January 4, 2008

Faeries in the Forest: Queering Environmental Activism

Filed under: anarchism,Ecofeminism,nature,Queer activism/theory,Uncategorized — polywog @ 11:13 p01

Queers marked the first years of the 21st century with a vanguard praxis that reverberated throughout the forest and its network of defenders. They transformed a once starkly heteronormative activism into one which loudly undermined gender convention. Coming from an anti-assimilationist perspective, queer activists did not simply join largely heterosexual forest defense campaigns; in Cascadia, inclusion meant radical transformation. The presence of radical queer perspectives transformed the attitudes and politics of the broader movement. A significant strand of activists, including many people who did not identify as queer, understood activism, sexuality, ecology, anarchism, and feminism as inextricably linked. In Oregon’s green valley in the early 2000’s, activists who defended forests also deconstructed gender and sexuality, freeing something in themselves as they defended the wild and free surrounding them.

This is my first attempt toward a first paragraph of a paper I am presenting in Chicago in March. I’m in the midst of transforming the last chapter of my undergraduate thesis into a stand-alone essay with the title above. What do ya’ll think of the title? I’ve gotten two approvals and one person felt it was offensive. I like it, but I obviously don’t want it to have a derogatory ring, and I don’t want it to be a direct reference to the Radical Faeries either. This is the first time I’m making any of this work public. The abstract for the larger paper is as follows:

Between 1985 and 2006, radical ecological activism in the Pacific Northwest made significant theoretical and strategic shifts which challenge and contribute to feminism, ecofeminism, queer theory, and anarchism. As feminist forest defenders spoke out against the male-dominance in the movement, they challenged individual men as well as the patriarchal underpinnings of the environmental and eco-anarchist movements at large. Through a process of articulating patriarchy within their activist groups; separating from men into autonomous women- and transgender-only spaces; challenging men to take up feminist politics; and then reintegrating to work in coalition with men, these activists created deeply lived theories and political strategies which managed to affirm their goals as anarchists and feminists while successfully stopping timber sales. Importantly, women and transgender activists created a ‘separatism’ to create safe and empowering spaces, challenging sexism and sexual harassment, while working with the men who shared their goals. This noteworthy strategy transformed and strengthened their community rather than fracturing it. Forest defense was a site on which many theories were embodied on the ground, contested, and used as tools along with such useful items as wrenches, truck rope and harnesses. A historical analysis combined with ecofeminist, feminist, anarchist, and queer theory elucidates an important theme for feminist and movement history: the failure of single-issue politics. The objective of forest defense does not preclude or undermine the objective of feminism. Rather, forest defense provides a physical and cultural space to experiment with anti-oppression and anti-authoritarianism in ways that mainstream society and mainstream spaces cannot as readily afford.


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