Greta Thunberg is seemingly the most polarizing 16-year-old kid to ever step foot on American soil. The mere mention of her name fills my Facebook and Twitter feeds with simultaneous love and rage-induced memes. People either love or hate her with there being very little middle ground for one’s opinion to land one way or another on her activism. Still, despite my cynicism about celebrity activists, I cannot help but to find myself in awe of this young woman’s ability to inspire and promote environmental justice. Thus, I am a Greta superfan.
She speaks bluntly and articulately about a subject in which she is well informed and passionate about. She is not distracted by the shiny toys that distract us from the problems that the world faces, she is everything that you should want your sons and daughters to be. And she’s a teenager.
So, why do people hate her?
I understand how and I others fall into the trap of becoming a superfan, but the hatred of Greta is irrational. Even if we accept the misogynistic suggestion that she is just regurgitating data that was read to her by her parents, it is still data that is credible, verifiable and supported by the scientific community. Still, people make attempts to discredit her on my timeline and mentions by flooding my timeline with memes making fun of Greta’s age, her autism spectrum disorder, and intelligence. The intelligence jokes make no sense because clearly, she is well-educated and well-spoken. The jokes at the expense of her autism are just hate filled, disturbing and irrelevant to her ability to understand climate change and its effects, and the jokes at the expense of her age, while a common tactic used by the older generation to silence the younger generation, make no sense either.
Now I am left with two questions. Why do people hate her, and why do they work so hard to discredit her? The answer to both questions often given by my Greta fans is sexism. She is a young woman who is clearly more intelligent than most of the men in our lives and men are intimidated by her intelligence. They are also intimidated by a girl who dares to speak her mind in a blunt and pushy fashion, and they are pissed off that a girl dares to tell them that they need to change how they live their lives. I-R-O-N-I-C. These are answers that are reasonable, logical and right.
However, it is extremely narrow-minded and dangerous to blame just sexism for the virtual lack of support for Greta in the United States. While she did inspire many protests and had extensive news coverage, the level of media coverage and protest pales in comparison to what we see in Europe or .
This leads to a third and final question: Why is she covered more, and with more favorable coverage, in Europe and Canada than in America? The easy answer is because she is European, but that is a short-sighted response and just wrong. I believe the real answer is American Capitalism. Her stance on climate change and her proposed changes to our lifestyle are a threat to the markets and to the means in which the wealthy maintain their wealth. Furthermore, because American wages are so low, the working class lacks the ability to see past their next paycheck and will reject anything that threatens their ability to put what menial amount of food on their table that their paycheck allows.
The exploitation of the labor of the working-class promoted by American Capitalism is a variable that intersects with American sexism to enrage opponents of Greta Thunberg leading to the attempts that we see to discredit and silence her in both social and conservative media. Not only does Greta lack the right and ability, in the eyes of a lot of men and conservative women who believe the Bible’s assertion that men are to be the head of the house hold, to tell us how to live our lives because of her sex, she is threatening to take their ability to put food on their table and provide for their family.
Does her gender hamper her ability to provide good and logical suggestions to how we should all live our lives? Of course not! To suggest it does is, quite simply, misogynistic. Is she threatening to take food off the table and the ability for people, of all sexes, to provide for themselves and their families? Of course not! However, that is what both American corporate media, the working-class’ employers, and conservative politicians are telling them. They, the capitalists and the media, are telling the working-class that if we make these changes suggested to us by a girl, we will have no choice but to automate in order to cut labor so that we can maintain our profits.
In Europe and Canada, there are extensive social-welfare programs that protect their citizens in the case of job loss. The mixture of socialism and a market economy allows for both a growth of wealth, as well as a protection of citizens’ ability to meet their basic needs when the market suffers a “shock,” like the changes that Greta suggest. Essentially, in Europe, and to a lesser extent in Canada, since the average citizen doesn’t have to worry about how food will make it to their table, or how they will pay their medical bills, they are more likely to have the stability in life to be open to the changes needed in order to save our planet. In America, when one missed paycheck will prevent you from putting food on the table or pay your insurance premium, for those lucky enough to even have insurance, then can you really take the time to think about the future of the next generation?
In other words, it is not just sexism that is playing a part in silencing Greta Thunberg, a world leader, but to consider other factors at play here, the intersectionality of causes, if you will. We cannot focus on just one cause of the problem and oppression of people and thought, because Kimberlé Crenshaw taught us…there is never just one root cause. Our planet is in danger, Greta is telling us what we need to hear, and we should all listen…but if we do not address the factors that silence her message…then our planet and all of us are all in trouble.