More than Women and Men: A Framework for Gender and Intersectionality Research on Environmental Crisis and Conflict

  • Amber J. FletcherEmail author
Part of the Water Security in a New World book series (WSEC)


Over the past two decades, the important role of gender in environmental and water-related crises and conflicts has been increasingly recognized. Environmental crises occur in social contexts imbued with gender and other power relations. Existing literature in this area has examined how gender shapes issues of water access, use, governance, and adaptation to environmental crises. Gender, however, has been variously construed and theorized in this work. From essentialist to poststructuralist perspectives, the theorization of gender is key to its application in the environmental sector. In this chapter I present an overview of several major theoretical conceptualizations of sex and gender, ranging from the biological essentialist to the poststructuralist. I identify how gender has been variously used in the literature on environmental crisis and conflict. Key debates about ontology (essentialism) and representation (universalization) are highlighted. Drawing upon (and drawing together) these earlier theoretical insights and debates, I ultimately suggest a conceptual framework for doing multi-level intersectional research on environmental crisis and conflict. The framework helps to address the current tension between highly context-specific analyses and overly structural treatment of gender. The framework aims to help “scale up” the insights of intersectionality while still appropriately attending to the ongoing relevance of gender across contexts.


Gender Sex Feminist theory Intersectionality Essentialism Materialism Poststructuralism Feminist political ecology Social reproduction Environment Water Crisis Conflict 


