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When Ecology Met Feminism By sophia yao

This year there have been many changes in the Pinewood community both big and small. One such change is a new elective titled Milk and Sugar: Eco Feminism. The elective, which takes place on WISCR Wednesday, is headed by new teacher Haley Nikodem.

Ecofeminism is a philosophical course that connects the topics of feminism and environmentalism to better understand how the oppression of women and the destruction of the natural world are related. A few topics the class has covered so far this year are the history of hysteria, Paganism, and the witch trials.

“If we stopped treating the planet in the violent way we do, we would also see a decline in violence against women.”

“If we stopped treating the planet in the violent way we do, we would also see a decline in violence against women,” Nikodem said.

The Ecofeminism elective is a discussion- and seminar-based class that is completely remote. A typical day in the class starts with completing a writing-based warm-up activity that helps students review the reading homework they were assigned. The readings inform students of background information and context on the topics that they discuss in the following class. Then, for the first half of the class, Nikodem gives a lecture or shows a video on whatever topic they are covering for the day. For the second half of the class, the students discuss questions from the teacher as well as from one another while Nikodem takes notes. They often ask difficult and uncomfortable questions to further explore the topic of discussion.

Having previously taught English, literature, and social justice, Nikodem’s ecofeminism class is the first philosophy-centered class she has taught. However, she has had plenty of experience as a philosophy student, having taken both feminist philosophy and environmentalist philosophy in college. Nikodem said she uses her past teaching experience to teach the elective. During class discussions, Nikodem says she is constantly learning along with her students.

PHOTO BY LYNSIE CORFIELD

One of those students is senior Nikhila Nanduri. Nanduri said that the class was a great gateway into the world of philosophy for her, as she is planning on studying philosophy in college next year.

“I think this elective is amazing because… it makes you think really hard about the world around you and these global issues that have been in the background and now the forefront of our society for a really long time. It’s important to at least have awareness and education in these issues,” Nanduri said.

Senior Drew Ness, who considered one of the conversations they had for homework one of the most important and interesting aspects of this elective. The assignment was to record a conversation they had with someone who was not in the class about a subject they addressed in class that day.

“The biggest thing that I always want for students is never stop asking questions, and continue to ask questions in every single thing that you do.”

“I got some cool stories from my mom and had conversations with my brother and I thought that that was really cool, and it’s just important to have these conversations within your family as well,” Ness said.

Nikodem and her students have had to make some accommodations, as the class takes place exclusively over Zoom. Both Nanduri and Ness agreed that going remote didn’t impact class discussions negatively. Nikodem believes Zoom classes have their pros and cons: it’s easier for people to see when others want to speak because the outline of their screen lights up, but it’s harder for her to read the room and her students’ facial expressions.

“The biggest thing that I always want for students is never stop asking questions, and continue to ask questions in every single thing that you do,” Nikodem said.