Women most affected - climate of the accountability gap | HBR Talk 30

Everyone is impacted by environmental change. Everyone has to have food, water, and shelter. Everyone needs to at least be in an environment where the temperature isn’t going to cause hypothermia or heat sickness. Nobody can live underwater, survive by drinking polluted water, or thrive on food grown in land that poisons it with pollutants. Man, woman, or child, these things have the same impact; you either protect your environment, or you lose that which is keeping you alive. 

And feminists portray environmental issues as though… yep, you guessed it… women are most affected. Why? Because in 3rd world countries, women manage resources like food and water, and women work in agriculture. 

It could be reasonably argued that under those circumstances, the women would be the first to notice the impact of environmental pollution and changes in weather patterns on those resources, not because they’re more heavily impacted, but because OF COURSE THE PEOPLE WORKING WITH THOSE RESOURCES WOULD NOTICE! It could be reasonably argued that in those countries, women might be the first to sound the alarm when there are problems affecting these resources. 

It cannot, however, be reasonably argued that men or children are less in need of safe food and safe water to consume, less impacted, therefore, by shortages. It isn’t reasonable to treat them as less in need of consideration when first world countries step in to help provide resources where environmental pollution has made them unavailable or unuseable in 3rd world countries. 

Feminists argue both of those things, the same as they do with everything else, by arguing that women are more affected, while ignoring the experiences of men. In doing so, they impact initiatives intended to counter the impact of environmental damage on the ability of third world populations to survive. They promote unequal distribution based on the belief that sex dictates need, and leave men and families out of initiatives to which they need access just as badly as women do. They leave men to fend for themselves, while demonizing men as if they are the sole root of the problem… but are they?

To answer that, we must highlight another thing feminists do: 

They ignore the consequences of women’s choices. While groups like the organizers of The Women’s March and the WikiProject_feminism writers assert that environmental change hits women harder, they never look into women’s impact on the environment. 

For women’s part, most never consider the pathway taken by the products they buy, take home, use, and discard, from concept to consumption. Most of them have no idea. 

In her report, Chemical Exposures: The Ugly Side of Beauty Products, published in the January 2005 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, Julia R. Barrett stated, “In recent decades reproductive and developmental problems have become more prevalent—for example, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that male reproductive problems, including undescended testicles and hypospadias, doubled between 1970 and 1993. Environmental chemicals are strongly suspected to be contributing factors.”

She explains that according to reports from that, and two other studies, “makeup, shampoo, skin lotion, nail polish, and other personal care products contain chemical ingredients that lack safety data. Moreover, some of these chemicals have been linked in animal studies to male genital birth defects, decreased sperm counts, and altered pregnancy outcomes.”

Later she states, “a population study conducted by the CDC and published in the March 2004 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives demonstrated that 97% of 2,540 individuals tested had been exposed to one or more phthalates. Another preliminary study conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health and published in the July 2003 issue of EHP showed a correlation between urinary phthalate metabolite concentrations and DNA damage in human sperm.” Her report states that exposure sources are unknown, but also states that phthalates are common components of various cosmetics and personal care products.

A Huffington Post article titled “Your fave makeup could be harming the environment” by Emily Lyons, pointed out that several ingredients commonly found in makeup and women’s hygiene products are known to have environmental impact. Titanium dioxide, found in “skin tints, mineral-based makeups and a wide range of other cosmetic products like sunscreens” ends up in groundwater, where it causes DNA damage to freshwater snails and stops phytoplankton, which produces about ⅔ of the Earth’s atmospheric oxygen, from growing.

The article goes on to point out evidence linking antimicrobial chemicals in makeup and other skin care products to damage to coral and to shortening lifespans of freshwater organisms. The writer goes on to recommend organic brands of makeup, but even these come with drawbacks: All of these products are sold in containers made of plastic, glass, and sometimes metal that ultimately end up in whatever landfill is local to the buyer’s area, along with the unused portions of the product that get thrown out by women eager to get the next new color, style, or treatment. 

That doesn’t even get into the use of fibroblasts from pilfered infant foreskins to make anti-wrinkle creams and hair tonics. Women most affected? Hell no - only boys’ foreskins are harvested for such purposes. If it were girls’ skin, everyone would be able to admit that this is child exploitation for the purpose of catering to individual vanity. When will the women’s march incorporate outrage over that into their manifesto? Or do they not consider the widely-experienced health issues associated with loss of this important, functional tissue worthy of their attention?

But is makeup women’s only impact on the environment? Surely that’s no comparison to that of the oil industry, right?

Maybe not… but the fashion industry? That’s another story. 

According to Liz Claudio’s report, Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry, published in the September 2007 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives, “women in the West tend to buy much more clothing and discard it more often than men…” and this gap in consumer behavior has led to a phenomenon in women’s clothing called “Fast fashion.” 

Fast fashion refers to clothing produced so quickly and so cheaply that many consumers consider it to be disposable. 

Claudio writes, “Fast fashion provides the marketplace with affordable apparel aimed mostly at young women. Fueling the demand are fashion magazines that help create the desire for new ‘must-haves’ for each season.”  In the next paragraph, she points out that this fashion cycle “leaves a pollution footprint, with each step of the clothing life cycle generating potential environmental and occupational hazards.”

