Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. I Read the Famous Feminist Glaciology Paper So You Don’t Have To

 

shutterstock_356613728The paper “Glaciers, Gender, and Science: A Feminist Glaciology Framework for Global Environmental Change Research,” referenced recently on Reason and PowerLine, analyzes how we have come to know what we do about glaciers. Apparently, glaciology has been polluted by men who — wielding pick axes and slinging about equations employing tensor notation — “participated in the imperialist, colonial, and capitalist projects associated with polar exploration [and] mountain colonization.” In case you feel slightly confused, please note the authors “use ‘glaciology’ in an encompassing sense that exceeds the immediate scientific meanings of the label,” and do this in order to capture the themes of “power, domination, colonialism, and control – undergirded by and coincident with masculinist ideologies – have shaped glacier-related sciences and knowledges over time.”

We didn’t know this until now because this topic had been “understudied” while the rest of us were preoccupied with, ostensibly, more important things.

The authors assert that “[m]ost existing glaciological research – and hence discourse and discussions about cryospheric change – stems from information produced by men, about men, with manly characteristics.” This is, apparently, bad: somewhere between very, very bad, and the ultimate crux of badness itself. Apparently, knowledge acquisition and even knowledge itself can be “gendered.” When the authors insist that a “critical but overlooked aspect … is the relationship between gender and glaciers,” they’re not just squabbling about whether the French use a masculine or feminine noun for “ice” — it’s feminine, thank heaven — but are identifying an existential threat. However, they do go on to relate that gender is not just a “male/female binary, but as a range of personal and social possibilities” including “power, justice, inequality, and knowledge production in the context of ice, glacier change, and glaciology.” I’m so glad we got that cleared up straightaway.

The authors deploy a rather large number of words in decrying the glaciological he-men of the past who flaunted their gender through masculine activities like exploring the dangerous terrain of remote ices-capes, planting flags, and drilling cores into the pristine ice. In the authors’ feminist glaciological view, the debate between scientists James Forbes and John Tyndall (men, natch) regarding how glaciers moved across the landscape was settled not by gathering evidence and testing hypotheses, which are mundane and, likely, male-gendered tasks. Rather, they were owed to Tyndall’s displays of masculine dominance in mountaineering, and his deployment of “a rhetoric of manly risk and exertion.” Back in those so-very-backward days, “[g]laciology was for muscular gentlemen scientists” only.

But the authors assure us that the “history of glaciology is not simply about the ubiquity of men and the absence and/or erasure of women.” Women scientists are finally publishing in academic journals of glaciology, even if they are still “often managed by men.” Moreover, females of indigenous peoples have always contributed narratives infused with the special knowledge that comes from close contact with the ice. Don’t believe me? Allow the authors to explain:

[W]hereas glaciologists may try to measure glaciers and understand ice physics by studying the glacial ice itself, indigenous accounts do not portray the ice as passive, to be measured and mastered in a stereotypically masculinist sense. ‘The glaciers these women speak of’, explains Cruikshank (2005: 51–3), ‘engage all the senses. [The glaciers] are willful, capricious, easily excited by human intemperance, but equally placated by quick-witted human responses. Proper behavior is deferential. I was warned, for instance, about firm taboos against “cooking with grease” near glaciers that are offended by such smells.… Cooked food, especially fat, might grow into a glacier overnight if improperly handled.’ The narratives Cruikshank collected show how humans and nature are intimately linked, and subsequently demonstrate the capacity of folk glaciologies to diversify the field of glaciology and subvert the hegemony of natural sciences.

Despite its elegance, lyricism, and wrong-righting, this paper is not without flaw. Amid the long list of “glacier-oriented visual and literary arts” that includes explicitly erotic narratives — including a non-CoC compliant description of two glaciers copulating in Pakistan and the depiction of consuming Alaskan glacial water as a sexual awakening – they curiously overlook the well-known song “Cold as Ice” (Foreigner, 1977). This omission by itself casts serious doubt on the breadth and seriousness of their scholarship.

