That air-conditioning story – desperately seeking sexism
‘Is office air-conditioning a sexist conspiracy?’, asked Jezebel recently. In this instance, it seems a simple ‘no’ will not suffice. A recent report published in the austere journal Nature and Climate Change suggested that recalibrating air-conditioning systems could save companies money as well as reduce carbon emissions. It also claimed that most air-conditioning systems are hopelessly out of date, as they are calibrated in accordance with the metabolic rate of the average 40-year-old man.
This anodyne observation – in a journal with a readership that can’t amount to many more people than the authors themselves – has nevertheless been widely reported and commented on. Signs of sexism in society, it seems, are now sought out in even the driest of academic publications. So it was that this report was swiftly recast as a comment on male privilege in the workplace – it was even argued that the report proves that while men bend their environment to their will, by making sure the temperature is comfortable for them, women are simply forced to adapt.
Reading some of the coverage, you might think large numbers of women work in industrial fridges. A piece in the Telegraph even listed the various health problems that might arise from a cold working environment. The injustice is truly heartbreaking.
But there’s hope yet for frozen female office workers: the hot air produced by this story is enough to keep anyone warm.
Stefan Rhys-Williams is a spiked intern.
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