Sexist taunts obscure reality of climate change
Maybe now, with the pendulum swinging against sexual harassment like a wrecking ball, we will start to see a new culture of intolerance for the sexist taunts routinely levelled against female politicians.
It’s been over a year since Rebel Media’s Sheila Gunn Reid delivered a jeering critique of Environment Minister Catherine McKenna’s performance. “Looks like someone pulled the string on the back of Climate Barbie and made her talk again,” she quipped.
Since then the far-right media outlet has enthusiastically embraced the hashtag #climatebarbie, launching a domain of the same name, which redirects traffic to the foundering company’s website.
There is a long and shameful tradition of demeaning women in politics. “Classless bitch,” “attractive dipstick” and “spoiled ditz with big tits” are a few standouts levelled at Alison Redford, Belinda Stronach and Christy Clark, respectively. Offenders are men and women of all political stripes. Far too often, such casual misogyny is dismissed as mere partisanship.
“Climate Barbie” finally attracted widespread condemnation when it was tweeted, then deleted, by Conservative MP Gerry Ritz in September. McKenna rightly called him out. “I apologize for the use of Barbie, it is not reflective of the role the minister plays,” he promptly recanted.
The comparison defines a transparent campaign to not just take the minister down a notch, but to undercut her portfolio with objectifying language. If climate science could tweet, it might well say: #metoo.
The Rebel aggressively challenges the broad scientific consensus on climate change. A sample post from the archives included a petition to halt green energy policies based on decadal variability in the rate of global warming ( basically, the way trends on a graph wiggle up and down within in a curve rather than going up in a smooth, straight line). Global warming had paused, it argued; the government should “not spend billions on a problem that may not be happening.”
Notwithstanding this editorial position, the outlet strongly resists the term “climate deniers.” Tensions erupted at a news conference in Vancouver last week, when McKenna used a question from the Rebel’s Christopher Wilson as a platform to demand his organization cease using the Climate Barbie hashtag and other personal taunts, calling them “totally unacceptable.”
“What I find unacceptable is when you smear people, calling them deniers, with all the connotations of the Holocaust denial,” Wilson responded tersely. He used Climate Barbie in a subsequent tweet.
The Rebel co-founder Ezra Levant left little doubt where he stood on Twitter: “Appointed to fit a gender quota; unable to control her emotions when criticized; spends taxes on vanity photo shoots. #ClimateBarbie fits.” It takes careful aim to hit so many tropes with one stone. With one broad swing Levant invoked stereotypes of women as less qualified, over-emotional, and profligate spenders.
The latest act in Barbiegate has unfolded against the release of the U.S. government’s Climate Science Special Report. The substance of the report has taken a back seat to the no-surprises mini-drama between the scientists’ conclusions — climate change is real, and caused by human activity — and the U.S. president’s denial of same.
That’s a shame; the substance is important.
The pace of rising sea levels has accelerated rapidly since 1993, and will rise “at least” several inches more in the next 15 years. Our future holds more heavy rainfall, heat waves, forest fires and chronic drought. Human activity — particularly greenhouse gas emissions — is established with 95 to 100 per cent certainty as the dominant cause.
Opposition politicians and news outlets should, absolutely, question policy solutions to these pressing issues. Lazy retrograde attacks on women cast doubt on the speaker — not the science.