The world has never seen such a surge of women activists, but that is because women have taken up the cause of saving the world from climate change. These women face obstacles and still, they persist.
The Women Who are Fighting
Women fighting climate change come from all different backgrounds.
One is Shannon Phillips, Alberta’s environment minister. She is a young member of the NDP party who won the election in 2015. The previous government, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives had no interest in pursuing greener energy policies in the oil-rich Alberta.
She went to Paris for global climate change negotiations, along with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The negotiations were filled with women – ministers, negotiators, scientists, activists, and led to the Paris Agreement.
Then there are the many nameless women who join the protests and marches.
What Obstacles They Face
The fierceness of women’s advocacy for climate change seems to bring out the worst responses, and these terrible responses are applied to all women, regardless of their advocacy role.
Whether they are professional scientists explaining scientific facts, politicians pushing for climate legislation, or regular women and girls marching for a better future, they are subject to misogynistic abuse.
The Nature of the Abuse
Misogynistic abuse can be hateful messages over social media platforms, or hate communicated the old-fashioned way by email, written letters and phone calls.
For a minister like Phillips, Facebook was the worst. It made communication easy for the haters, and her staff’s time was taken up going through her feed, deleting expletive-heavy, enraged posts, deciding if some of them warranted an alert to the local police.
Why There is Such Resistance
Studies have shown that climate change challenges traditional ideas about masculinity. It threatens the male “industrial breadwinner” identity, making some perceive climate activism as inherently feminine.
This culminates in fear that the world is changing too fast, and people feel like they are being left behind, resulting in reactionary politics and hostility towards any kind of expertise, especially if that expertise is presented by a woman.
Female Climate Experts and Professionals Are Discounted
The Canadian federal environment minister Catherine McKenna was referred to as “Climate Barbie” by right-wing media. McKenna confronted a critic who used the moniker on Twitter, and he stopped.
She felt she had to do it for any girls and women who might want to get into politics. However, she had to take on a security detail for her public appearances.
Canadian climate scientist, Katharine Hayhoe also got abuse and threats, but she was subject to something that was another form of abuse.
Lack of respect for her position and knowledge, and feeling like she had to defend her expertise. When she gave testimony before the United States Congress, she was referred to as “young lady”, while her male colleagues were called “doctor”. This young lady had 25 years of experience testifying in her field.
In spite of the problems, women are at the forefront of climate change activism because they believe in a better future.