The Relationship Between Solarpunk and Ecofeminism

SFRA Review, vol. 52, no. 3

Sexual Violence and Science Fiction

The Relationship Between Solarpunk and Ecofeminism

Meltem Dağcı

Solarpunk is a new genre of literature among ecological utopias that started to emerge in the 2010s and is also categorized as post-utopia in the field of science fiction and fantasy. Rather than focusing on the past or the future, this genre depicts utopian cities by considering current society and environmental conditions and creating realistic fictions based on the present. The most striking feature of these depictions is that solarpunk imagines a life to solve the problems of the twenty-first century.

Solarpunk’s notion of justice is a tool for understanding capitalism’s exploitation of nature. By blending alternative economic systems of capitalism with science fiction, it depicts realistic scenarios aimed at solving the climate crisis and producing enough to meet human needs. The ultimate goal of every solarpunk story, consciously or unconsciously, is the discovery of an equitable distribution of goods, because without equal distribution societies cannot exist in an ecological way. It is essential to rebuild economic and social structures that will create fair bonds in human-nature relations, as well as between people.

In addition to its social and economic characteristics, solarpunk also stands out for its creative depictions of architecture and aesthetics. Concepts such as “brightness” are described in detail, with emphasis on advanced solar technology in the works. For example, the facades of buildings are usually completely covered with solar panels, and structures similar to trees and flowers built into architectural structures occur frequently. These aesthetic designs hide the functional properties of solar panels and bring groundbreaking innovations to the infrastructure systems of cities. The fact that the technical features of the infrastructure systems are provided by renewable energy sources such as solar and wind reflects the desire of the system to be self-sustaining.

Throughout the history of humanity, women and nature have been controlled and exploited by the male-dominated understanding of humanity. This conflation of women and nature is turned into a tool of exploitation by equating a woman’s production function with her body and labor and nature’s function of providing production. Nature and women are at the center of the same problems in terms of the situations they are exposed to in the process and are negatively affected by these problems. The problems in question are caused by the domination-based understanding of the patriarchal society mentality towards women and nature (Özdemir and Aydemir 273)

The subordination and oppression of women, their inability to have a say over their body, and their unequal position in social roles and responsibilities exist due to the unequal, unjust, and exploitative understanding of the male-dominated system. Since the basis of the inequality and domination system is pervasive, the women’s issues have started to be handled with different approaches in the feminist movement, for example, liberal feminism with gender inequality on the political plane. Every feminist approach deals with gender inequality in a complementary way, such as gender-based wage inequality with Marxist/socialist feminism, racial inequality with Black feminism, gender inequality in internet and technology with cyberfemism. Thus, feminism gave birth to various feminist branches in the twentieth century, branches that look at women’s problem from different perspectives. Due to postmodernism, branches that deal with women’s issues in different contexts—such as radical, Marxist, socialist, Islamic, existentialist, cultural, ecofeminism—have developed. Özdemir and Duygu  argue that the source of women and environmental problems is the male-dominated understanding, and argues that in a world woven with relations based on domination, an egalitarian, just, non-oppressive, livable life can only be achieved through a feminist approach to environmental problems (Aydemir 1).

Ecofeminism is a movement that sees the connection between the exploitation of the natural world and the oppression of women. It emerged in the mid-1970s with the impetus of second- and third-wave feminism alongside the green movement. Ecofeminism combines feminism and environmentalist understanding in the same pot by striving for the solution of natural and environmental problems while struggling with the sexist understanding that feminism struggles with. At this point, it is important to examine the common points of feminism and ecological approaches. I summarize the common points of feminism and ecological approaches as follows:

  • Patriarchal domination is associated with rationality and technocratic values, which it holds responsible for the destruction and exploitation of nature. Feminism’s criticisms of science and philosophy shaped by a masculine point of view, and criticisms of ecological approaches to the position of human in the ecosystem align. (Soper, qtd. in Üzel)
  • According to the common point that both feminism and “Greens” emphasize, the integration of the ecosystem and its interdependence with the human create a necessary relational ethics. This ethic, according to Ruether, “must be an ethic of environmental justice that recognizes the interconnectedness of social domination and domination over nature” (189).
  • The reactions of ecologists to the exploitation of nature and their demands for a change in the view of nature are parallel to the demands of feminism, the domination of women and the change of stereotypes associated with femininity. Another common point of ecological view and feminism is that the Enlightenment thought sees nature and animals as lower than human beings and makes them a means of discovery for humans, and that women are positioned lower than men (Soper, qtd. in Üzel 112-113)

