Some electrons have “balls” and others don't
August 30, 2019 2:04 AM   Subscribe

Fascinated and horrified – like passing the scene of a car crash and craning your neck to see more – I dug deeper in some of these conversations, and found that this view is bound up in ideas of domination. There is actually something in the very destructive nature of digging great big holes in the ground, pulling up rocks and burning them, consequences be damned, that suggests greater strength and power to some people than harnessing the energy of the wind and sun. From this perspective, a plan to phase out coal and power Australia 100% with renewable energy is seen as a challenge to the view of this country as a place of rugged masculinity.This goes even more for nuclear power. In this understanding of the world, what could be stronger, what could demonstrate “man’s power over nature” more than our ability to split the atom? The idea that this is dangerous and has the capacity to make great big explosions is part of the attraction, not a mark against it.
Do Nuclear-Powered Electrons Have Balls?, an essay by Tim Hollo of the Green Institute, exploring the connections between domination-oriented conceptions of masculinity and national identity and opposition to ecological technologies (including electric cars and renewable energy), in particular in relation to Australia's coal-dominated energy debate.
posted by acb (38 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Indeed, the idea that we might seek to phase out internal combustion engine cars becomes a threat to their conception of masculinity.
If electric cars can help take down the patriarchy, I'm all for it.
posted by MtDewd at 4:34 AM on August 30, 2019 [6 favorites]

Rolling-coal assholes appear to be pervasive.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:09 AM on August 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

See also: rolling coal, deliberately damaging the environment as a demonstration of machismo (e.g. the Amazonian fires), eating only red meat, insisting on the right of parents to "discipline" (beat) children (in a manner that would clearly be common assault against an adult), social darwinism, opposition to social programs, support for authoritarian/patriarchal values, homo/trans-phobia, reproductive enslavement of women, white ethnosupremacism, apologias for chattel slavery …

This is one corner of a cultural/social/political Dark Triad, by analogy to the applied psychology term: brittle patriarchal authoritarianism has some fascinating (and fascinatingly creepy) failure modes.
posted by cstross at 5:12 AM on August 30, 2019 [14 favorites]

PS: I forgot to include hunting/animal cruelty in that list.
posted by cstross at 5:17 AM on August 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Australia literally rolls coal on a continental scale.
posted by acb at 5:22 AM on August 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's time for a new angle of attack here.

Real Men Don't Vote!
When you vote you are giving your power, your very masculine energies, to someone else. Often, these days, a woman.
Only a cuck would do that.
Real Men Don't Vote!
posted by thatwhichfalls at 5:28 AM on August 30, 2019 [32 favorites]

This is pushing "toxic masculinity" into the absurd metaphor range, where existing infrastructure investment vs almost but not quite there technology is the actual situation.
posted by sammyo at 5:38 AM on August 30, 2019

It's the "imagine thinking you're tougher than the sun? the fucking sun?" tweet, but at genocidal scale.

Also related: The Misogyny of Climate Deniers:
These findings align with similar ones in the United States, where there is a massive gender gap in views on climate change, and many men perceive climate activism as inherently feminine, according to research published in 2017. “In one experiment, participants of both sexes described an individual who brought a reusable canvas bag to the grocery store as more feminine than someone who used a plastic bag—regardless of whether the shopper was a male or female,” marketing professors Aaron R. Brough and James E.B. Wilkie explained at Scientific American. “In another experiment, participants perceived themselves to be more feminine after recalling a time when they did something good versus bad for the environment,” they write.
posted by Ouverture at 5:38 AM on August 30, 2019 [4 favorites]

You know what has grunt? Drilling holes by hand. I vote that they can keep their shiny polished petrol utes if they're willing to turn in all their feminine electrical tools and use gimlets and augers.
posted by Acid Communist at 5:38 AM on August 30, 2019 [5 favorites]

Real Men Don't Vote!
When you vote you are giving your power, your very masculine energies, to someone else. Often, these days, a woman.
Only a cuck would do that.
Real Men Don't Vote!

Depressingly, this is what Cambridge Analytica did in Trinidad and Tobago.

So at the very least, we know it works :(
posted by Ouverture at 5:43 AM on August 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

I was thinking a while ago that a Swiftian modest proposal for solving Australian culture war over renewables could be to give a monopoly on the sale and profit from renewable energy to churches, given that in the mindset of the Australian conservative establishment, (a) getting something for nothing (i.e., energy from sunlight/wind) is immoral/dishonest, and (b) they bang on about Australia being a “Judaeo-Christian” culture (see also: “Western Civilisation”, in the Ramsay Centre sense).
posted by acb at 5:49 AM on August 30, 2019

Being able to freely dominate and destroy at will without consequence is fundamental to the identity of many white men? The hell you say!

