formerly known as
Womens Liberation Front












Climate sexism: how the ecological crisis and the oppression of women go hand in hand.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Translated from Dutch to English by Gino d'Artali

Journalist: Keesha Orts

Before you read this article be aware that the FTP programm I am using messes up with the quoting marks i.e. " " see and as an inbetween solution I use < is opening quote and > is closing quote. I am very sorry and apologize for the inconvenience.

The ecological crisis does not affect people in the same way. While some think that the problem will not hit us immediately, many countries and islands are already feeling the impact of a changing climate on a daily basis. Many of these countries are more dependent on natural resources or have fewer resources to prepare for natural disasters. Other aspects such as inequality and discrimination, incorrect information, as well as lack of action by those in power can also be seen as a major cause. In these places, environmental degradation has long been underway.

The fact that it is precisely those who often contribute the least to the problem, are hit hardest, shows that the ecological crisis has an uneven impact on the world. Moreover, it has a greater impact not only on the most vulnerable places, but also on certain parts of the population such as people in poverty, the elderly, indigenous communities and women.

Gender is an important aspect that is often overlooked in the climate debate. Several reasons why women are at higher risk and feel the effects harder are mainly due to cultural gender roles. The phenomenon thus has a long history of social inequality and is non-biologically determined. This means that women are presented with certain roles, demands, expectations and tasks in our society that places them in a 'weaker' or more vulnerable position. Scientific studies prove that a changed climate affects them worldwide on a different level than men.

The climate crisis is sexist
The dominant definition of gender says that women (or those who identify as) have different roles and responsibilities than men in society, which in turn gives them fewer opportunities, access and rights. These dominant gender norms mean that during emergencies or 'natural' disasters, women all over the world have less protection and mobility and are therefore more sensitive to a changed climate.

Several studies show that during storms, floods or cyclones (which are predicted to be more common in the future), they are affected differently because they often tend to be home more often than men. Women worldwide are now more responsible for housekeeping and often practice tasks indoors, meaning they have less access to protection, help or information when an emergency arises. Second, it has been shown that in many countries they are less likely to own a driver's license or own vehicle, which further hinders their mobility. In addition, there are several other cultural and social expectations such as dress standards, skills or education that can cause problems.

In addition, it has been proven that women are 14 times more likely to die in such an emergency as opposed to men, when given the same rights, the number of deaths in such a disaster would be the same. In addition, most of the victims among climate refugees are women (80 percent), which means that they are more forced to migrate. We also see in the aftermath of such events that they are more often victims of sexual abuse, violence and conflict, some even avoiding shelter for fear. [1] The climate crisis and emergencies are thus undoubtedly linked to existing inequalities in society, which also makes it a problem of social justice.

Incidentally, according to the World Health Organization, a changed climate will also mean an increase in diseases and health problems (such as asthma, cancer, lung diseases, trauma, etc.) due to rising temperatures, poor air quality or floods. Taking all the aforementioned facts into account, women are thus more vulnerable, although they normally have a higher life expectancy. In many places they also often have less access to healthcare. They also experience more problems with, for example, a rising temperature, research shows that pregnant women in The Gambia attract more mosquitoes (which in turn can cause diseases) through their body heat, their breath and other behavior that attracts mosquitoes (such as more often at night). getting up to urinate).

Finally, women worldwide are less involved and accepted in policy making or politics. This is because patriarchy and androcentrism lead to male dominance in areas such as science, technology and politics and give power mainly to men. We live in a masculine, Western, Eurocentric-dominated system of relationships, values, authority and privilege from which women and minority groups are mainly excluded. This idea is normalized and institutionalized today, as well as embodied in everyday life, leaving this dominance unquestioned. We assume that women have little interest in these areas, are not 'qualified' and that men are better leaders, without realizing that these areas are simply inaccessible. [2]

As a result, they become less involved in the search for solutions and in negotiating the problem because they are excluded in these fields, which are often seen as the solution. They are generally not sufficiently or equally represented both nationally and internationally in the United Nations and the European Parliament and are therefore under-represented in terms of politics and policy. Women are rarely the head of a political party and therefore have fewer chances of being future leaders. Most countries have never had a woman at their head. In the European Parliament, for example, 65 percent are white and male, and when we look at mayors we see that 85 percent are male.

Specifically in the field of climate, for example in the Conferance of Parties (COP) and The United Nations of Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), it is clear to see that men are overrepresented. Although recently there has been recognition of female victims all over the world (in terms of climate and gender equality), people forget what added value they can offer in the search for solutions in politics.

Women as a certain subgroup of the population dominates and has power in this, solutions and policies are usually also based on their perspectives, needs and visions. How climate change issues are addressed are thus 'gendered' and in favor of those in power. As a result, half of the population will be left out of decision-making and will be similarly excluded from the solutions, while minority groups such as women often have crucial knowledge, insights and perspectives in combating the problem. This is not only fundamentally unjust, but it also means that the gender effects of climate change are not receiving sufficient attention.

In order to challenge and change this unequal system (which is likely to be reinforced by the crisis) everyone needs to be involved because, despite the fact that they are often under-represented, they play a key role in the negotiations. Of course, involving more women would not automatically guarantee a gender perspective, but a broader approach and a new perspective is certainly needed.

System change, not climate change
According to ecofeminism, a school of thought that addresses the similarities between the dominance of men over women and of people over nature, this problem can be seen as a result of a social and cultural model that defines male hegemony, power and a particular ideology in society. Combining feminism and ecology, they describe how both are treated by patriarchy, misogyny, toxic masculinity, and especially capitalism. They also address other forms of oppression, such as in the field of ethnicity, class and sexuality. In general, the two forms of discrimination are linked in three ways. Thus we see that the two go hand in hand not only by the aforementioned facts, namely that women in most parts of the world are unequally affected by environmental damage, but also symbolically.

