Climate Justice and Social Justice – Part 3: The Patriarchy and Toxic Masculinity

(Cover art by ChicksForClimate on Instagram)

Just a quick note before beginning this post, thank you to the wonderful BIPOC environmentalists at IntersectionalEnvironmentalist, Atmos, ChicksForClimate, and EarthRise.Studio for helping with the main flesh and information in this post! As a white person, with this post, I aim to disseminate and amplify the voices of BIPOC environmentalists who are already saying and voicing the opinions, experiences, and information below. I fully agree with and support these people and their voices and urge others to amplify their voices as well. You can start by finding and following them through the link above!

Climate change affects us all, but doesn’t impact everyone equally. Women, especially those with intersecting marginalizations, such as age, poverty, and ethnicity, are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. On top of this, the perpetuation of the Patriarchy and toxic masculinity are fueling the destruction of the planet. Climate change, misogyny and gender-based violence are all interconnected. When looking at how to tackle the climate crisis, we cannot ignore the importance of Ecofeminism.

Eighty percent of people displaced by climate change are women. Due to existing gender inequalities, women and girls are more vulnerable to impacts of climate change, such as disease and effects of natural disasters. Additionally, women’s unequal participation in decision-making processes compound inequalities and often further prevent them from fully contributing to climate solutions.

Women tend to depend more on natural resources for their livelihoods which are becoming harder to access and manage in the changing climate. Women do not always have access to adequate funds to cover weather-related losses or technologies to adapt. Cultural intricacies such as clothing, not being able to swim, or being unable to leave the house unattended put women’s lives at higher risk during natural disasters.

Women are not more vulnerable to climate impacts because of their gender, but because of a range of factors, such as age, level of poverty, and ethnicity, that, when intersecting with gender, result in higher vulnerability for women.

The phrase “American Life” generally centered on white patriarchal rule. Working and middle class jobs are reliant on fossil fuel systems, however, like wages, they were unequally distributed by race. This is because the policies and practices in power that hugely serve white men, were created by the primarily privileged white men in power. This demonstrates one way in which the white patriarchal order damages the environment. Clara Dagget, coined the term “petro-masculinity” which describes this interconnection as the relationship between fossil fuels and white patriarchal orders. As Dagget points out, the extracting and burning of fossil fuels is a practice of white masculinity and of American values to the country.

In her research, Dagget describes how the climate crisis poses a threat for the fossil fuel sectors and those who have been profiting from natural resource extraction. The fossil fuel system’s history created a catastrophic convergence, leading to an increasingly fragile Western hyper-masculinity.

Under the Patriarchy, women are expected to be more selfless and socially responsible than men, carrying out traditional caregiving roles. Altruistic impulses also mean that women are more likely to help protect the planet for future generations. A patriarchal society devalues all that is associated with nature, ecosystems and even certain people, in order to suit the ‘status quo.’ In other words, valuing women and animals would destabilize male supremacy. This is dangerous for all people and the biospheres as a whole.

Toxic masculinity describes certain cultural norms that are associated with harm to society, the planet, and men (those who identify with the male gender) themselves. Toxic masculinity is killing the planet in many complex and intricate ways. Men commonly don’t want to be seen as ‘being green’ for fear of being viewed as ‘gay’ or ‘effeminate,’ sometimes using environmentally harmful activities as a way to reassert their masculinity. This form of toxic masculinity highlights the internalized homophobia that is also harming the planet.

Brough et al. found that both men and women said that using a reusable bag is classified as a feminine action, whilst using a single-use plastic bag is perceived as being more ‘manly.’ The concern with appearing ‘too feminine’ is also a factor in men’s reluctance in adopting vegetarian or vegan diets.

Ecofeminism explores the connection between the oppression of women, and the destruction of nature. Both are consequences of the Patriarchy, capitalism, and white supremacy. Women are typically depicted as chaotic and irrational, whilst men are characterized as rational and ordered. Nature is often spoken about as ‘feminine,’ and as something to be exploited, not cared for. This hierarchal and oppositional thinking reinforces the subjugation of women and nature.

Dr. Vandana Siva is one of the world’s most prominent ecofeminists. Shiva sees the principles of feminism and ecology as interconnected. She believes that the worldview causing environmental degradation and injustice is the same worldview that causes a culture of inequality for women.

Ecofeminism advocates for the dismantling of the patriarchy to protect both the planet and society. In defying the patriarchy, we are loyal to future generations, our planet, and to life itself.

Women’s equality should not be achieved at the expense of the environment, nor should environmental improvements be made at the expense of women. Any attempt to address one should take into account its impact on the other, because this is an intersectional movement.

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