March 11: Penguin Family Values: The Nature of Environmental Reproductive Justice

Where: Kimball Theatre

When: Wednesday, March 11, 7:00 PM


Dr. Noël Sturgeon is Chair of Women’s Studies at Washington State University. This talk is part of her forthcoming book, titled "Environmentalism in Popular Culture: Gender, Sexuality, Race, and the Politics of the Natural" (University of Arizona Press, Spring 2009). She is also the author of "Ecofeminist Natures: Race, Gender, Feminist Theory and Political Action" (Routledge 1997).
In her talk, she examines the films "The March of the Penguins" and "Happy Feet" as well as the iconic figure of the gay penguin in several popular culture sites in an attempt to think about how heterosexist ideas about the nature of babies, families, populations, genes, and parenting intertwine with and influence our understanding of environmental issues, or what might be called planetary reproduction. She argues that heterosexist ideas of reproduction also make invisible inequalities of race as well as colonialist economic practices that underlie many global environmental issues.

As an example of this dynamic, she will discuss the appearance or non-appearance of the concerns of Arctic indigenous peoples in popular discourses about global warming, such as in Al Gore’s film, "An Inconvenient Truth." Imagining heterosexist forms of family, sex, and reproduction as “natural” has been one of the causes of environmental problems such as global warming, she says. Thus, claiming a “natural” status for homosexuality and gay families, as in certain gay political discourses, can be problematic as well. An analysis and a politic that wishes to address both heterosexism and environmental problems, as well as racism, sexism and colonialism, must critically examine discourses about nature and the natural in popular culture, public policy, and grassroots activism. Dr. Sturgeon introduces the term “environmental reproductive justice” to describe this approach.

For futher information, contact Kari Norgaard at