Women, who came together to discuss the intersections of feminism and environmentalism, underlined the need to respect women and nature and stated that throughout human history, women and nature were associated and both were kept under pressure (Plumwood 33). As a result of a male-dominated understanding, women and nature are generally chaotic, irrational, and controlled; men, on the other hand, are generally described as rational and controlling beings. (Aydemir 1). Therefore, throughout history, nature and women have remained under the order and control of men. Ecofeminists argue that this arrangement empowers men and leads to a hierarchical structure that allows the exploitation of women and nature, especially as long as the two are interrelated. King explains the source of women and nature problems in the ecofeminist movement as follows:

Eco-feminism is about the integrity and commitment of theory and practice. It shows the special strength and integrity of all living things. We are a movement that defines women and we believe we have a special job to do in these challenging times. We see the destruction of the land and its assets by corporate fighters and the threat of nuclear annihilation as feminist concerns. It is the masculine mentality that deprives us of our rights over our own bodies and sexuality and has multiple systems of domination to possess them. (King qtd. in Salleh).

The main purpose of ecofeminist research has been to reveal the connections established between women and nature throughout history and to weaken patriarchal domination by criticizing these connections. Ecofeminist activists—women and environmentalists—invite us to work together, to end the hierarchical structures forced on both women and nature, and to end unequal relationships based on domination of one over the other. With the emergence of these ideas, critical voices have emerged among both environmental groups and feminist groups. Environmentalists, within their groups, do not question the patriarchal elements in the environmental struggle; feminists, on the other hand, criticized those who do not question the traditionally assigned relationship between nature and women.   

Ecofeminist entrepreneurs point to the contradiction between production and productivity, especially regarding human reproduction, and stand up to the blows inflicted by production on both biological and social productivity, thereby drawing attention to issues and suggesting solutions. (Tamkoç) When radioactivity emerges from nuclear power plant accidents, toxic chemicals and hazardous waste threaten the biological development of the human species; thus, women have become aware of this contradiction in their own bodies and in the bodies of their children. In Western society, nature and women in their homes are polluted by industrial waste, excessive packaging and plastics; third-world women also experience the helpless feeling brought on by a lack of food, fuel, and clean water. Third-world women are also desperately trying to cope with the ecological imbalance created by multinational companies and the consumption industry by preserving their traditional lifestyles.

Women from both worlds can be ecofeminists who take action against life-threatening ecological attacks. Since many societies use the female physiological structure as an excuse to prevent them from walking freely in the society like men, women have naturally stayed at home and specialized in the management of the house and food preparation. Since women have to cope with personal problems and crisis situations at home and in their immediate environment, and their sensitivity skills are developed, they find practical solutions, and their personal and gender characteristics reveal women’s personal problems and political problems according to the growth and development processes of children. Many women activists reject technology developed by men and stress that they, not the men, have to fight the ill effects of chemical waste. They insist that their protest is a matter of life and death for women, as pesticides sprinkled on vegetables and trees reach pregnant women and children by air and water, and poison causes deaths and miscarriages.

If there is a much more important task for ecofeminists, it is to scientifically examine the reasons why the capitalist system wants to ruthlessly defeat nature. We know that the world desperately needs ecofeminists, since within patriarchal thought, ideologies such as capitalism, militarism and colonialism—that is, a system of relations based on domination—relies on the oppression of women and nature.

Factors that determine the extent to which people will be affected by climate change include social status, gender, poverty, access to resources, and who is in control. It has become questionable how both women and men respond to climate change, to what extent their views are received and supported, and how they contribute to climate change. The fact that women are not represented in decision-making mechanisms reduces the effectiveness of planning, developing, and implementing climate policies. In combating and adapting to climate change, women are unable to influence policies, programs, and decisions that may be closely related to their own life.