  1. Ahlers R, Zwarteveen M (2009) The water question in feminism: water control and gender inequities in a neo-liberal era. Gender Place Culture 16(4):409–426. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allouche J (2011) The sustainability and resilience of global water and food systems: political analysis of the interplay between security, resource scarcity, political systems and global trade. Food Policy 36:3–S8. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alston M (2006a) “I’d like to just walk out of here’: Australian women’s experience of drought. Sociol Rural, 46(2):154–170.
  4. Alston M (2006b) The gendered impact of drought. In: Bock BB, Shortall S (eds) Rural gender relations: issues and case studies. CABI, Oxfordshire/Cambridge, MA, pp 165–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alston M (2012) Rural male suicide in Australia. Soc Sci Med 74(4):515–522. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Alston M, Kent J (2008) The Big Dry: the link between rural masculinities and poor health outcomes for farming men. J Sociol 44(2):133–147. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Alston M, Whittenbury K (2013) Does climatic crisis in Australia’s food bowl create a basis for change in agricultural gender relations? Agric Hum Values 30(1):115–128. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Armstrong P, Armstrong H (2003) Beyond sexless class and classless sex: towards feminist Marxism. In: Andrew C, Armstrong P, Armstrong H, Clement W, Vosko LF (eds) Studies in political economy: developments in feminism. Women’s Press, Toronto, pp 11–50Google Scholar
  9. Arora-Jonsson S (2011) Virtue and vulnerability: discourses on women, gender and climate change. Glob Environ Chang 21(2):744–751. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bakker I (2007) Social reproduction and the constitution of a gendered political economy. New Polit Econ 12(4):541–556. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bakker I, Gill S (2008) New constitutionalism and social reproduction. In: Bakker I, Silvey R (eds) Beyond states and markets: the challenges of social reproduction. Routledge, New York, pp 19–33Google Scholar
  12. Balgos B, Gaillard JC, Sanz K (2012) The warias of Indonesia in disaster risk reduction: the case of the 2010 Mt Merapi eruption in Indonesia. Gend Dev 20(2):337–348. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bartsch I, Lederman M (eds) (2001) The gender and science reader. Routledge, London/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Bezanson K, Luxton M (2006) Social reproduction: feminist political economy challenges neo-liberalism. McGill-Queen’s University Press, MontrealGoogle Scholar
  15. Butler J (1990) Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity. Routledge, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  16. Cameron ES (2012) Securing Indigenous politics: a critique of the vulnerability and adaptation approach to the human dimensions of climate change in the Canadian Arctic. Glob Environ Chang 22(1):103–114. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Carolan M, Stuart D (2016) Get real: climate change and all that “it” entails. Sociol Rural 56(1):74–95. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Clemens P, Hietala JR, Rytter MJ, Schmidt RA, Reese DJ (1999) Risk of domestic violence after flood impact: effects of social support, age, and history of domestic violence. Appl Behav Sci Rev 7(2):199–206. Scholar
  19. Collective CR (2007) A Black feminist statement (1977). In: Freedman EB (ed) The essential feminist reader. The Modern Library, New York, pp 325–330Google Scholar
  20. Cornwall A, Harrison E, Whitehead A (2007) Introduction: feminisms in development: contradictions, contestations and challenges. In: Cornwall A, Harrison E, Whitehead A (eds) Feminisms in development: contradictions, contestations and challenges. Zed Books, London, pp 1–20Google Scholar
  21. Crenshaw K (1991) Mapping the margins: intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Rev 43(6):1241. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Crow B, Sultana F (2002) Gender, class, and access to water: three cases in a poor and crowded delta. Soc Nat Resour 15(8):709–724. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Dankelman I (2010) Gender and climate change: an introduction. Earthscan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  24. Delphy C (1984) A materialist feminism is possible. In: Leonard D (Trans) Close to home: a materialist analysis of women’s oppression (pp. 154–181). University of Massachusetts Press, AmherstGoogle Scholar
  25. Detraz N (2009) Environmental security and gender: necessary shifts in an evolving debate. Secur Stud 18(2):345–369. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Di Chiro G (2008) Living environmentalisms: coalition politics, social reproduction, and environmental justice. Environ Politics 17(2):276–298. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Djoudi H, Locatelli B, Vaast C, Asher K, Brockhaus M, Basnett Sijapati B (2016) Beyond dichotomies: gender and intersecting inequalities in climate change studies. Ambio 45(S3):248–262. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Dominey-Howes D, Gorman-Murray A, McKinnon S (2014) Queering disasters: on the need to account for LGBTI experiences in natural disaster contexts. Gender Place Culture 21(7):905–918. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Dowsley M, Gearheard S, Johnson N, Inksetter J (2010) Should we turn the tent?: inuit women and climate change. Inuit Stud 34(1):151–165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Elliott JR, Pais J (2006) Race, class, and Hurricane Katrina: social differences in human responses to disaster. Soc Sci Res 35(2):295–321. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Elmhirst R (2011) Introducing new feminist political ecologies. Geoforum 42(2):129–132. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Enarson E (1999) Violence against women in disasters: a study of domestic violence programs in the United States and Canada. Violence Against Women 5(7):742–768. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Enarson E (2001) What women do: gendered labor in the Red River Valley flood. Environ Hazards 3(1):1–18. Google Scholar
  34. Enarson E (2014) Human security and disasters: What a gender lens offers. In: Hobson C, Bacon P, Cameron R (eds) Human security and natural disasters. Routledge, Oxon/New York, pp 37–56Google Scholar
  35. Field J (2008) Social capital, 2nd edn. Routledge, London/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  36. Field CB, Barros V, Stocker TF, Qin D, Dokken DJ, Ebi KL, Allen SK (2012) Managing the risks of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation. Cambridge University Press, New York. Retrieved from CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Fine C (2010) Delusions of gender: how our minds, society, and neurosexism create difference. W. W. Norton & Company, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  38. Fletcher AJ (2015) Trading futures: economism and gender in a changing climate. Int Soc Work 58(3):364–374. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Fletcher AJ, Knuttila E (2016) Gendering change: Canadian farm women respond to drought. In: Diaz H, Hurlbert M, Warren J (eds) Vulnerability and adaptation to drought: the Canadian prairies and South America. University of Calgary Press, Calgary, pp 159–177Google Scholar
  40. Fletcher AJ, Schonewille R (2015) Overview of resources on gender-sensitive data related to water (Resource paper). United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), ParisGoogle Scholar
  41. Foucault M (1988) The history of sexuality. (R. Hurley, Trans.). Vintage Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  42. Fröhlich C, Gioli G (2015) Gender, conflict, and global environmental change. Peace Rev 27(2):137–146. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Gorman-Murray A, Morris S, Keppel J, McKinnon S, Dominey-Howes D (2016) Problems and possibilities on the margins: LGBT experiences in the 2011 Queensland floods. Gender Place Culture 0(12):1–15. Google Scholar
