How Three Mile Island birthed eco-feminism


Nuclear disaster motivated  and mobilized women’s movement

One of the perhaps lesser-known outcomes of the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster, marking it 43rd commemoration today, is that it inspired the popularization of what is now known as “eco-feminism.”

Writes Grace Rivers, a sophomore at Georgetown University, in The Hoya:

“Emerging in the 1970s and 80s with a conference that sought to merge the goals of feminism and environmentalism, ecological feminism was created to examine the crucial connection between women and nature. The conference was prompted after a meltdown at Three Mile Island, the site of a nuclear power plant in central Pennsylvania. It became known as ‘Women and Life on Earth: A Conference on Eco-Feminism in the Eighties’ and was hosted at Amherst.”

The meltdown at Three Mile Island prompted large numbers of women in the USA to come together, wrote Maria Mies. “At this conference the connections between feminism and militarization, healing and ecology were explored.”

In their introduction to Ecofeminism by Mies and Vandana Shiva, the authors noted:

“Wherever women acted against ecological destruction or/and the threat of atomic annihilation, they immediately became aware of the connection between patriarchal violence against women, other people and nature, and that: In defying this patriarchy we are loyal to future generations and to life and this planet itself. We have a deep and particular understanding of this both through our natures and our experience as women.”

Women have continued to play a prominent role in drawing attention to the long-lasting after effects of Three Mile Island, especially on women and children, the most vulnerable to harm from exposure to radiation. Watch for the new documentary by Heidi Hutner: Radioactive. The Women of Three Mile Island, coming soon.

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