It has been widely accepted in recent years that climate change increases existing inequalities, especially gender inequalities, and creates different effects on women and men (Talu). The existence of structural differences between men and women due to gender-specific roles in society, work and family life, the vulnerability of both sexes to climate change, and their capacity to adapt to the impacts all cause social differences according to age, ethnicity, class, income level, religion, and gender. In this respect, it is necessary to consider the unique needs and priorities of each gender in all areas of combating climate change, and not to think that the effects on women and men are limited to short-term effects and behavioral changes. Women and men differ in their perceptions of climate change and the way they deal with this phenomenon. 

Gender-based inequalities play a role in increasing vulnerability to climate change. Especially in developing countries, women living in rural areas are among the groups most affected by climate change. Rural women are more dependent on threatened natural resources for their livelihoods, due to their traditional role as primary users of natural resources and working in unpaid agricultural work. As the effects of climate change make the supply of natural resources increasingly difficult, women are more exposed to the negative effects of climate change in their daily lives—for example, in the supply of water and food than men.

The physical disadvantage of women in climate disasters is exacerbated by social norms. Even their clothes create obstacles for women to escape from disasters. In one recent Bangladesh cyclone, women could not run because of their traditional clothing, the sari—which is a long one-piece garment woven from silk or cotton, fitted to the body without the use of stitches, worn by women in South Asian countries such as Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. The women could not swim and thus died. Also in Bangladesh, the fact that some fathers rescued their sons instead of their daughters for the sake of perpetuating their surname is a striking example of gender inequality that yields to social norms in climate disasters (“Women in Bangladesh”).   

The 6th Ambassadors Meeting of the “Women’s SES” project was organized by the SES (Equality, Justice, Woman Platform) Equality and Solidarity Association in cooperation with Operation 1325 in order to make women’s voices more prominent on social media. The project aims to enable more women to be active in decision-making through raising the “Women’s SES,” as well as bringing awareness to issues such as gender equality, social peace and sustainability, reducing women’s poverty, violence against women, women’s participation in politics, and climate justice. It aims to raise awareness with creative social media campaigns to take action on urgent issues such as media freedom and solving the problems of women and girl’s refugees. (SES Equality, Justice, Women Platform)

The climate crisis has a serious relationship with gender. Nature has been metaphorized for years as a consumable, productive entity. It has been long paired with women’s sacrifice, fertility, and productivity. But this is one of the things that the patriarchal thought system produces. The representative of the climate crisis is the patriarchal system itself. If we consider how patriarchal all states and systems are, we can see that the decisions made by the system are in these non-pluralist, non-inclusive institutions where women are not permitted.

Climate justice is one of the most debated topics. Justice and equality do not go together, but simultaneously. Climate justice is also not possible without gender equality. Combating climate change is not possible without gender equality. A climate change struggle without women is unthinkable.

“Young women in Turkey have great entrepreneurial potential. We can use this potential very well. I think women should be supported a little more in this regard. Education is very important here. During the pandemic, everything went online. Increasing the access of young women to online education is very important. Of course, this is also connected with the climate crisis. The first name that comes to mind in the fight against the climate crisis is Greta Thunberg. Greta was able to educate herself on this, and so have I. I am in a position to access resources when I want to read about the climate crisis. But it is very important to raise awareness of the climate crisis among young women who do not have access to education in this way.” (SES Equality, Justice, Women Platform, Speaker: Selin Gören)

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) report, which took two years to prepare, is the largest and most comprehensive study to date on the effects of climate change and environmental degradation on gender-based violence. The report mentions that the rate of forced marriages of girls increases in situations such as famine and hunger caused by climate disasters. Malawi is one of the regions where this situation occurs. Ntoya Sande is one of the girls forced into marriage at the age of thirteen by her family, who lost their land as a result of a flood. In times of famine in Ethiopia and South Sudan, girls are sold for cattle. (Karakaş, 2020)

Juliana Schmucker, Asia regional director of the NGO International Plan, points out that child marriages and forced marriages have increased significantly during the climate crisis. Worldwide, roughly 12 million girls are thought to be forced into marriage as a result of escalating natural disasters. In addition, climate-based disasters seem to increase trafficking in women for forced sex by 20-30%. It was also noted in the report that women fighting for environmental rights received death and rape threats. In the West, it was seen that women working in these fields were exposed to similar threats on social media. 

