I felt a little strange the first day I walked into our class, mostly because I was somewhat of an outsider in a group who seemed to know each other. I sat down and listened as class began. I found it hard to focus on what was being said. Words seemed to rise and fill the room without creating any form that I could recognize. I listened hard and tried to engage myself in the dialogue. Some of the other students seemed involved, some resistant, trying to argue their own space into the dialogue. Sometimes ideas would surface that would resonate with me and pull me in; I could see that both students and professor cared deeply about the things I valued most. Yet, somehow we did not tap my core of questions with the theories and frameworks we used. Logical arguments assigning ethical values to objects, abstract theories that universally prescribe for every situation, disagreement and defense, philosophical examples of extreme situations of morality that described violence, incest, rape . . . with all these things I felt more and more alienated from the group. I, an opinionated and outspoken woman, felt silenced. Surely the group would welcome my contributions, but why did I feel so stifled? How could a discussion of ethics so completely embody what to me is unethical? I should have known that even something so intense and personal as values could be pinned down and violated by patriarchal Anglo thought. If I were a survivor of sexual abuse, I certainly would have fled the classroom, never to return, feeling violated once again, due to the needless description of violence and rape in the philosophical examples. This, a perfect metaphor for the use of conceptual frameworks which value patriarchal-style rational...
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... use. It is not sufficient to discuss oppression and injustice in one section as separate from the other topics we explore. In every issue we will encounter marginalized groups who are victims of environmental injustice, and I fear we may be tempted to blame them for environmental devastation. In reality, they may know part of the solution we seek. I would also ask that we expand the frameworks we use to include non-dominant frameworks, so that members of our class are not systematically alienated parallel to the groups we may discuss. Let's keep in mind our context, as students living in the upper-middle class, Anglo, patriarchal society of an elite college, as people who are born into conferred dominance. I think we will be able to discuss environmental ethics in a way that is inclusive, pluralistic, contextual and holistic, as recommended by ecofeminist thinkers.
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