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.”