50 Shades Of Ice: The Settled Science Of Grant SnafflingQuadrant, 15 March 2016
Feminist glacier studies, an expanding field of academic climate-science rigor, sometimes needs an R-rating. Like this new feminist glacier research from a team led by Professor Mark Carey at the University of Oregon. Carey scored a $US413,000 grant in 2013 for his glacier research, with the paper being one output from it. It is titled “Glaciers, gender, and science: A feminist glaciology framework for global environmental change research.”
The epic, 15,000-word monograph cites Sheryl St Germain’s obscure, 2001 novel, To Drink a Glacier, where the author is in the throes of her midlife sexual awakening. She “interprets her experiences with Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier as sexual and intimate. When she drinks the glacier’s water, she reflects:
That drink is like a kiss, a kiss that takes in the entire body of the other … like some wondrous omnipotent liquid tongue, touching our own tongues all over, the roofs and sides of our mouths, then moving in us and through to where it knows … I swallow, trying to make the spiritual, sexual sweetness of it last.
Continuing in the tradition of 50 Shades of Ice, the paper further cites Uzma Aslam Khan’s (2010) short story ‘Ice, Mating’. The story
explores religious, nationalistic, and colonial themes in Pakistan, while also featuring intense sexual symbolism of glaciers acting upon a landscape. Khan writes: ‘It was Farhana who told me that Pakistan has more glaciers than anywhere outside the poles. And I’ve seen them! I’ve even seen them fuck!’ (emphasis in original)
Icy conditions normally inhibit tumescence, but the paper’s four authors (two of them men, but writing through “the feminist lens”) seem to be in a state of sustained arousal. To them, even ice core drilling evokes coital imagery:
Structures of power and domination also stimulated the first large-scale ice core drilling projects – these archetypal masculinist projects to literally penetrate glaciers and extract for measurement and exploitation the ice in Greenland and Antarctica.
The study quotes feminist artists and suggests that satellite and aerial imaging of glaciers, rather than involving scientific credibility and accuracy, is actually a masculine construct and “reminiscent of detached, voyeuristic, ‘pornographic’ images.” It continues, “Such a gaze has been troubled by feminist researchers who argue that the ‘conquering gaze’ makes an implicit claim on who has the power to see and not be seen.”
In passing, the study notes that climate change “can lead to the breakdown of stereotypical gender roles and even ‘gender renegotiation’ (Godden, 2013).” This had me worried as I prefer to stay with my male gender.