Feminist Physics Begets Feminist Glaciology

Feminist glaciology?
Feminist glaciology?

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.”


  1. James

    Is this a parody? This must be a parody. For the sake of my sanity this must be a parody.

    “It simultaneously brings to the forefront glacier knowledge that has been marginalized or deemed ‘outside’ of traditional glaciology.”

    Does this mean they will be promoting any knowledge of glaciers that conflicts with AGW?

    Here is a suggestion for a new paragraph, a real missed opportunity by them:

    Feminist glaciology also seeks to find the underpinning of language structures embedded within the content and interfaces of global environmental change research and shift them to new modes that are neo-post-heteronormative and more encompassing of non traditional thought and emotional states. For example, referring to glaciers as ‘frigid’ rests on cis-masculine hyper-gendered stereotypes that create a hostile environment. Furthermore, glacier core sampling contains subtle ageist terminology as well as a forced assignment of identities to the environmental matter within the core. These are serious impediments to a fully feminist construction of glaciology and which our framework re-paradigmizes to safer, more inclusive ontologies.

  2. Gary

    You’re as cold as ice
    You’re willing to sacrifice our love
    You never take advice
    Someday you’ll pay the price, I know
    I’ve seen it before
    It happens all the time
    You’re closing the door
    You leave the world behind
    You’re digging for gold
    Yet throwing away
    A fortune in feelings
    But someday you’ll pay
    You’re as cold as ice
    You’re willing to sacrifice our love
    You want Paradise
    But someday you’ll pay the price
    I know
    – Foreigner

  3. Joy

    James, Hmm,
    “Is this a parody? This must be a parody. For the sake of my sanity this must be a parody.” Yep!
    and since no feminists visit this site I don’t expect any discussion or argument either.

  4. MattS

    No, it’s not a parody, or at least it’s not Briggs parody. I’ve seen this elsewhere.

  5. Anon

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  6. JH

    Mr. Briggs, there are no blanket statements about academics and feminists and progressive and scientists in this post. An improvement. So Not S****!

  7. “feminist political ecology argues for the integration of alternative ways of knowing, beyond diverse women’s knowledges…”

    As a woman, I demand to know what “diverse women’s knowledges” even ARE before anyone tries to go “beyond” them! What are these “diverse knowledges” and why don’t I know them? I have been oppressed, that much is clear…

  8. Joy

    Sometimes a pickle is just a pickle.

  9. Ray

    Are you sure that wasn’t written by Alan Sokal?

  10. Doug M

    According to the nude scientist there glaciers have gender.


    A “male” glacier is one that is covered in stones and soil and moves slowly or not at all. A “female” one is whiter, and grows more quickly, yielding more water.

    If the male glaciers are systematically oppressing their fairer counterparts, then of course there should be a feminist glacier studies program.

  11. Sander van der Wal

    more research is needed: do glaciers mind if you walk over them using crampons?

  12. BB

    There are times when I really regret working in physics (the good old fashioned masculine variety). If I had just been a little less scrupulous, I could have an established academic career writing papers on how the much neglected feminine perspective on termites indicates that glaciers are racist because they are prejudiced against coloured ice formations, and since racism is on the increase among the savage unenlightened cultural barbarians, as proved by the unjustified violent responses against certain minority groups with every act of terrorism by people who have an irrational fear of the `other’ and thus over-generalise such groups into a unspecific uniformity, and the glaciers are retreating, then by the proposal that excesses of the global banking cartel force racism into the patriarchal straitjacket of a conservation law then this obviously suggests that the evil masculine-led subjugation of electricity generation is causing bigoted resistance to combating climate change and thus we are all doomed unless I receive another research grant. As conclusively proved by this wee p-value investigating the correlation between cloud formation in Texas and the speed of golf buggies (as revealed by an survey whose admittedly unrepresentative sample was corrected and controlled by adjusting for a variable measuring the proximity of traffic lights to airports).

