication can be utilized as a guidepost to better environmental communication and to increase contributions to the fight for gender justice. By utilizing these principles, environmental professionals can further recognize intersectional ecofeminist communication studies as essential to the efforts of better handling current environmental communication challenges.