Sexime and the ecological crisis are the result of a hierarchy and system of discernment that exists in our society. In terms of gender, we can say that men are seen as the 'stronger' sex and women as second-class citizens, inferior. The fact that women still earn less, hold fewer senior positions, face discrimination and harassment on a daily basis and thus have fewer rights in most societies still makes this inequality very clear.

Second, there is the opposition between man vs nature , where the latter is seen lower in the hierarchy and where people are equal to culture, rationality and symbolism, which enables them to be higher than' the 'nature. As a result, we dominate, consume and exploit our natural environment for our own needs and see ourselves as superior to ecosystems and animals.

We can say that it is a Western thought system that was also imposed through colonialism in other countries, because the distinctions we make are certainly not universal. Different forms of oppression and discrimination, such as racism, white privilege, homophobia and climate, go together, which means that fighting one is also necessary to combat the other. That they are all judged by the same system of dominance makes it clear that there is a need for systematic change. Rather than the privileges of a few in the status quo, they all demand justice and equality demanding a change in the thinking and organization of our society.

After all, because women are clearly more involved with household and agriculture, they also possess a great deal of knowledge. So I want to reject the image that women are only victims and passive actors without agency. It is also important to emphasize again that it is not organic that they are 'closer to nature', but that it is precisely cultural norms that ensure that they are more responsible for raising children, cooking, shopping and other household tasks, while men derive their meaning from the so-called public space.

Thus, while they are usually presented as victims or without choice in the debate, they are in fact actively involved in the struggle and resistance to the planet's decline. Taking into account that women are not a homogeneous group and these findings differ from place to place, gender constructs often force women into the same positions around the world.

Much of the literature on promoting gender inclusion in the debate is also mainly based on the fact that they are more affected and thus more vulnerable. Nonetheless, it is important to note that they are less heard, despite having vital expertise and skills to protect the environment. Research clearly shows that it is imperative to involve more women in finding solutions to the ecological crisis. Many indigenous women have been managing and maintaining ecosystems for centuries, and their knowledge has meanwhile helped preserve and improve the environment in many places. [3] It has also been shown that involving them in conservation, for example, results in an improvement in results. In this way they are better in communication with the population or community and they can serve as role models to stimulate subsequent generations.

In addition, it has been shown that men and women clearly have different attitudes and opinions about the climate. For example, a study in a tiger reserve in India showed that women support conservation more than men, often because they themselves get more out of it when there is more protection. We also see that where the impact is uneven, women actually contribute slightly less to the problem: studies show that they often have a smaller footprint due to differences in consumption, behavior and roles.

In Western countries, for example, men are more likely to travel by plane or go out and consume more, which has to do with social norms, separation of private and public space and income and capital. On the other hand, it has been shown that women are more inclined to take public transport, consume organic and plant-based and recycle and are therefore often more sustainable and more concerned with the climate. This behavior is often stigmatized as 'feminine' and there is a prejudice that masculinity does not go together with environmental awareness, which causes men to behave differently. [4]

In addition, we also see a link between masculinity and climate "skepticism" or denial, while women are more likely to accept science. [5] In addition, men are also more likely to put responsibility on technology and science, while studies show that women are more likely to take the role on themselves.

Finally, we see that when leadership lies with women, many people derive more benefits from it. In this way, laws and regulations could also be tailored to their needs and take into account aspects that men do not think about. Finally, studies also show that they are more likely to adopt climate laws. We also see among activists that many women and young girls are active and take a pioneering role. While they have brought climate tremendously into the media, they are still insufficiently heard and stigmatized as "angry" or "emotional" or criticized for not behaving like a woman. [6] This says a lot about how we see women, especially those who raise their voices, but also how we take the problem of our climate seriously. Unfortunately, the idea that they have no place or role in the debate remains and we clearly need a different mindset. This means breaking the vision and attitude towards women as dependent, vulnerable and subordinate, but recognizing that in fact they have always played a key role as changemakers.

While the climate problem is often seen as a scientific problem that technology will solve, the underlying causes such as dominance, oppression, exploitation, colonialism and sexism are often ignored. Considering that this is the crux of the problem, systematic change seems crucial. Factors such as class, income and gender have a critical influence on access, tools and engagement, many groups experiencing discrimination and injustice in society today such as indigenous people, LGBTQ +, people of color and women will similarly remain unheard of in terms of climate and policy. While many have crucial knowledge and skills that can help us combat this problem.

In doing so, the climate crisis is challenging the contemporary system and revealing global inequalities that are often ignored. We need a strategy that works for everyone and that addresses the roots of the problem by also addressing the underlying inequality, recognizing many women as best stewards of sustainable ecosystems and accessibility in decision-making. Only in this way can we combat the deterioration of our climate, so that everyone benefits from it.>

Keesha Orts is a female student of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the KU Leuven (B).


[1] We often see this in conflict areas and war, where reports show that women experience more problems with violence and abuse in the aftermath.
[2] Not to mention other groups such as people of color, minority groups or LGBTQ +.
[3] The lack of recognition of their unique contributions and historical misogyny and racism have often made them even more marginalized in policy-making.
[4] concept of eating meat and masculinity, cars and so on.
[5] which we can relate to match retention.
[6] because they kick the status quo in their shins, of course, Trump's reactions to Greta are a very good example of that (but also the rest of all the hatred she receives) 

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