Masculinity ‘weaponised’ by far right, says Swedish academic ahead of Cambridge talk
Climate change deniers have hooked up with the far right because no one else would have them - and the combination is starting to trash the liberal democracy that emerged after the Second World War, says Swedish academic and campaigner Martin Hultman ahead of a Cambridge talk.
The outcome – a resurgence of right-wing ‘populism’ – has also “weaponised” masculinity and “has exposed the deep roots of gender inequalities” at every strata of society, says Assoc Prof Hultman, who has a PhD in Social and Technological Change.
Prof Hultman is due to talk about “ecological masculinities and the rights of nature connected to river rights and ecofeminism” - an event due to take place last month which was delayed due to family illness.
Speaking on Saturday, he said that “we don’t realise how embedded we are in these gender structures” - but we’re starting to find out, Prof Hultman says, courtesy of an ideology emboldened by social media, the pandemic and the realisation that their philosophy has currency.
The conflict being played out in Western societies is impacting the ability to address climate change, adds Prof Hultman, speaking at Kerb Kollective by the Museum of Engineering on Riverside.
“We are now seeing the same thing that occurred in the 1920s and 1930s, where the far right is becoming more strategic and more populist,” he said. “In Sweden, a political party was started by Nazi sympathisers in the 1980s and that is very troubling. A group of males then turned against climate science in around 2006/7. When they were organising themselves they presented themselves as truth-tellers. The left recognised climate science at the time and the far right party was the only one that climate deniers could connect to.
“Also in the US, the Republican Party had become convinced by the climate change denial lobbyists so there was an overlap with climate change denial in Europe.
“We are in a time of revelation, a time of understanding what is going on, which is related to masculinities but has been weaponised by the far right. In the last five or six years we’ve seen the rise of the far right in the US and Europe. That has been exposed by Russell Brand and others.”
Brand, a former TV personality who has recast himself as a conspiracy theorist, has denied accusations of sexual abuse from seven women and says he is “a victim of a conspiracy to silence him”. The Metropolitan Police is investigating the claims.
Prof Hultman believes that the furore has a positive side in that it has helped to “open up a moral universe that wasn’t there before”.
He adds: “On the one hand it has exposed the deep roots of gender inequalities and the role that has played in our societies, and at the same time critical awareness of this [inequality] has been raised. One perspective is that it's progressive - ‘now we know it, let’s do something about it’. On the other hand the far right - and I include Trump in that movement - has moved us away from the liberal democracy we’ve known since the Second World War.”
The issue of masculinity is also inextricably tied in with the issue of wealth and power, Prof Hultman concludes.
“In Sweden there is an increasing wealth differential. The pay gap was decreasing until the 1980s and has been widening since. We know the rich are responsible for more emissions - the top 10 per cent are responsible for 50 per cent of emissions. The rich are using the most resources to maintain their lifestyle.”
The weekend also brought the Red Rebels out on the streets of Cambridge. The Extinction Rebellion cohort, who use theatrical make-up and costumes to portray climate change as a Greek tragedy, were present at a demonstration in the centre of the city to highlight the continuing investment in fossil fuel companies even as those companies record new profits records.
In 2022 ExxonMobil reported the highest profits to date for any Western oil company ($59.1bn), Shell announced the biggest profits in the company’s 115-year history ($39.9bn) and Chevron ($36.5bn), TotalEnergies ($36.2bn) and BP ($27.7bn) also set new records.