William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Feminist Physics Begets Feminist Glaciology

Feminist glaciology?

Feminist glaciology?

Remember when we talked about feminist physics a couple of months back? We discovered that the term meant not studying how things move, but thinking about how we feel about how things move. Gist: feminist physics equals feelings.

The reason we had to talk about this fascinating subject, if you recall, was that the group Equity & Inclusion in Physics & Astronomy penned an open letter to the Supreme Court, a letter which pleaded for quotas of women in the physical sciences.

I don’t know if the Court acted, but the call was heard. And thanks to the sharp eyes of Sheri, Marcel Crok, Paul W, and Jim Fedako, we know where. In the frigid field of glaciology.

Comes the peer-reviewed paper “A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research” in the journal Progress in Human Geography by Mark Carey (a male?) and three others.

Progress? Never mind. On the truth that modern society has outstripped the ability of satirists to keep up, here is the abstract:

Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change. However, the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers — particularly related to epistemological questions about the production of glaciological knowledge — remain understudied. This paper thus proposes a feminist glaciology framework with four key components: 1) knowledge producers; (2) gendered science and knowledge; (3) systems of scientific domination; and (4) alternative representations of glaciers. Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.

No comedian I know is clever enough to have invented the terms “gendered science” and “systems of scientific domination”. This is not the fault of comedians, who because of the demands of their job must retain at least a glancing familiarity with sanity. Not so academics, who are allowed to descend into madness, as long as they publish their experience and win grants.

Anyway, what is “feminist glaciology”? Turns out it’s not a thing, but a question:

Feminist glaciology asks how knowledge related to glaciers is produced, circulated, and gains credibility and authority across time and space. It simultaneously brings to the forefront glacier knowledge that has been marginalized or deemed ‘outside’ of traditional glaciology.

Carter and others discovered to their great horror “Most existing glaciological research…stems from information produced by men, about men, with manly characteristics, and within masculinist discourses.” I know I’m often troubled by men and their thermodynamics theories. What is really needed is a girly way of describing snowfall rates. Maybe by talking about how pretty snowflakes are and what we feel about them?

Now glaciology “often relies on remote sensing from satellite imagery” yet, says Carter, “only a tiny subset [of glacial studies] analyze gender”. It makes you wonder how satellites feel about this. Then there’s this:

Crucially for feminist glaciology, feminist political ecology argues for the integration of alternative ways of knowing, beyond diverse women’s knowledges to include — more broadly — the unsettling of Eurocentric knowledges, the questioning of dominant assumptions, and the diversification of modes and methods of knowledge production through the incorporation of everyday lived experiences, storytelling, narrative, and visual methods.

Some of those stultifying “Eurocentric knowledges” included grammar and commonsense, which was obviously abandoned for this paper. And rightly so, because, as Carter says, past studies showed that “While men had agency and control over their fate, women were at the mercy of their emotions and treacherous nature.” That this cannot so is why we need to think about how we feel about glaciers, which we can do in the “Girls on Ice” program, which “focuses on empowering women through their experiences with” glaciers. Baby, it’s cold outside takes on a whole new epistemological meaning.

Bad news, fellas. “The program’s founder, Erin Pettit, maintains that it is essential to restrict Girls on Ice solely to young women”. This excludes men pretending to be women and, I guess, mothers. Sounds ageist to me, but I’m sure they know best.

Say, did you know “global climate simulations in general, which are conducted by European and North American scientists with little to no representation from Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, or South Asia”? Carter puts this down to anti-feminism among men. Climatologists put it down to scarce to non-existence measurements in these places. But the idea of measuring things is very male. Just ask Marco Rubio.

I’ll let Carter have the last word: No means No, but “Ice is not just ice.”

26 Comments

  1. Is this a parody? This must be a parody. For the sake of my sanity this must be a parody.

    “It simultaneously brings to the forefront glacier knowledge that has been marginalized or deemed ‘outside’ of traditional glaciology.”

    Does this mean they will be promoting any knowledge of glaciers that conflicts with AGW?

    Here is a suggestion for a new paragraph, a real missed opportunity by them:

    Feminist glaciology also seeks to find the underpinning of language structures embedded within the content and interfaces of global environmental change research and shift them to new modes that are neo-post-heteronormative and more encompassing of non traditional thought and emotional states. For example, referring to glaciers as ‘frigid’ rests on cis-masculine hyper-gendered stereotypes that create a hostile environment. Furthermore, glacier core sampling contains subtle ageist terminology as well as a forced assignment of identities to the environmental matter within the core. These are serious impediments to a fully feminist construction of glaciology and which our framework re-paradigmizes to safer, more inclusive ontologies.

