Claire Muscat explores the complex gendered elements of climate change and suggests ways we can make productive change. For Issue #18 ‘Rising’.
Womxn and the gender diverse population are not treated as equals by our toxic, heteronormative society. This is our reality, so I offer you an unapologetic proposition. Rise up. Make noise. Unlearn behaviour which was forced upon womxn by the patriarchy. Know your worth. Fight for the rights of all womxn.
Womxn and minorities share a history instilled with fear. We’ve persevered. We’ve survived. But now, there is a threat to each and every human: climate change (or less palatably and more accurately: climate catastrophe). We can no longer drink our “mylk” lattes from a KeepCup and think that we’re making meaningful change. We need to rewrite the narrative that consumers are able to control climate change with individual commercial choices. It’s time to rise up against our governments and mass-polluting, multinational corporations alike.
The United Nations recognises the correlation between climate change and gender. 70% of the world’s poor are women and it is these women who are tasked with gathering and producing food. Climate change is intensifying the strains on already vulnerable communities as we witness an acceleration of unprecedented weather events. There have been thunderous calls that climate change needs to be understood as a human rights issue. A feminist framework helps to explain this, but when science is discarded for capital, what hope do we have that world leaders, elected by big business, will listen?
Extinction Rebellion (XR) have presented the middle class in the United Kingdom an opportunity to exploit their privilege for the benefit of our environment. XR are not without their flaws. Critics have highlighted the problematic “arrestable” system of protest which unintentionally enforces imperialist values. XR’s exponential growth to a global movement reflects the international community’s desire for action on climate change. The use of non-violent direct action is imperative to the ethos of XR – who draw on centuries of revolutionary theory and tactics of civil rights movements – and it’s time we took a leaf out of their book (and plant a tree to replace said leaf).
Extinction Rebellion’s third demand is also something we need to adopt: “beyond politics”. The future of humanity must not be exposed to the battle of ideology which has contaminated political discourse. When climate action differs depending on which party holds power, we are left defenceless. We need to start pressuring our government to adapt a “free vote” for matters on climate change. Free votes (“unwhipped vote”) were enacted to allow MPs to vote on ethical issues without party leader pressure. So why is our parliament overlooking their democratic responsibilities? Free votes need to become mandatory for all climate related votes at every level of government.
Audre Lorde famously wrote, “your silence will not protect you” which can be translated to being passive only serves the oppressor. An indifference to global politics and our governments’ failings to adequately address climate change is an abuse of privilege. Our willingness to ignore future threats to our planet has reinforced class inequality and given power to the filthy rich who continue to grow their wealth by exploiting our natural resources.
When the scientific evidence in support of climate change can only be described as “unequivocal”, the air-time given to climate-deniers is at best illogical and at worst, malevolent. It’s undeniable the truth can be distressing, but ignoring it only makes matters worse.
We could be facing the end of civilization, and it’s the most vulnerable who will suffer first. It’s womxn and minorities who have been systematically excluded from politics and society who will suffer first. Feeling angry? Good, you should be. Harness that ‘unladylike’ anger and use it as fuel. Become more proactive in your community—and it doesn’t have to mean lying down in the middle of the road in London or donating money to environmental organisations. It’s time we put more pressure on our political systems.
Remember at the start when I said I had a proposition for you and it was relatively positive until we nose-dived through the truth? Well, here it is. There are multiple ways you can make meaningful change and your level of involvement does not mean you will have to relocate off the grid without our lord and saviour Social Media. To begin, briefly educate yourself using accurate and reliable sources who report the scientific truth without softening the threat we face. Often charities and NGOs who are responsible for releasing unredacted data and the truth are dependent on donations. Do your research and if you can spare the change, donate.
If your purse strings are menstrual-cup-suction tight then there are other options too. Use your social media to share the truth. Sharing information is what we youth do best! Educate those around you and be proud of your contribution. If you’ve ever stumbled into bed still a little tipsy and found yourself online shopping for fluorescent mop-socks for lazy/performative cleaning (guilty) why not use that time on your phone instead to email your local MP or the government. Tempted to message your toxic ex because he “liked” your photo? Stop. No. Don’t waste your time. Instead, bombard politicians with your disappointment in their failures to address climate change and call on them to enforce free votes on this existential threat. It’s taxpayers’ money after all?
If you are a womxn who is physically able to join rallies, do so. If you are a womxn who is able to speak confidently, then call out people who don’t address climate change through a feminist lens, including tackling colonisation. If you are a womxn who is intimidated by crowds which deters you from attending rallies, be open about that with your friends and maybe attend as a group. If you are a womxn who has time to scroll mindlessly through Netflix, then use that time and that internet connection to educate yourself. If you are a womxn, remember that you are powerful, but we are even more powerful together. It is time we rise up, together.
While you consider how you can change your impact on climate change, remember never to apologise for telling the climate change truth. Don’t apologise for getting angry at the state of the world. Don’t apologise for anything that is a direct result of patriarchal values contorting society. We are womxn and we will continue to rise above.
Illustrated by Thea Gegeshidze.