The last couple of years has seen a lot of chatter about the ‘toxicity’ of masculinity. While, until now, that’s mostly been in a figurative sense, a new project posits that masculinity is literally toxic – specifically, to the planet.
Man-Made Disaster: Patriarchy and The Planet is the title of a one-day physical and ongoing digital exhibition showcasing work by 30 women and non-binary artists which explores the contribution of the patriarchy to the global climate crisis. Among those exhibiting are activist art collective Guerrilla Girls, graphic designer Sarah Boris, Google Creative Lab’s creative director Tea Uglow, photojournalist Alice Aedy, illustrator Ngadi Smart, activist Wong Ka Ying and Jade Gerrard, a model-maker who recently worked on Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs.
While each artist’s response varies hugely, many are instantly recognisable. The piece from Guerrilla Girls, for instance, uses the group’s signature text-based, darkly comedic approach, set in Futura and feminist ire. Among the messages on their poster is, “I love the privacy and convenience of my car and wouldn’t give it up. Besides, how could I shave or put on makeup while riding mass transit?”
Illustrator Marylou Faure, meanwhile, exemplifies her typical use of bold blue, red and white; depicting a woman, head in hand, pleading that we “don’t let the world burn”.
Others take the brief a little more literally when it comes to illustrating the links between masculinity and planetary destruction. Take Ngadi Smart’s image, for instance: a serene woman looks on while penis-shaped chimneys billow smoke (her image is succinctly titled Phallic Nightmare). Artist duo Huntley Muir’s image simply asks, Why Can’t a Man Be More Like a Woman?
The show is being hosted in parallel to the new issue of Do The Green Thing, the environmentally focused project run by Pentagram partner Naresh Ramchandani. According to Do The Green Thing, research has found that “women waste less than men, recycle more than men and outperform men in nearly every environmental behaviour,” including littering less, recycling more and eating less meat.
DTGT suggests that this is because “under the patriarchy, women and girls are expected to be more selfless, other-oriented and socially responsible than men. They are socialised to value and express empathy more strongly, which ‘prepares’ them for lives as mothers, teachers, carers and other woefully underpaid roles in our society. Their altruistic impulses also mean women are more likely to make choices to help protect the planet for future generations.”
Sarah Boris created a book for the exhibition that draws together a collection of 118 tweets by Donald Trump on climate change and global warming. “The purpose of the book is to illustrate the extent of his denial,” she says. This is the first book of Boris’ new publishing imprint, which will put out a series of publications “exploring the best and the worst found online,” she says.
Boris also created an A3 print poster featuring an extract of a tweet by Donald Trump included in the book, with both projects printed on Extract Aqua by GF Smith, “which is a paper made out of paper cups that were on their way to the landfill,” she explains.
Pointing to research from Oxford University, the piece continues that “men influenced by the patriarchy and toxic masculinity may reject eco-friendly behaviour for a similar reason: because environmental altruism and selflessness make men feel less macho, and they fear that green actions will brand them as ‘feminine’.”
Which sort of makes sense, when you think about it. It’s also likely to rile up a hell of a lot of folk, which is probably the point. To add fuel to the big bro fire, there’s also a tonne of research quoted by Do The Green Thing to suggest that not only are women doing more to try and prevent climate change, they’re also disproportionately affected by its fallout, with women of colour affected more than anyone. The site suggests that women make up 80% of people displaced by climate change; and that they’re 14 times more likely to die during natural disasters “because warning information is often transmitted by men to other men in public spaces, while women tend to be at home, caring for children or the elderly. Women are also less likely to be able to swim.”
Man-Made Disaster: Patriarchy & the Planet is on show from 10am-8pm at Protein Studios, 31 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EY on April 25, and is available to view online here