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The Latest Sexist Weapon of the Patriarchy: Air Conditioning

NYTOn an overheated planet, air-conditioning becomes more and more desirable, solving in the short term the problem it helped create.

It is another paradox that even as architects and engineers are making ever more efficient buildings to meet energy standards set by cities like New York, where a new law says that buildings over 25,000 square feet must reduce their carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050, we are still freezing in our offices. …

There is an oft-cited study published in that notes how building temperatures, once set to the comfort preferences of 1960s-era men in suits, disregard the “thermal comfort” of female staffers.

Come summer, Twitter invariably lights up with charges that air-conditioning is sexist, an engine of the patriarchy, in threads that in turn fire up conservative commentators eager to prove the daftness of the opposition.

The AtlanticNow a new paper confirms what many of us have long suspected. Women don’t just prefer warmer office temperatures. They perform better in them, too.

For the study, published today in the journal PLOS One, the researchers Tom Chang and Agne Kajackaite had 543 college students in Berlin take different types of tests in a room set to various temperatures. …

When the room was warmer, women answered more questions on the math and verbal tests, and got more questions right. … The men, meanwhile, did better at cooler temperatures, but their decrease in performance at warmer temperatures was not as great as women’s gains. …

For employers, these findings mean that by insisting on the subzero fridges you call cubicles, not only are you making half your employees miserable, you are also sacrificing productivity.

If my feminist sisters want to fight for the principle of turning down the air conditioning in most buildings, thus making workplaces less intolerably frigid, I’m ready to stand in lockstep with them and fight to the death on behalf of their noble cause.

I acknowledge that I say this as someone who doesn’t get herded like cattle to the slaughter every summer day through the blistering crucible of the streets of Manhattan to be hold up in a sweltering midtown office. A good three months out of the year, I work from my back deck in the suburbs of Boston, under the shade of an awning, burping the alphabet into a keyboard. And when it gets hot, I take a break and jump into my white trash pool. So maybe I’m not one to talk.

But I do go into other people’s workplaces. Stores, malls, offices, bars and restaurants. And find that for the most part, they’re kept around the post-sunset climate just outside the Rebel Base on Hoth. I get that being hot and sweaty while you work bites ass. But you customers who are dressed for a hot summer day shouldn’t have to climb inside a Tauntaun’s intestines just to keep from ripping through their Barstool shirts with their diamond-like man-nipples.

But my feminist sisters and all pronoun-free non-binaries who stand with me in this fight have to likewise acknowledge it’s not the men. I’ve been fighting this battle for most of my adult life because back in my courthouse days, I worked in an insufferably cold building. So much so that I and a couple of my other co-workers were the only uniformed personnel in the state who couldn’t wait to switch out of summer attire and back into long sleeves and ties. Because we were victims of thermostat-controlling eco-terrorists for whom no temperature could ever be low enough to get them to ease off on the AC.

And these tyrants belonged to both genders.

So I repeat, I’m all about easing back on the compressed Freon. I’ve got this crazy notion that maybe, just maybe, the ideal temperature of every room, regardless of the weather outside, should be … wait for it … room temperature. Somewhere in the range of 68-72 degrees F. And in the Kingdom of Thorntopia, it shall be done.