  2. You’re as cold as ice
    You’re willing to sacrifice our love
    You never take advice
    Someday you’ll pay the price, I know
    I’ve seen it before
    It happens all the time
    You’re closing the door
    You leave the world behind
    You’re digging for gold
    Yet throwing away
    A fortune in feelings
    But someday you’ll pay
    You’re as cold as ice
    You’re willing to sacrifice our love
    You want Paradise
    But someday you’ll pay the price
    I know
    – Foreigner

  3. James, Hmm,
    “Is this a parody? This must be a parody. For the sake of my sanity this must be a parody.” Yep!
    and since no feminists visit this site I don’t expect any discussion or argument either.

  4. No, it’s not a parody, or at least it’s not Briggs parody. I’ve seen this elsewhere.

  5. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  6. Andrew Montford uses the title “Has to Be a Spoof”

    http://www.bishop-hill.net/blog/2016/3/9/this-has-to-be-a-spoof.html

  7. Mr. Briggs, there are no blanket statements about academics and feminists and progressive and scientists in this post. An improvement. So Not S****!

  8. “feminist political ecology argues for the integration of alternative ways of knowing, beyond diverse women’s knowledges…”

    As a woman, I demand to know what “diverse women’s knowledges” even ARE before anyone tries to go “beyond” them! What are these “diverse knowledges” and why don’t I know them? I have been oppressed, that much is clear…

  9. JH,
    Sometimes a pickle is just a pickle.

  10. The authors are a professor & students at the University of Oregon, located in Eugene, Oregon — hippie capital of the world (see: http://blog.estately.com/2013/07/17-best-u-s-cities-for-hippies/ ).

    That explains it.

  11. Are you sure that wasn’t written by Alan Sokal?

  12. Joy, 🙂 🙂 :0)

  13. According to the nude scientist there glaciers have gender.

    https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19726412.000-how-to-grow-a-glacier/

    A “male” glacier is one that is covered in stones and soil and moves slowly or not at all. A “female” one is whiter, and grows more quickly, yielding more water.

    If the male glaciers are systematically oppressing their fairer counterparts, then of course there should be a feminist glacier studies program.

  14. Sander van der Wal

    March 9, 2016 at 1:58 pm

    more research is needed: do glaciers mind if you walk over them using crampons?

  15. There are times when I really regret working in physics (the good old fashioned masculine variety). If I had just been a little less scrupulous, I could have an established academic career writing papers on how the much neglected feminine perspective on termites indicates that glaciers are racist because they are prejudiced against coloured ice formations, and since racism is on the increase among the savage unenlightened cultural barbarians, as proved by the unjustified violent responses against certain minority groups with every act of terrorism by people who have an irrational fear of the `other’ and thus over-generalise such groups into a unspecific uniformity, and the glaciers are retreating, then by the proposal that excesses of the global banking cartel force racism into the patriarchal straitjacket of a conservation law then this obviously suggests that the evil masculine-led subjugation of electricity generation is causing bigoted resistance to combating climate change and thus we are all doomed unless I receive another research grant. As conclusively proved by this wee p-value investigating the correlation between cloud formation in Texas and the speed of golf buggies (as revealed by an survey whose admittedly unrepresentative sample was corrected and controlled by adjusting for a variable measuring the proximity of traffic lights to airports).

    I really missed an opportunity for a great career there …

  16. Chronicle of Higher Ed took this on a few days ago: “The Subtle Ways Gender Gaps Persist in Science” (you will need a subscription or access thru your university); the upshot is “women do more of the day-to-day labor of science while men are credited with more of the big-picture thinking.”

  17. Next up: LGBT clouds – When a stratus, victim of cirrus privilege, is labeled stratus even though it feels it was always meant to be a cumulus.

  18. Did the i filter get put into place… the eyes have all been removed from the contents of the page…

  19. He has been hacked… be there a wordpress process that removes the letter eye!

  20. Brad: Hacked, you say! A letter blanked out has not been seen so far as one can tell about hacks.

  21. Shery: me only sees no eyes on this site… do you see eyes?

  22. argh… at least et be only the eyes… the eees be murder to dance around…

  23. Strangely, only comments are targeted. Why would that be? Attack the comments but not the post? Maybe the font got clobbered.

  24. My suspcon s the good doctor dd t for hs own amusement.

  25. Yep! Uncle Mike you got it but I wasn’t going to say.

  26. “Truly professional” coverage on sciencemag.org, with a “defense” of the paper by one of its authors.

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