Education and Skills

Is toxic masculinity driving climate change? These artists think so

A seagull flies above the skyline of the City of London April 2, 2014.  Britain's Meteorological Office forecast that London would be affected by smog this week, caused by powerful dust storms and strong winds in the Sahara.    REUTERS/Olivia Harris (BRITAIN - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY) - LM1EA421BE701

Toxic masculinity is bad for the environment. Image: REUTERS/Olivia Harris

Sonia Elks
Journalist, Reuters
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From storms named after women that cause more damage because people prepare for them less to men who refuse to recycle because they think it looks girly, climate damage is riven with toxic masculinity, a new exhibition argues.

Climate change is a man-made crisis in every sense, with male-dominated culture fuelling damaging behaviour while women and girls disproportionately pay the price, said the creative team behind the London-based art show.

They hope to shed light on the issue with an exhibition responding to themes of gender and climate by 30 artists who are women or do not identify as male or female.

"Climate change is sexist: it disproportionately affects women and girls precisely because they are already marginalised in our societies," said Ashley Johnson, a member of Do The Green Thing, the environmental group which organised the show.

"There's gendered consequences, there's gendered causes and there's gendered solutions. We wanted to explore that as an idea and offer artists the chance to respond to it."

Works by artists Laura Jordan Bambach and Maisie May Plumstead are seen at the 'Man Made Disaster' exhibition organised by non-profit group Do The Green Thing, in east London, Britain, April 25, 2019. Image: Thomson Reuters Foundation/Morgane Mounier

Works by artists Laura Jordan Bambach and Maisie May Plumstead are seen at the 'Man Made Disaster' exhibition organised by non-profit group Do The Green Thing, in east London, Britain, April 25, 2019. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Morgane Mounier

Experts say women and girls suffer more than men from the effects of climate change. According to the United Nations they account for 80 percent of those displaced as a result and their vulnerabilities are exposed during disasters.

Meanwhile, studies suggest men have bigger carbon footprints on average and are more skeptical of climate change, with one recent paper from Yale University saying some are put off from environmentalism because they see it as feminine.

"Women on every metric you can think of generally are more environmentally friendly," said Johnson.

"They are more likely to recycle, they litter less, they are more likely to buy an electric car, they are more likely to vote for politicians who care about the environment.

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"Men on the other hand are often influenced by toxic masculinity… and make the exact opposite choice because they are worried that environmental behaviour brands them as feminine."

The exhibition went on display at Protein Studios in east London, and through an online portal.

Artworks ranged from portraits of women and girls immediately threatened by climate change to pieces offering suggestions for solutions.

There were also more light-hearted contributions, such as a work dressing up bins as strongmen and monsters to help tackle stigma for men around recycling.

Sophie Thomas, a graphic artist, contributed artworks with a the neon quote "I want you to panic" from 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg over a tangled black background of comments from prominent male climate change skeptics.

"These pieces are about urgency" she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"The research I did around my piece... was looking at some of the voices we have been hearing very loudly for the past decade which are the big climate deniers, and they are very male."

Image: Thomson Reuters Foundation
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Related topics:
Education and SkillsClimate ActionEquity, Diversity and Inclusion
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