    I really missed an opportunity for a great career there …

  13. Anon

    Chronicle of Higher Ed took this on a few days ago: “The Subtle Ways Gender Gaps Persist in Science” (you will need a subscription or access thru your university); the upshot is “women do more of the day-to-day labor of science while men are credited with more of the big-picture thinking.”

  14. Paul W

    Next up: LGBT clouds – When a stratus, victim of cirrus privilege, is labeled stratus even though it feels it was always meant to be a cumulus.

  15. Did the i filter get put into place… the eyes have all been removed from the contents of the page…

  16. He has been hacked… be there a wordpress process that removes the letter eye!

  17. Brad: Hacked, you say! A letter blanked out has not been seen so far as one can tell about hacks.

  18. argh… at least et be only the eyes… the eees be murder to dance around…

  19. DAV

    Strangely, only comments are targeted. Why would that be? Attack the comments but not the post? Maybe the font got clobbered.

  20. Uncle Mike

    My suspcon s the good doctor dd t for hs own amusement.

  21. Joy

    Yep! Uncle Mike you got it but I wasn’t going to say.

  22. L

    “Truly professional” coverage on sciencemag.org, with a “defense” of the paper by one of its authors.

  23. Joy

    Glad this post was flagged.

  24. Joy

    Seems at least two of my comments were removed which described the removal of the third vowels

  25. Joy

    Apparently she’s 1.67m
    Whatever she is…

  26. Joy

    also always a way to process any amount of suffering to make it compatible with the claim that a loving God exists
    The problem is also that if the evidence for God is processed away, suffering remains.
    For that reason, if there’s a whisper of hope that he is there, then it’s worth remembering.
    Re: the number 666, although I’ve thought about it lately prior to this post, I agree, that it is ‘easy’ Would add that it’s probably mixing with the occult power of satan himself as we used to be told at school when we tried to do a midnight seance…water everywhere, lots of screams.
    They frighten themselves and make themselves feel bad.
    The suffering we’re seeing overseas, in Ukraine and some people see in their own personal lives, is evidence, to me, that we know it is wrong and the indignation and hurt is evidence of our moral fibre as humans. This sets us apart from beasts. Hence he is also known as ’the best’. Yet that is also figurative, Many are ‘friends’ with a lot of animals and I find that they are quite a good example for humans in many ways. Calling Satan the beast doesn’t explain it all. Animals can teach and heal.
    Evil appears to operate in the physical world.
    Yet the salvation offered is not from physical harm, it is spiritual salvation, even in the presence of immense suffering. Seeing that in the resilience and heroism in Ukraine, in the refusal of many of the Russian soldiers to fight the war of a gangster bully.
    Those who do not have such a ‘resource’ (faith) WILL find it highly insulting to suggest that through some lack of their own, their suffering is made worse, and worse than that, it’s their own fault! That is and example of heartless, evil.
    multiplies the suffering in the mind and heart of someone who is truly in pain. I believe for that, people should show that they have physical and practical help to offer, particularly if they believe that God is watching, but even if not.
    The Christian God is a suffering God, through Jesus. No other God explanation offers this.
    Jesus took what he knew was going to happen, and if HE believed he was who he said, that is consistent. Thee is more to understanding the nature of suffering as Swordfish, you make the correct observation that it looks more like evidence of weakness in a purely physical sense.
    If death is not the end, and there is more as the comedian says, then the entire picture and calculation changes and we don’t know what we’re talking about. We’re at least one dimension short of a full theory.
    God does not blame people for doing what they cannot help or not doing what they cannot help.
    Still the french and the english are at it again

  27. Joy

    John 15:
    “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.
    He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes [1] so that it will be even more fruitful.
    You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.
    Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
    “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
    If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
    If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
    This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
    “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.
    If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
    I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
    My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
    Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
    You are my friends if you do what I command.
    I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
    You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.
    This is my command: Love each other.
    “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.
    If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
    Remember the words I spoke to you: `No servant is greater than his master.’ [2] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.
    They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.
    If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin.
    He who hates me hates my Father as well.
    If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father.
    But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: `They hated me without reason.’ [3]
    “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.
    And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.

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