  44. Haraway D (1988) Situated knowledges: the science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective. Fem Stud 14(3):575–599CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Hartsock N (1983) The feminist standpoint: towards a specifically feminist historical materialism. In: Harding S, Hintikka M (eds) Discovering reality: Feminist perspectives on epistemology, metaphysics, methodology, and philosophy of science. D. Reidel, DordrechtGoogle Scholar
  46. Hawkins R, Seager J (2010) Gender and water in Mongolia. Prof Geogr 62(1):16–31. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Hill Collins P (2015) Intersectionality’s definitional dilemmas. Annu Rev Sociol 41(1):1–20. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. IPCC (2015) Climate change 2014: synthesis report. Contribution of working groups 1, II, and III to the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In: Pachauri RK, Meyer LA (eds). Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, GenevaGoogle Scholar
  49. Juran L, Trivedi J (2015) Women, gender norms, and natural disasters in Bangladesh. Geogr Rev 105(4):601–611CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Kaijser A, Kronsell A (2014) Climate change through the lens of intersectionality. Environ Politics 23(3):417–433. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Katz C (2001a) On the grounds of globalization: a topography for feminist political engagement. Signs 26(4):1213–1234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Katz C (2001b) Vagabond capitalism and the necessity of social reproduction. Antipode 33(4):709–728CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Kevany K, Huisingh D (2013) A review of progress in empowerment of women in rural water management decision-making processes. J Clean Prod 60:53–64. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Kimmel MS, Holler J (2011) The gendered society. Oxford University Press, Don Mills. (Canadian)Google Scholar
  55. Laqueur TW (1992) Making sex: body and gender from the Greeks to Freud. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  56. Leach M (2007) Earth mother myths and other ecofeminist fables: how a strategic notion rose and fell. Dev Chang 38(1):67–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Leap WL, Lewin E, Wilson N (2007) Queering the disaster: a presidential session. North Am Dialogue 10(2):11–14. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. MacGregor S (2010) A stranger silence still: the need for feminist social research on climate change. Sociol Rev 57:124–140. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Milne W (2005) Changing climate, uncertain future: considering rural women in climate change policies and strategies. Canadian Woman Stud 24(4):49–54Google Scholar
  60. Mollett S, Faria C (2013) Messing with gender in feminist political ecology. Geoforum 45:116–125. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Moore N (2008) The rise and rise of ecofeminism as a development fable: a response to Melissa Leach’s “Earth Mothers and Other Ecofeminist Fables: How a Strategic Notion Rose and Fell.”. Dev Chang 39(3):461–475CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Nicholson L (1990) Introduction. In: Nicholson L (ed) Feminism/postmodernism, 1st edn. Routledge, New York/London, pp 1–16Google Scholar
  63. Nightingale AJ (2006) The nature of gender: work, gender, and environment. Environ Plann D Soc Space 24(2):165–185. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Nightingale AJ (2011) Bounding difference: Intersectionality and the material production of gender, caste, class and environment in Nepal. Geoforum 42(2):153–162. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. O’Shaughnessy S, Krogman NT (2011) Gender as contradiction: from dichotomies to diversity in natural resource extraction. J Rural Stud 27(2):134–143. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Osborne N (2015) Intersectionality and kyriarchy: a framework for approaching power and social justice in planning and climate change adaptation. Plann Theor 14(2):130–151. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Plumwood V (2000) Ecofeminism. In: Code L (ed) Encyclopedia of feminist theories. Routledge, London/New York, pp 150–153Google Scholar
  68. Rai SM, Waylen G (eds) (2014) New frontiers in feminist political economy. Routledge, London/New YorkGoogle Scholar
  69. Reed M, Scott A, Natcher D, Johnston M (2014) Linking gender, climate change, adaptive capacity and forest-based communities in Canada. Can J For Res.
  70. Riley D (1988) Am I that name?: Feminism and the category of “women” in history. University of Minnesota Press, MinneapolisCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Rocheleau D, Thomas-Slayter BP, Wangari E (1996) Gender and environment: a political ecology perspective. In: Rocheleau D, Thomas-Slayter BP, Wangari E (eds) Feminist political ecology: global issues and local experiences. Routledge, London/New York, pp 3–23Google Scholar
  72. Rumbach J, Knight K (2014) Sexual and gender minorities in humanitarian emergencies. In: Roeder LW (ed) Issues of gender and sexual orientation in humanitarian emergencies. Springer, Cham, pp 33–74. Google Scholar
  73. Scharbach J, Waldram JB (2016) Asking for a disaster: being “at risk” in the emergency evacuation of a northern Canadian Aboriginal community. Hum Organ 75(1):59–70CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Scott JW (1991) The evidence of experience. Crit Inq 17(4):773–797CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Seager J (2014) Disasters are gendered: what’s new? In: Singh A, Zommers Z (eds) Reducing disaster: early warning systems for climate change. Springer, Dordrecht, pp 265–281CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Seager J (2015) Sex-disaggregated indicators for water assessment, monitoring and reporting (Technical report). UNESCO, ParisGoogle Scholar
  77. Seccombe W (1974) The housewife and her labour under capitalism. New Left Rev 83:3–24Google Scholar
  78. Sommer M, Ferron S, Cavill S, House S (2015) Violence, gender and WASH: spurring action on a complex, under-documented and sensitive topic. Environ Urban 27(1):105–116. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Tesarek Kincaid A, Fletcher AJ (2017) Policy problems, publics, and the power of definition: competing discourses and the case of Alberta’s free-roaming horses. Can Geogr, online ahead of print.  10.1111/cag.12373
  80. Thompson-Hall M, Carr ER, Pascual U (2016) Enhancing and expanding intersectional research for climate change adaptation in agrarian settings. Ambio 45(S3):373–382. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Trenberth KE (2012) Framing the way to relate climate extremes to climate change. Clim Chang 115(2):283–290. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. UNEP (2016) Global gender and environment outlook 2016. United Nations Environment Programme, NairobiGoogle Scholar
  83. Vasseur L, Thornbush M, Plante S (2015) Gender-based experiences and perceptions after the 2010 winter storms in Atlantic Canada. Int J Environ Res Public Health 12(10):12518–12529. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Weber L, Hilfinger Messias DK (2012) Mississippi front-line recovery work after Hurricane Katrina: an analysis of the intersections of gender, race, and class in advocacy, power relations, and health. Soc Sci Med 74(11):1833–1841. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Weedon C (1997) Feminist practice and poststructuralist theory, 2nd edn. Wiley-Blackwell, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  86. Wutich A (2009) Intrahousehold disparities in women and men’s experiences of water insecurity and emotional distress in urban Bolivia. Med Anthropol Q 23(4):436–454. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. WWAP, United Nations World Water Assessment Programme (2015) The United Nations world water development report 2015: Water for a sustainable world. UNESCO, Paris. Retrieved from Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Social StudiesUniversity of ReginaReginaCanada

Personalised recommendations