Have opponents of the science stooped to using women as political footballs in the quote-unquote climate debate?
That’s the question on everybody’s lips with reports that a “laugh-out-loud” riff by Rajendra Pachauri has been taken out of context in an apparent attempt to sic feminists on the climate visionary.
Displaying all the humorless literalism we’ve come to expect of them, climate deniers—oh, I’m sorry, dangerous anthropogenic global warming unpersuadeds—are baying for the former IPCC Chairman’s blood.
What was his Federal offense, you ask? A jocular speech in which he appeared to condone sexual harassment in the workplace. (The lighthearted monologue also pretended to blame women for distracting scientists with their generous breasts.)
Unfortunately for climate dismissives, though, the individuals and groups who actually speak for women refuse to lend moral authority to their shrill protest. I spoke to several feminists and they all agreed on one point: the Pachyphobes need to lighten up.
Connie St Louis, a science journalist who specialises in being a female science journalist of color, said nothing was more pathetic—or a surer sign of irrelevance—than a movement that can’t take a joke.
But while Pachauri’s speech had her in stitches, there was nothing funny about denialist objections to it, which are now making the rounds of the Twitterverse.
“The witch hunt against Dr Pachauri is no laughing matter,” she said. “It plays right into the old stereotype of women as fragile petals in constant need of protection from jokes because they can’t hack it in a ‘boy’s club’ like the scientific fraternity.”
For St Louis, the most distressing feature of this “nontroversy” has been “the patronizing implication that Dr Pachauri’s comments have the power to somehow drive women away” from jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM].
“When detractors [of climate science and the IPCC] suggest—with a straight face—that girls in the 21st century are such trembling, thin-skinned, emotional little dears that they’d allow harmless Mad Men-era banter not only to get to them, but to determine their career path, I find it… devastating,” Ms St Louis told me, choking back tears of anger.