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  • Writer's pictureGregory Andrews

Climate change denial and toxic masculinity

Updated: Jan 8

I expected resistance when I undertook my #ClimateHungerStrike in November 2023. But I didn't anticipate the consistently abusive, sexist, misogynistic and racist deluge that subsequently appeared on my social media accounts from climate change deniers. They are almost always men on Twitter and devoid of logic. Their criticism is personal, even through they don't know me. They focus almost exclusively on gender, sex, penis size, LGBTIQ+ identities, religion and, of course my Aboriginal identity. They also like to boast about conspicuous consumption of meat and fossil fuels.


For the record, I don't personalise any of it. I didn't go on my hunger strike to preach to the converted. I'm glad I'm disrupting them. But I do feel sorry and embarrassed for them. I wonder what their mothers, grandmothers, aunties, and daughters would think. I know my family would be appalled if I were to behave that way.


While water off a duck's back to me, these behaviours reveal a deeply troubling truth about a significant subset of Australia's men. Climate change denial is deeply entwined with their toxic masculinity, homophobia, racism and petro- and meat-centric masculinity. These men, and yes they are almost entirely men, are not just rejecting the reality of humanity's greatest crisis. They are clinging desperately to outdated hyper-masculine identities. And they're promoting and perpetuating harmful gender norms, hate, homophobia and racism.


The sexism and homophobia embedded in climate change denialism is particularly glaring. Denialists' use of abuse based on gender, sex, sexuality, and physical appearances is indicative of a larger issue – their discomfort when confronted with challenges and deviations from their subconsciously ingrained gender norms and heteronormative expectations. Toxic masculinity, characterised by a fear of vulnerability and an insistence on dominance, supports their rejection of climate science. Their personal attacks and belittling of people becomes their safe space.


Racism is another ugly facet. The connection between racism and climate change denial is not new; it often reflects a resistance to global collaboration and a reluctance to accept the responsibility of developed nations like Australia in contributing to climate change. By attacking people's identities, denialists attempt to divert attention from the systemic changes and responsibilities required to address environmental issues. Just like Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison did when they joked about Pacific Island countries sinking due to rising sea levels back in 2015.


Amusingly, but perhaps also more tellingly, is denialists' promotion of excessive consumption of meat, junk food, and fossil fuels. This is where the link to toxic petro- and meat-centred masculinity becomes unmistakable. I remember during my hunger strike, climate change denialists would drive their V8s past me revving-up their engines while yelling out "climate change is a hoax". This was somehow self-validating for them. Glorification of excessive and harmful consumption aligns with the ethos of industries, which not only actively contribute to climate change with accepting responsibility, but also promote a specific brand of hyper-masculinity centred on male dominance and consumption.


Climate change is undeniably man-made. But what I learned from my #ClimateHungerStrike is that toxic men are a part of the problem too - beyond the science, technology, policy and political reforms needed for a safer planet. We must deal with toxic behaviours propagated by this subset of men who cling to outdated gender norms, resist change and use abuse as their defence. Engaging in rational discussion with them seems futile in the face of their deeply ingrained misogyny, racism, and homophobia. I don't know what the answer is, but if you do, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please write a comment below.


I block and report the worse of it. But just incase you'd like to see some examples, have a trawl trough my Twitter feed and search for words like "penis", "gay", "LGBTIQ", "Islam", "God", "Abo", the C and/or F word, "carnivore", "bacon", "meat", or "steak". But a warning, you'll find lots of offensive content.


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8 Comments


David Leigh
David Leigh
Mar 29

It is unfortunate that some people, when confronted with the truth about human behaviour patterns being responsible for harm, feel the need to challenge the conversation with insulting comments. They are slow to realise that their ignorance is on display for all to see. Climate change, we know is the biggest problem to face humanity ever. Bigger than wars or depressions and far bigger than inflation and interest rate hikes and will be responsible for all those things to reoccur within the not too distant future, if not taken seriously. Toxic comments are likely what will start civil unrest, if not tempered. Fortunately, education has improved quite a lot over the past few years and most of the next generatio…

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Lyndal Breen
Lyndal Breen
Mar 18

Sooner or later a lot of people, usually male, are going to lose their toys and many activities that they value. Although there seem to be more gigantic utes and oover-powerfulSUVs, often needed they say for work or safe transport of the family, these are definitely under threat from the new vehicle emissions standards. There are a number of fossil fuel guzzling sports as well, ie any type of vehicle racing, that must come to an end soon. We really are attacking the self image of many men when we say these things will be going. I hope the next generation can come through without such a strong attachment to competition expressed through having more powerful vehicles

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Bee Winfield
Bee Winfield
Jan 08

People behaving badly can be ignored. "Just remember they are a loud but small segment of the world"says Tonie Field, and I agree. Don't whip up hatred and upset yourself and others with characitures. Don't put labels ending with IST on people, labels divide and hamper discussion. I'm female, old, and white, so what do you now know about me, and what I believe? Nothing much. What is important: I love nature,and have been concerned enough about air pollution to ride a bike for 60 years. I believe eating rotationaly grazed organic meat is the best thing we can do for the ecology and climate. Maybe we could discuss why.

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Rupert Baker
Rupert Baker
Jan 08

Hi Gregory, I was taught that communication between subgroups requires chains of trust, so that the extremes are pulled towards change by people they know and/or identify with. So focus on the middle and engage the deniers indirectly. Secure support and change policy. Engagement from a hunger striker maybe unlikely to make a toxic macho denier to think again. More strength to your arm.

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Tonié Field
Tonié Field
Jan 08

Your comments are completely on point Andrew. I'm not surprised you have recieved these vile comments on your twitter. Your actions challenge their sad realities. It's a pity a male segment of the humyn species has become so corrupted by the social media phenomenon and globalised capitalism pitfalls of power and the male ego. Just remember they are a loud but small segment of the world. A lot of them idolise people like mr. musk, gates, thiel, bezos, pinker, welch, kurzweil and all the other hyper inlated male wannabe billionaires. They see their ideas as an "easy way out" instead of facing the real work of being humyn and the limits on our beautiful planet, for which we must be…

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Gregory Andrews
Gregory Andrews
Feb 25
Replying to

:-)

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