A Masculine Lens on Climate Change?


Happy Mother’s Day.

"Sea Stack" by Justine Kurland
The ecoAmerica values survey, which I usually find insightful, tweaked me the wrong way recently. The report tries to take the American public's pulse on environmental issues. One section offers suggestions on messaging for environmental advocates, including this one:
Make climate solutions masculine to garner more support

Passive energy sources may be the solution for the planet, but many Americans want action. The majority of positive attitudes on the environment and current climate change solutions, such as wind and solar energy, are viewed as feminine. Feminine issues are passive, and passive issues do not require immediate attention. Themes of sacrifice and must do – also perceived as feminine – are not bold solutions to climate change.

The majority of anti-green attitudes are viewed as masculine. Problems perceived as masculine – tough problems – require immediate, bold action. Americans with masculine, anti-green attitudes, such as resentment and excuses, want big solutions. They need to know that whatever America invests in and builds will work. They want bold solutions at scale, that are visibly active, and yield significant, visible progress. They are not attracted to solutions that cut off energy supply when days are cloudy or windless…
How to unpack this? To me, what this reveals is not a problem with how the American public views environmental issues, but how they view gender (if these findings are accurate, anyway). And are the surveyors simply passing along data, or letting their own biases about gender color the results? There’s also an unspoken assumption here: men run things, “masculinity” takes precedent in American culture; therefore, we must appeal to men.

I understand the concept of opening communication channels with and appealing to those in power. But must we downgrade “feminine” values (whether they're coming from women or men) in order to open those channels?

Far from being passive, women are not only on the frontlines of climate change, they’re also some of the most courageous advocates for “immediate, bold action”. Accepting stereotypes about what constitutes a “feminine” solution vs. a “masculine” one divides us when we need to be working together.

I was also surprised that the findings equated renewable energy with femininity. What with men occupying most of the green jobs, the Weather Channel’s new show Turbine Cowboys and the “booth babes” one finds at renewable energy conferences – the sector seems pretty masculine to me.

Maybe instead of continuing to romanticize technocratic solutions, we should recognize that so-called feminine perspectives are vital in the current crisis. How might we build that recognition? What do you think?