I've been vegetarian for 30 years and it has always--ALWAYS--been men who immediately go to the taunting "YUM YUM I LOVE EATING ANIMALS DELICIOUS BLOODY DEAD ANIMALS YUM!" response to my food choices. They not only get off on the destructive, violent imagery, they also get off on their perceived dominance over me by saying something they believe will make me uncomfortable and sad. (Joke is on them, I'm actually not squeamish at all, so the only emotion I'm feeling is embarrassment on their behalf.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:54 AM on August 30, 2019 [19 favorites]

We visited the Seal Cove Auto Museum yesterday. I was surprised at the number of electric vehicles there, and there was some discussion about the electric cars being seen as 'for women'.
Today I just opened up a random New Yorker lying around the house and found this article with the following quote:
It helped that, by then, electric vehicles were struggling culturally, for reasons we would now call gendered. “The internal-combustion car that had to be coaxed and muscled to life, with its lubes and explosions and thrusting pistons, that would be the car for men,” Albert writes. Electrics—quiet, practical, and, in one engineer’s estimation, “tame”—took on female associations.
posted by MtDewd at 6:21 AM on August 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I like to make sure all my electrons go across a 10 k-Ohm resistor before they get in the house. Sure it increases the electric bill a little and requires some extra wiring to maintain voltage, but it ensures that only the toughest charged particles get into my computer, which never suffers from weak bit syndrome and gets excellent framerates in PUBG.
posted by sfenders at 6:24 AM on August 30, 2019 [8 favorites]

Real Men Don't Use Electronics!

The Strong nuclear force is 137 times stronger than the electromagnetic one.
Therefore the Strong force is the best force.
Electrons are weak. Don't use them.
Demand nucleonics now!
posted by thatwhichfalls at 6:43 AM on August 30, 2019 [5 favorites]

There are plenty of swinging dicks in the green movement, too. The important point is that their power is diminishing across the board.
posted by No Robots at 6:54 AM on August 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Demand nucleonics now!

gravity is the weakest force

do not let these cuckolding earthly bonds shackle and neuter your virility

we offer shooting into the sun as an thrusting, powerful alternative

astris hominum

posted by lalochezia at 6:58 AM on August 30, 2019 [7 favorites]

Still plenty of balls to be busted.
posted by No Robots at 6:59 AM on August 30, 2019

I thought this was somehow linked to Hairy Ball Theorem.

Anyhow, Real Men dismantle the patriarchy. Preferring to unleash more toxins as a sign of masculinity is a little too on-the-nose, isn't it?
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 7:32 AM on August 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

But the price of the Tesla seems to overcome those feminine challenges, no?
posted by amanda at 7:44 AM on August 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

But the price of the Tesla seems to overcome those feminine challenges, no?
Not so much the price, I think.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 7:59 AM on August 30, 2019 [3 favorites]

I love nuclear energy, hate hydroelectric, think there should be solar on every roof, and get giddy with lyric poetry when I round the bend in West Virginia and see the magnificent turbines of the massive Mount Storm wind farm along the ridge line, and own and adore a huge, well-worn American pickup truck, but lust fiercely after the Th!nk City electric car from Norway I keep seeing around town.

There are dudes who think recycling will make them look gay.

Gender ought to be a playground, but for many, it’s a prison.

I feel sorry for them.
posted by sonascope at 9:39 AM on August 30, 2019 [7 favorites]

There are dudes who think recycling will make them look gay.

There are dudes who think that wiping after going to the toilet will make them look gay.
posted by acb at 9:55 AM on August 30, 2019 [5 favorites]

In our impending Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communist utopia, all transport will be electric, all food will be organic, and bidets will be fucking mandatory, you savages
posted by eustatic at 11:54 AM on August 30, 2019 [6 favorites]

I wonder if this had something to do with it.
posted by hirumaui at 1:27 PM on August 30, 2019

I've owned a 1994 F250 XLT full bed extended cab truck - and that was super fun, and useful, when I had to go to the dump or tow a boat or renovate a house. Getting 10MPG per gallon and trying to park in a city were...not fun. And now I own a Hyundai Kona EV, which is super useful when I commute to the train. And my solar panels easily pay for it. And so fun to drive, but it won't even fit a half sheet of plywood. They are both great, and useful, but they're tools. I'm all for group identity within limits - but when it comes to tools its pretty self defeating. It's pervasive though, and easy to fall into. I went to replace a hammer drill the other day and had to give some long thought to whether I was ready to be a Ryobi guy just for this tool, after long periods of being first a Dewalt guy and then a Milwaukee guy.

And on the "electrons don't have balls" front; I put a 240V charging circuit in the other day and I was 100% aware the entire time that the fuel of my cute tiny Hyundai Kona would be more than happy to kill me. I mean, I've spilled a gallon of gas on myself in the past - it's unpleasant, but unless you also happen to be on fire at the time you're totally fine. Spilling the equivalent 5KWH of electricity on you would be ... less fine.