In IUCN’s research, which compiles the responses from a total of 300 NGOs around the world, 6 out of 10 participants stated that women living in areas of environmental destruction, women’s environmental rights defenders, and women who had to migrate or take refuge in other countries as a result of environmental crises, were exposed to gender-based violence. 

When we look at the international agreements that take into account the climate- and women-focused components, almost all of the governments of the world have accepted the global commitments on climate and gender. However, the policies established within the framework of these agreements do not yet contribute to the development of gender-based climate policies at national levels. Creating gender-equal climate policies should be seen as an important opportunity not only to combat climate change, but also to reduce gender discrimination.

As can be seen, gender analysis is strongly needed in areas such as mitigation, adaptation, financing, technology transfer, and capacity building in the fight against climate change. Thus, gender-sensitive priorities and needs should be highlighted. I believe that ecofeminist women/girls are on a similar and common ground of thought in the face of the problems they face, without being imprisoned in the idea of a capitalist and masculine world. 

For this, women should have a say in the policies of combating climate change in order to be sensitive to gender at almost every level of government—global, regional, national, or local.


“Kadın SES’i: İklim Krizinin Sebebi Patriyarkal Sistemin Ta Kendisi.” SES Equality, Justice, Women Platform. 25 Dec. 2020. Accessed 17 July 2022.

Karakas, Öznur. (2020). “Kadına Yönelik Şiddet İklim Değişikliği İle Artıyor.” terrabayt, 9 March 2020, Accessed 17 July 2022.

King, Ynestra. “Healing the wounds: Feminism, Ecology and Nature/Culture Dualism.” Gender/body/knowledge: Feminist Reconstructions of Being and Knowing, edited by Alison M. Jaggar and Susan R. Bordo, Rutgers UP, 1990, pp. 115-44. 

Özdemir, Hacı and Duygu Aydemir. “Ekolojik Yaklaşımlı Feminizm/Ekofeminizm Üzerine Genel bir Değerlendirme: Kavramsal Analizi, Tarihi Süreci ve Türleri [A general review of Ecological Feminism/ecofeminism: its conceptual analysis, historical process and types].” Mediterranean Journal of Women’s Studies and Gender, vol. 2, no. 2, 2019, pp. 261-78.

Plumwood, Val. Feminizm ve doğaya hükmetmek. İstanbul, Metis, 2004.

Ruether, Rosemary Radford. New Woman, New Earth: Sexist Ideologies and Human Liberation. Seabury Press, 1975.

Talu, Nuran. “İklim Değişikliği ve Toplumsal Cinsiyet Politika Belirleme Süreçleri.” Yasama Dergisi, vol. 33, 2016, pp. 68-87.

 “Women in Bangladesh build resilience against climate change.” 11 Sept. 2015., accessed 17 July 2022.

Tamkoç, Günseli. “Ekofeminizm Amaçları. [Aims of Ecofeminism]” Kadın Araştırmaları Dergisi, vol. 0, no. 4, 2012.

Üzel, Esra. Feminizm ve doğa ekseninde ekofeminizm. 2006. Master’s Thesis, Ankara Üniversitesi, Ankara.

After graduating from Ondokuz Mayıs University with a degree in computer programming, Meltem Dağcı graduated from Anadolu University in the Department of Turkish Language and Literature. In recent years, she has been interested in stories and novels in the genre of science fiction and fantasy. Her stories, book articles, and interviews have been published in various magazines and newspapers. She has been on the team of the Edebiyat Nöbeti Magazine for six years. She has been continuing her conversations with the Writer’s Room in Edebiyat Haber for about two years.

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SFRA Review is the flagship publication of the Science Fiction Research Association since 1971.

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