Children's perceptions of environment through an ecofeminist, poststructuralist lens

Year: 1994

Author: Barron, Deidre H.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Weedon argues from a feminist poststructuralist perspective that the construction of men and women as opposites in a superior and inferior relationship is manifested in hegemonic discourses. Davies adds that through these discourses the hegemonic social order is maintained as individuals learn to take up femaleness or maleness as if it were an essential element of their personal and social selves. What these feminist poststructuralist theorists overlook is that one of the many subject positions available to women and men is their humanness. That is, within the social process individuals not only learn to take up gender-appropriate roles but human-appropriate roles.

In this paper I deconstruct the hegemonic discourse of environmentalism revealing how it has been based on the notion of "culture" as masculine, "nature" as feminine. I argue that discourses that present this notion as "truth" work to maintain the current social order of male over female, culture over nature. I am also interested in exploring the ways in which these discourses can be challenged, thereby offering an alternative to the "male" versus "female", "culture" versus "nature" dualisms.

This deconstruction of current environmental discourses takes place within the context of my analysis of children's responses to hearing environmental stories. I examine the relation between the discourses made available through the stories and the children's interpretation based on their understandings of everyday life. This is combined with the current understanding generated by feminist poststructural analysis of children's perception of gender to generate an understanding of how perceptions of nature and perceptions of self are interrelated.