On a side note, if I had gone with the Chevy Bolt I was giving serious consideration to getting the lime green one and getting a professional airbrush of Zeus holding a lightning bolt on the side. Maybe make that factory stock and you'd sell a few more.
posted by true at 3:33 PM on August 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

Interesting that harnessing the atom is somehow masculine, while harnessing a ball of fusion that contains most of the mass of the solar system isn't.

It's almost as if the morons using masculinity as an excuse for their economic choices are just making shit up to avoid admitting the fact that they are scared by change of any kind because they are actually insecure people that have just enough intelligence to know that they need something to make their childish behavior seem rational, but not enough to regulate their emotions and behavior like a man "should".

They're "sticking it to the man," not "throwing a temper tantrum." So they say.
posted by wierdo at 4:01 PM on August 30, 2019 [2 favorites]

They could just take advantage of the perceived supreme manliness of nuclear energy to transition away from CO2 generating energy sources and to nuclear. Nuclear is quite environmentally friendly.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:43 PM on August 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'd be fine with that, but I don't think the Greens in Australia would agree.
posted by wierdo at 6:16 PM on August 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

I live somewhere with lots of economic inferiority - lots and lots of cars de-tuned to be loud and loudest. The given reasons are that they improve performance but that's bs, they're just making their mufflers less efficient in sound reduction, to say the least. They seem to enjoy revving their engines at each other for fun in the mall parkade across the street from me, especially on weekends.

Regardless of the performance superiority of electrics, because they don't fundamentally assert sonic authority over everyone else around you, it's not going to be embraced by the small sacked smooth brained set.

Same thing going on with those proclaiming "loud pipes save lives" bs. Harleys are pieces of shit, mechanically. When I see trucks (or other makes) with official Harley emblems it makes me lol/sob.
posted by porpoise at 8:25 PM on August 31, 2019 [1 favorite]

As much as I hate the ridiculous noise that Harleys make directly from the factory (they always sound like they are about to stall to me), the noise, up to a point, does in fact make it less likely for a rider to be run into by a car. Maybe it's different in places where getting a diving license requires training, but people here seem constitutionally incapable of properly adjusting their side mirrors, so not being seen despite remaining outside the expected blind spot is an all too common occurrence.

It's just another in a long line of annoying things that wouldn't be justifiable were it not for our out of control car culture. I suspect car culture may be the largest externalization of costs in all of human history, but even if there is something that surpasses it, it's still very near the top.
posted by wierdo at 1:36 AM on September 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nuclear is quite environmentally friendly.

The problem with nuclear is mostly one of regulation and regulatory capture. Nuclear facilities have to spend a lot of what would otherwise be pure profit on preparing for highly improbable, though extremely catastrophic, contingencies. The pressure to fudge those preparations and pocket the change (or “more efficiently compete in the marketplace”) must be immense. Add to that a we're-all-gentlemen-here culture of hands-off self-regulation as seen since the Reagan/Thatcher revolution, and nuclear as a system is a lot less safe than nuclear as a technology.
posted by acb at 3:45 AM on September 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

the noise, up to a point, does in fact make it less likely for a rider to be run into by a car

So why don't they wear high-vis clothing in addition to being sonically offensive?
posted by porpoise at 10:34 AM on September 1, 2019

Or, like, helmets?
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:55 PM on September 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

Many people wear both. High viz gear isn't particularly helpful when it's not physically possible for a driver to see the biker because they didn't bother to adjust their mirrors properly.
posted by wierdo at 2:35 PM on September 1, 2019

Studies have shown that black cars tend to be in more accidents than others; as such, dark colours are objectively more dangerous on the road. So perhaps, if we require vehicles to make noise when moving, we should also require them to be highly visible. While iridescent coating that reflects on direct contact with light would be useful in some cases, having cars (and motorbikes, and motorcycling safety clothing) be brightly coloured would go a long way towards ambient visibility.

Of course, bright colours are also emasculating, so the badass alpha-bros with the black leathers and Punisher skull emblems would never agree to this, even when arguing for their bikes making a louder, more virile/dominant noise. Though occasionally you see the occasional right-wing tabloid columnist arguing that the death of a cyclist on a road means that, if cyclists want to be allowed to continue using the roads, they must wear high-visibility clothing, and just stopping themselves from saying the quiet part, that that clothing be pink like Joe Arpaio chain-gang uniforms, out loud.
posted by acb at 1:52 AM on September 2, 2019

I'm not so sure about bright colors being safer for cars, at least not all bright colors. I've had three Subaru Foresters. The first and last were silver, and the second was a pretty bright red. In the years I had the silver ones, I didn't notice any drivers appearing to be oblivious to my presence. The red one, on the other hand, often seemed to be invisible. It was hit from behind at low speed at a stoplight. Other cars would begin to change into my lane when my red car was right next to them (two different cars within a mile, on one occasion). Numerous near-misses at intersections (and some that weren't misses). I know it's anecdata, but it really feels like there's something going on there. I liked that red color, too...
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:07 AM on September 2, 2019

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