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Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder. Help someone’s soul heal. Walk out of your house like a shepherd. Rumi
Women experience climate change differently than men.
Why? Two reasons:
First, in general, women have less agency, fewer economic resources within their control, more responsibility for the care of young children and the elderly, and much greater vulnerability to dislocation. Men are significantly more likely to be the short-term financial beneficiaries of the status quo.
Throughout the global south, women are more responsible for water, fuel (especially firewood), and food production. All three of these are exceedingly, and immediately, affected by climate change.¹
Second, in general, climate change is understood and interpreted differently by men and women. This is dramatically true in the US (which should really focus our attention, given the heavy weight of the US in causing climate change and in opportunities for mitigation) but also in many other countries. What does this mean?
In poll after poll, women consistently express greater concern about global warming and see greater urgency in making changes. In one research project after another, men consistently view the risk of global warming less seriously than women – even though they tend to know more of the scientific facts.² It also means activities or political positions which involve “caring for the earth” are seen as feminine. Studies show a tendency to “feminize” even simple eco-friendly activities (for example, many men AND women view simply carrying reusable grocery bags as “more feminine.”)
This has serious ramifications. There is great concern today about a subset of men – small but influential – who see attempts to mitigate climate change as a threat to their sense of entitlement – entitlement to resources and to do whatever they like with those resources. For the subset of men who feel that domination is their birthright, a part of their very identity as men, threats to reduce that domination of resources are highly unpopular, to put it mildly.
As Martin Gelin writes in “The Misogyny of Climate Deniers,”
There is a package of values and behaviors connected to a form of masculinity that I call ‘industrial breadwinner masculinity.’ …They believe humans are obliged to use nature and its resources to make products out of them. And they have a risk perception that nature will tolerate all types of waste. It’s a risk perception that doesn’t think of nature as vulnerable and as something that is possible to be destroyed.
What can we do?
Train the next generation of men NOW. We cannot afford to have young men strongly identifying with a version of masculinity tied to the dominance of nature.
Insist that women are involved in ALL decision making on environmental initiatives and climate change discussions. All too often, decisions about resources affecting generations to come are made with few, or no, women in the room.
Don’t just take it from me. Here are just a few other takes on this topic.
Whaddya Say? The Video and Model We've all been there: we overhear a sexist comment at a party, a work colleague makes a homophobic joke, a friend-of-a-friend says something grossly inappropriate, we are talked over in a meeting, we know our rights and our dignity are...
Women in the World: 2020 What do Billy Porter, vinegar, menstruation taboos, the second shift, and the glass cliff have in common? Come to my Listening to Women talk on February 13, 2020, to find out! We've already been featured in the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the...
You've thought about violence against women - but have you thought about it from the perspective of men? Men are, after all, the perpetrators the vast majority of the time. How can we possibly begin to understand the issue if we only look at half the picture? SPOILED,...
I want you to be...
Wonderful audience and great questions at the Kate Tiedemann College of Business last week. Very gratifying to see so much interest in gender equality issues!
The UN Women USA Gulf Coast Chapter Fall Lunch is upon us - and it's going to be amazing. We're recognizing local Champions of Gender Equality and mobilizing for activism. Join us!
Spring 2020: Our play SPOILED is heading to La Mama in NYC! Over 5 years ago, I originally conceived of the idea of a theatrical work exploring violence against women around the world, but told from the male perspective. My research and personal experiences told me...
Delighted to be able to attend CSW in New York this year. Our UN Women-USA board convened a panel on Providing Social Services and Protection to Women and Girls in Conflict Zones and hosted an evening reception for fellow national committees. And at Dining For Women’s...