Joshua Sharf at PJ Media has an interesting thought:
In the last two weeks, national news outlets have published no fewer than five articles about the evils of air conditioning.
First, the Washington Post described how Europeans can’t understand our national addiction to A/C. Then the article described how, with so many rising cities in tropical climes such as India and the Amazon adopting American standards of comfort, the whole concept clearly poses a threat to the planet. (For the record, they also don’t seem to understand why we like ice in our drinks.)
The logic here was easily refuted: Europeans live on a continent where almost every major city is north of New York. Put Europeans in Alabama for a couple of weeks in July, and they’ll be begging for both refrigerated air and refrigerated drinks.
But then, the media took a sinister turn. Air conditioning, it seems, is less an American affliction than a masculine infliction upon women. At first it was just the Washington Post; now the New York Times and Sky News [it’s a You Tube video] are getting into the act.
The Washington Post article to which Scharf refers is written so that if one were so disposed, it would be possible to think it a sort of very thinly veiled satire, but alas, its author–Petula Dvorak–is in earnest:
So there you have it: the gender divide, thermostat edition. All these women who actually dress for the season — linens, sundresses, flowy silk shirts, short-sleeve tops — changing their wardrobes to fit the sweltering temperatures around them.
And then there are the men, stalwart in their business armor, manipulating their environment for their own comfort, heaven forbid they make any adjustments in what they wear.
That’s right, my friends. Air conditioning is another big, sexist plot.
‘It’s been going on for years, every building I’ve been in. It’s awful,’ said [Ruth] Marshall, who has worked in Washington since 1973. ‘Everything is set at 70 degrees for those testosterone-toting people.’
Marshall explained how frustrating it is to put on a pretty summer outfit and then get hit with that blast of cold. ‘And you have to put on some jacked-up sweater you left at your desk.
I was born and raised in South Dakota, more specifically north eastern South Dakota, where blizzards were a several times a winter affair, and elementary school children bundled up and walked to school as long as visibility in town was at least a block–or so. Snowdrifts often reached to the roofs of single story homes, allowing gleeful childhood drift diving from those roofs. Much of my adult life was spent in Wyoming, where the snow and winter temperatures, with wind chill, were often below zero Fahrenheit–far below zero, for weeks–sometimes months–at a stretch.
As a result, extremes of weather have little effect on me. My Texan neighbors and friends are dumbfounded to find me in shirtsleeves during Texas winters, which so seldom reach zero as to be laughable. I commonly wear a light jacket only a handful of times each winter, and if I overdress, find myself sweating in an instant. That’s the thing about cold weather: one can always put on more and more effective clothing.
Texas summers are quite another matter. We’re now approaching about 40 straight days of not a drop of precipitation and 100°+ temperatures, with no end in sight. It will, if the weather is as usual, begin to cool a bit toward mid-September, dropping into the balmy mid-90s. It cools, little, if at all, at night.
There is no such thing as a new home in Texas without air conditioning. It’s not a matter of convenience or conspicuous consumption, it’s a matter of mere survival. In this kind of heat, one can only get so naked. Texas summer climate without air conditioning kills, particularly the young and the elderly.
I can, with substantial sunscreen, appropriate high-tech clothing, and substantial quantities of ice water carried in insulated bottles, take lengthy bike rides (20+ miles), even in 104° heat, but I easily lose more water through sweat than I can possibly take in, and without an air conditioned home waiting at the end of a ride, I’d be in actual trouble. If I tried to get too naked, it would frighten the horses and stampede the women and children.
Mrs. Manor has more difficulty with heat than do I. Where I can keep going for as long as necessary as long as I have at least minimal rehydration, she often has to stop and actually cool down. And as Dvorak’s article suggested, she tends be more easily chilled by A/C than me. Lest anyone think her a shrinking violet, she has completed multiple marathons and centuries. Unlike the poor women of Dvorak’s article, downtrodden victims of male heating/cooling abuse, Mrs. Manor uses the intellect apparently denied other women and adapts.
She sewed a colorful summer weight comforter, with very little thickness on my side of the bed, and more for her. When we visit restaurants, she brings along a light sweater. Oddly enough, she does not think this a sign of subjugation or testosterone imposition. Oddly enough, she understands that men and women are–gasp!–different in many ways, and bodily temperature regulation is simply one of those ways. Interestingly enough, she also realizes that our bodily temperature regulators change with age, though I’ve seen little change in mine thus far.
She also exercises her intellect efficiently enough to realize that in the business world–such as the world of Washington DC–about which Dvorak writes, men are forced to wear jackets and ties, which just might, in part, account for the air conditioning necessary to make those fashions possible, particularly for a city built on a swamp. That others in the nation’s capital can’t adapt to–or so much as recognize–reality is hardly a surprise.
God bless our European cousins. May they all have the opportunity to experience, in person, South Dakota and Wyoming winters and Texas summers. Perhaps then they’d have a bit more appreciation for the wonders of air conditioning and iced drinks–if they could bring themselves to admit it. God bless too, people like Ms. Dvorak, though I suspect they’re being willfully obtuse about this issue, as they so often are about so much.
Out here in flyover country, we God and gun clingers use heat when it’s cold, and A/C when it’s hot–which is most of the time. We’re just that kind of simple, non-nuanced folk. But then again, we recognize differences in men and women, and we even like them–differences and men and women, which makes it rather difficult to see air conditioning as some sort of evil anti-female plot.