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Icy terrain

Study of “feminist glaciology” draws ire of conservative critics

March 11, 2016

A paper published by University of Oregon professor Mark Carey entitled “Glaciers, gender, and science” caught the eye of Fox News reporters, who focused on the cost of the report this week in an article that explained how the work was funded by part of a half-million dollar federal grant.

“Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change,” Carey wrote. “However, the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers … remain understudied.” The paper adds, “Most existing glaciological research — and hence discourse and discussions about cryospheric change — stems from information produced by men, about men, with manly characteristics, and within masculinist discourses.”

Carey called for a “feminist political ecology and feminist postcolonial” approach when researching glaciers and climate change.

A statement from the University of Oregon released last month said Carey’s aide, Jaclyn Rushing, “found that women’s voices are rarely heard in glacier-related research, a finding that triggered a larger project and led to a paper now online ahead of print by the journal Progress in Human Geography.”

Carey said he had never researched gender vulnerabilities in scientific research and that his team found that women are more at risk to glacier changes and hazards than men. Fox called the study “widely-ridiculed” and noted that it “cost taxpayers a big chunk of cash.”

“People and societies impose their values on glaciers when they discuss, debate, and study them — which is what we mean when we say that ice is not just ice. Glaciers become the platform to express people’s own views about politics, economics, cultural values, and social relations (such as gender relations),” Carey explained in an interview in Science, musing on the criticism of the study. “The attention during the last week proves our point clearly: that glaciers are, in fact, highly politicized sites of contestation.”

Read the full story at Fox News and Science.