But, as the authors state, their “goal is neither to force glaciologists to believe that glaciers listen nor to make indigenous peoples put their full faith in scientists’ mathematical equations and computer-generated models (devoid of meaning, spirituality, and reciprocal human-nature relationships).”]. Instead, we “must recognize the ways in which more-than-scientific, non-Western, non-masculinist modes of knowledge, thinking, and action are marginalized” by, you know, science. Indeed, they conclude that if only “we constitute glaciological and global environmental change research differently, we can constitute our future, our gender relations, and our international political economic relations more justly and equitably.”

I simply couldn’t have said it better myself.

There are 95 comments.

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  1. Kay of MT Member

    A lot of gobbledygook in that!

    • #1
    • March 8, 2016, at 7:12 PM PST
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  2. TreeRat Member

    I don’t know whether to thank you for sparing me having to read it, or decry you for providing a summary, giving me more content knowledge than I would ever have acquired on my own. My hope against hope is that the whole thing is a satiric hoax … but I don’t believe it.

    • #2
    • March 8, 2016, at 7:19 PM PST
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  3. Weeping Member

    for RicochetTalk about word salad.

    (The paper, not the post.)

    • #3
    • March 8, 2016, at 7:20 PM PST
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  4. Hugh Member

    This article leaves me cold.

    The pace of this article is very slow moving.

    The original cited article is not very n-ice.

    This topic is a bit of a slippery slope.

    (giggles uncontrollably)

    • #4
    • March 8, 2016, at 7:21 PM PST
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  5. Weeping Member

    Richard Finlay: My hope against hope is that the whole thing is a satiric hoax.

    Surely, surely it is. Isn’t it?

    • #5
    • March 8, 2016, at 7:22 PM PST
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  6. Cyrano Inactive
    Cyrano

    Weeping:

    Richard Finlay: My hope against hope is that the whole thing is a satiric hoax.

    Surely, surely it is. Isn’t it?

    Unfortunately, it’s not a hoax, although it appears it could have been produced by a pomobabble (postmodern essay) generator such as this one.

    If you’ve never heard of the Sokal affair, you may find it fascinating.

    • #6
    • March 8, 2016, at 7:26 PM PST
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  7. Grosseteste Member

    If I read it right, the lead writer, and at least 50% of the team (one of the 4 authors is “M Jackson”) are male, leaving an opening for a future paper on the male-dominated field of feminist hermeneutics.

    • #7
    • March 8, 2016, at 7:31 PM PST
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  8. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Today, I’m embarrassed for my (fairer?) sex, my nation, and, indeed, my species. As well written and entertaining as this post is, you’re not helping Cyrano.

    When I turn in tonight, I’ll be saying that old prayer, “It’s your world, God. I’m going to sleep.”

    • #8
    • March 8, 2016, at 7:36 PM PST
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  9. Vicryl Contessa Thatcher

    I tried to make sense of the abstract, and after about 2 sentences found myself overcome by a need to find a desk immediately so as to acquaint my head with its surface…

    • #9
    • March 8, 2016, at 7:38 PM PST
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  10. Cyrano Inactive
    Cyrano

    Vicryl Contessa:I tried to make sense of the abstract, and after about 2 sentences found myself overcome by a need to find a desk immediately so as to acquaint my head with its surface…

    I did say I read it so you didn’t have to ?.

    • #10
    • March 8, 2016, at 7:41 PM PST
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  11. Cyrano Inactive
    Cyrano

    Grosseteste:If I read it right, the lead writer, and at least 50% of the team (one of the 4 authors is “M Jackson”) are male, leaving an opening for a future paper on the male-dominated field of feminist hermeneutics.

    I’m picturing Pajama Boy for the lead author. As for “M. Jackson”, the very name makes me feel that male/female might indeed go beyond a binary to a “range of personal and social possibilities”.

    (The author of this reply disclaims any motivation owing to animus, cannibis, or he-manness.)