One would think the rise of thrift shopping in the last few decades would alleviate some of this problem, but according to the Claudio, “Only about one-fifth of the clothing donated to charities is directly used or sold in their thrift shops.” She quotes Pietra Rivoli, a professor of international business at the McDonough School of Business of Georgetown University: “There are nowhere near enough people in America to absorb the mountains of castoffs, even if they were given away.” Charities like The Salvation Army help to fund their programs by selling old clothing to textile recyclers to be turned into industrial wiping rags, filling for upholstery, or paper. Many people simply discard, rather than donating their old clothing anywhere. The report points out that according to the EPA Office of Solid Waste, Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year, and clothing and other textiles represent about 4% of municipal solid waste. 

Claudio describes the energy-intensive production of man-made fibers, which relies on fossil fuels and releases pollutants into the air and in wastewater put out by textile plants. Cotton, which she says is one of the most popular and versatile fibers used in clothing manufacture, is so reliant on pesticides that it accounts for ¼ of all of those used in the U.S., resulting in significant environmental contamination.

The World Resources Institute’s July 05, 2017 article, “The Apparel Industry’s Environmental Impact in 6 Graphics,” by Deborah Drew and Genevieve Yehounme, points out that it takes as much water to produce one cotton shirt as a person would drink in 2 ½ years. In Central Asia, the article states, the Aral Sea has nearly disappeared because cotton farmers draw excessively from the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers. The article goes on to state, “Water use and pollution also take place during clothing production. About 20 percent of industrial water pollution is due to garment manufacturing, while the world uses 5 trillion liters (1.3 trillion gallons) of water each year for fabric dyeing alone, enough to fill 2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.”

The U.S, by the way, is the largest exporter of cotton in the world. It’s grown here, then sent to other countries to go through the most polluting parts of its process of becoming clothing. 

What a coincidence. We’re the largest exporter of crybaby first-world-feminist ideology in the world, too. And what do they do about the problem?

They buy skeins of pink-dyed cotton, wool, or synthetic yarn and knit pussy-hats to throw a massive temper tantrum about the U.S. federal government not forcing their employers to pay for another pollutant: Hormonal birth control. 

In his article, “Water pollution caused by birth control poses dilemma,” published May 23, 2012, by Livescience news, Wynne Perry writes of the Pill’s active ingredient, “Not only is ethinyl estradiol quite potent — creating "intersex" fish and amphibians — but it is very difficult to remove from wastewater, which carries it into natural waterways.”

On March 4, 2016, in an article titled “Estrogen in birth control pills has a negative impact on fish, Science Daily reported on research by Lina Nikoleris which found that when chemicals from hormonal birth control pollute waterways, they actually alter the genes of fish living in them.

But the environmental impact of this convenience for women may not be limited to wildlife. A 2007 study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that testosterone levels in men have rapidly declined during the past 2 decades. The report, “A Population-Level Decline in Serum Testosterone Levels in American Men,” by Thomas G. Travison, Andre B. Araujo, Amy B. O’Donnell, Varant Kupelian, and John B. McKinlay, stated that the change “does not appear to be attributable to observed changes in explanatory factors, including health and lifestyle characteristics such as smoking and obesity. The estimated population-level declines are greater in magnitude than the cross-sectional declines in T(estosterone) typically associated with age,” and went on to conclude that “These results indicate that recent years have seen a substantial, and as yet unrecognized, age-independent population-level decrease in T(estosterone) in American men, potentially attributable to birth cohort differences or to health or environmental effects not captured in observed data.”

If estrogen in groundwater is affecting fish and amphibians on a genetic level, what are the effects of estrogen in drinking water? Scientific American’s article “Can Birth Control Hormones Be Filtered from the Water Supply?” reported that “trace amounts of birth control and other medications” have been found “in many urban and suburban water supplies around the country,” and that while some do not believe this is a problem, “Researchers have found evidence that even extremely diluted concentrations of drug residues harm fish, frogs and other aquatic species, and have been shown to labs to impair human cell function.”

I could go on… I could describe the environmental impact of mining for the components of many women’s favorite self-decorations - you know, jewelry. I could describe the environmental impact of the cleaning chemicals women use, the environmental impact of the production, distribution, use, and eventual disposal of many modern conveniences and luxuries used by western women, even those in the lower income ranges… all of which exist because of a female-driven western consumer economy… but that’s not what this is about.

This is not to say that striving for technological advancement for convenience sake is wrong, or that grooming, self-care, or even the use of birth control are wrong. The question comes up only because of the treatment of environmental issues as a female victim narrative. Readily available evidence suggests while environmentalism is not necessarily the women’s issue the pussy hat brigade makes it out to be, it IS one, in at least one way: Women - at least first-world women - have significant power to impact the environment in both good ways, and bad. And yes, that would include the very women who have been marching in protest against being denied outside facilitation for obtaining personal conveniences that are shown to negatively impact the environment… women who whine about being expected to dress professionally at work, then turn around and feed the fast fashion and makeup industries that are destroying the world’s water supply and adding unnecessarily to our landfills… then complain that women in 3rd world countries are adversely affected, without admitting to being responsible for a significant portion of the problem. 

What kind of hat are these women going to wear to march in protest of their own behavior? I know of one I could suggest.

Chemical Exposures: The Ugly Side of Beauty Products

Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry

A Population-Level Decline in Serum Testosterone Levels in American Men







Estrogen in birth control pills has a negative impact on fish