Environmental activism has shifted in expression over time to performative art, and this transition has been coined artivism. Artivism, when art across all types of media is used in activism, has significant capacity to convey specific environmental concerns through performative expression, creating an avenue of understanding amongst communities. However, certain identities facing the most detriment from climate change reside from view in environmental movements due to social and political power dynamics. Previous work in this field has neglected to analyze relationships among environmental artivism and gender identity. This literature review investigated the role of gender in environmental activism and other non-environmental activism, and how artivism has contributed to new understandings of gender in environmentalism.
The authors conducted a literature review for this study. They searched for related articles in online databases and their initial search yielded 5,521 items from 63 countries published between 1922 and 2019. They refined their search further for articles, books, or book chapters related to environmental artivism (762) and general papers on artivism only from 2018 (616). The determining factor for a reference to be classified as related to environmental activism depended on a list of baseline terms directly associated with the author's definition of environment. Next, beginning analysis occurred on the resulting articles. The researchers organized all sources into related groups. Three themes emerged in the coding process: 1) types of art, 2) kind of environmental topic discussed, and 3) whether gender was mentioned in the art or by the artist. If gender was mentioned in the article, the database coded for specific terms such as feminism, masculinity, girl, boy, or queer. Analysis aimed to determine the relativity of gender in environmental artivism compared to other non-environmental forms of artivism. After the coding process, the researchers used frequency charts and modularity analysis to visually represent the chosen terms related to gender identity, art, and environmental activism (the visual can be viewed in the article). The network of connections produced a modularity display that jutted outwards into six sections, representing six strands of results that came from the research.
Researchers found the most frequent art forms used in environmental artivism were film, performance expression, literature, and music. The six ways gender was often portrayed in environmental artivism in the review were: 1) women's embodiment of the environmental crisis; 2) stories about the impacts human's have on earth through feminist and queer perspectives; 3) student's leadership in sustainability activism in innovative ways; 4) children's role in environmental justice fights that often stems from their lived experience and emotions; 5) diversity of subjects facing environmental conflicts; and 6) youth action based on solidarity and calls for radical environmental change, such as through urban transformation and nature conservation. Altogether, artistic performance and creation convey societal values and allow for the expression of many different identities and communities. These strands show different ways of expressing and engaging with environmental issues through art. Particularly in the review, the authors found the role of women to be prominent in the art, whether as creators or subjects of art. Such as, a photography project showed the role of women in fighting mining. Women often bore the brunt of ecological concerns and thus are depicted and internalize environmental problems differently than other gender identities. Additionally, the researchers found gender to be more apparent in other types of artivism besides environmental artivism.
The authors compared their research to three common demands of environmental improvement other authors have determined. These include: 1) protection of wilderness; 2) technological innovations for eco-efficiency and modernization, and 3) engaging people whose livelihoods directly effected by environmental disaster. They found different levels of gender considered in each of these improvements, and how artivism could further influence them. Such as, artivism in conservation can lead to important conversations that center feminist ways of thinking. In technological innovations, considering gender might look like understanding the prominent role women have in making consumer choices, however, the responsibility of corporations to make eco-efficient choices should not be lost. Artivism can challenge the woman as a caregiver narrative through showcasing women in activism. In engaging with communities effected by environmental disaster, artivism can highlight the complex gendered relationships in disasters and emotions in disasters.
This study had limitations. Although the researchers acknowledge heteronormative standards, this study primarily focuses on the gender binary. Secondly, this research only covers published artivism and likely is missing many examples and perspectives from unpublished artists.
The researchers recommend more and deeper research into gender and environmental activism. They also recommend that environmental movements, which could include environmental educators, should address, or allow space for how gender interplays with their artivism. Lastly, this research uncovered a significant amount of artivism centered around young people, and the researchers suggest activism with these groups should utilize artistic forms of expression.
The Bottom Line
<p>Art and performative artwork are not only a physical product but also an emotional connection. The researchers of this study sought to understand the ways organizations and individuals have facilitated the growing emphasis of environmental concerns through environmental and engendered artivism. The researchers collected 5,521 resources spanning 98 years and found six common strands of how gender is portrayed in artivism. The authors also compared their research to three common demands of environmental improvement other authors have determined and considered how gendered artivism could further influence them. Results highlighted the role of women and young people in environmental artivism. The researchers recommend environmental movements allow space for how gender interplays with their artivism and suggest art be utilized in activism with young people.</p>