    • #11
    • March 8, 2016, at 7:48 PM PST
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  12. Vicryl Contessa Thatcher

    Cyrano:

    Vicryl Contessa:I tried to make sense of the abstract, and after about 2 sentences found myself overcome by a need to find a desk immediately so as to acquaint my head with its surface…

    I did say I read it so you didn’t have to ?.

    Too late. I read the abstract last night.

    • #12
    • March 8, 2016, at 7:49 PM PST
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  13. Kay of MT Member

    Cyrano:

    Vicryl Contessa:I tried to make sense of the abstract, and after about 2 sentences found myself overcome by a need to find a desk immediately so as to acquaint my head with its surface…

    I did say I read it so you didn’t have to ?.

    Your summary didn’t improve it much. LOL

    • #13
    • March 8, 2016, at 7:50 PM PST
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  14. LC Member
    LC Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    While the study is eerily sexual, it’s still loony.

    Sorry that you had to read this rubbish.

    • #14
    • March 8, 2016, at 7:53 PM PST
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  15. Tenacious D Inactive

    “Apparently, glaciology has been polluted by manly men who, by wielding pick axes and slinging about equations employing tensor notation, “participated in the imperialist, colonial, and capitalist projects associated with polar exploration [and] mountain colonization”.”

    They say that like it’s a bad thing.

    • #15
    • March 8, 2016, at 7:53 PM PST
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  16. Cyrano Inactive
    Cyrano

    Tenacious D:“Apparently, glaciology has been polluted by manly men who, by wielding pick axes and slinging about equations employing tensor notation, “participated in the imperialist, colonial, and capitalist projects associated with polar exploration [and] mountain colonization”.”

    They say that like it’s a bad thing.

    Tensor notation is the work of the devil himself. Or maybe it’s the devil herself. I don’t want to be sexist, and it’s conceivable the devil’s given name is Hillary.

    • #16
    • March 8, 2016, at 7:58 PM PST
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  17. Ned Walton Inactive

    “Silly me. I thought feminist glaciology refers to when we’re not in the mood.”

    Sandra Shreve, WSJ Commenter

    • #17
    • March 8, 2016, at 8:14 PM PST
    • 1 like
  18. Metalheaddoc Member
    Metalheaddoc Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Those glaciers sure did wreak a lot of environmental destruction. How many habitats lost? Species eradicated? Global warming is natural justice, as far as I’m concerned. Burn! M’er F’ers! Burn!

    • #18
    • March 8, 2016, at 8:42 PM PST
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  19. Metalheaddoc Member
    Metalheaddoc Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Something tells me that these authors are probably not the most popular panelists at all the big meetings.

    • #19
    • March 8, 2016, at 8:43 PM PST
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  20. Cyrano Inactive
    Cyrano

    Lidens Cheng:While the study is eerily sexual, it’s still loony.

    Sorry that you had to read this rubbish.

    I could not have managed to get through that paper, unless my intention was to mock it. However, what’s truly eerie to me is how similar the essay is to what gets generated by the pomobabble essay generator I mentioned up-thread. As with the essay generator, the paper is essentially a pastiche of quotations and citations with little to no original content, other than a few assertions provided under the misapprehension that repetition constitutes proof. The paper is, in a very real sense, not even wrong.

    And the journal it was published in claims an impact factor of 5.01. The journals I publish in are considered prestigious in my field, but don’t have impact factors half that. Another reason to consider that statistic as meaningless (except it did have an impact on me, I guess).

    I’m seriously considering writing up a similar treatment of my own subject area, and submitting it to this journal. It’ll be easier than doing real science, and I’ll probably get a raise to boot.

    But, the bottom line is this paper is a useful reminder that the Emperor has no clothes is clothing marginalized and those who sing the praises of “diversity” don’t consider intellectual diversity praiseworthy.

    • #20
    • March 8, 2016, at 8:46 PM PST
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  21. wilber forge Inactive
    wilber forge Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    So the Rape Culture meme has moved onto Persecuted Glaciers ?

    On the flip side then Women through the ages are responsable for all those productive Glacial Periods that served humankind so well. Seems Deep thinkers these days are akin to the cylces of raising mushrooms.

    • #21
    • March 8, 2016, at 10:54 PM PST
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  22. Claire Berlinski, Ed. Editor

    Weeping:

    Richard Finlay: My hope against hope is that the whole thing is a satiric hoax.

    Surely, surely it is. Isn’t it?

    I think it must be. It’s just a bit too perfect.

    • #22
    • March 8, 2016, at 11:45 PM PST
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  23. Cyrano Inactive
    Cyrano

    Claire, you’re a feminist glaciology denier.

    • #23
    • March 9, 2016, at 4:32 AM PST
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  24. Boss Mongo Member

    I’ve always been told having my scotch on the rocks was an act of barbarism. Now you’re telling me it’s an act of misogyny?

    Awesome. A two’fer.

    • #24
    • March 9, 2016, at 5:18 AM PST
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  25. Vicryl Contessa Thatcher

    Scotch on the rocks is barbarism. It SHOULD be drunk neat. Heathen…?

    • #25
    • March 9, 2016, at 5:24 AM PST
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  26. Matt Bartle Member
    Matt Bartle Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Ned Walton:“Silly me. I thought feminist glaciology refers to when we’re not in the mood.”

    Sandra Shreve, WSJ Commenter

    “You’re as cold as ice”

    • #26
    • March 9, 2016, at 5:43 AM PST
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  27. Cyrano Inactive
    Cyrano

    The field of radical feminist volcanology is hereby founded. Please remember where you are and whom you are with, as this is a world-historical event.

    Like feminist glaciology, feminist volcanology represents an extrusion of postcolonial ecology into an arena heretofore dominated by stereotypical masculinities. In the view promulgated by intrinsically male scientists of all possible genders, volcanology has been preoccupied with icons of masculinity, including but not limited to describing their size and eruptile behaviors. They have been seen as “polluting” the landscape, causing earthquakes and decimating cities with pyroclastic rage. Volcanoes have been masculinity itself!

    This patriarchal view has marginalized women and obscured volcanoes as having stories to tell to those attuned with nature. (Indeed, until recently, the only women in volcanology have literally been women in volcanoes, sacrifices to vengeful, masculinist deities.) Feminist volcanology rejects stereotypical tools such as equations and measurements in favor of folk volcanologies that, like folk glaciologies, exist to “challenge existing power dynamics and cultures of control” (Carey et al. 2016). This raises novel epistemological questions about the production of gendered volcanological knowledge.

    Thus, we seek robust analyses of alternative viewpoints to recify the “differential representation in the production of environmental knowledges” (Cochrane 2014). Our field will wield the inexhaustible tools of postcolonialism even as it eschews up dictionaries for ever more arcane nouns of obscure meaning to protect the field from intrusive masculinist aggression. Our goal is a dedicated journal but we’ll settle for unfettered access to the faculty lounge.

    • #27
    • March 9, 2016, at 6:20 AM PST
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  28. Vicryl Contessa Thatcher

    I’m gonna need you to fix your in-text sitations…sexist.

    • #28
    • March 9, 2016, at 6:33 AM PST
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  29. Penfold Member

    • #29
    • March 9, 2016, at 6:55 AM PST
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  30. Tim H. Member

    Cyrano:

    I’m picturing Pajama Boy for the lead author. As for “M. Jackson”, the very name makes me feel that male/female might indeed go beyond a binary to a “range of personal and social possibilities”.

    I was wondering about that, too. Seriously. In some scientific journals, the standard is to use only first & middle initials and the last name. In others, it’s your full name. Either way, it’s consistent. The inconsistency here makes me suspect that some additional dominant paradigms are being subverted.

    • #30
    • March 9, 2016, at 7:10 AM PST
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