Women in Mustaches at COP22

The interaction between nongovernmental organizations and state actors at COP was fascinating to be a part of. As our booth was in the Blue Zone, government officials from across the world would come up to us and inquire into who we were and what we researched 

Why Do We Need Mustaches to Be Heard?

November 11, 2016

Women in Mustaches at COP22

The interaction between nongovernmental organizations and state actors at COP was fascinating to be a part of. As our booth was in the Blue Zone, government officials from across the world would come up to us and inquire into who we were and what we researched.

Allison ConsidineAllison Considine, ILR '17, is a member of Cornell's COP22 delegation

Outside of our building, the other four exhibit spaces housed displays from different countries. These displays ranged from miniature networks of rooms with couches and hot tea, so people could lounge in front of screens showing lush scenes seeming to invite tourism to their country, to displays of corporate partnerships and utopian (or dystopian) models of green cities that they plan to build on artificial islands.

There was an element of one-upmanship in these exhibits, and I think they spoke to an interesting tension generated at COP between non-state practitioners of climate-friendly solutions and state actors who are party to the conference, even if they perhaps don’t want to be. Where each state display was careful to present only the research and climate-friendly steps taken by their country, the civil society organizations could critique, question, and challenge as much as they wanted. The inclusion of non-state actors was essential to creating a dynamic and critical environment within the COP.

This tension was highlighted when the Women and Gender Constituency planned a direct action, called “Why do we need mustaches to be heard?” Women from a variety of organizations and communities donned paper mustaches, and several volunteers wore signs showing which “mustache” they represented: activist, president, religious leader, CEO, and other positions of leadership and power. One by one, they stepped up and proclaimed the status quo espoused by many of the “mustaches” that lead our world: “I am the newly elected president of a world power. I am a climate change denier, a racist, and believe it is okay to grab women by the pussy.” We hissed and booed, and once they had all spoken, we ripped off the mustaches, and they stepped forward again. “I am the newly elected president of a world power. I am an environmentalist, a feminist, and an anti-imperialist.” We cheered, chanted, and posed for the gaggle of press that had been drawn to the spectacle.

This protest took place in the context of a UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in which 10 of the 12 “senior management” are men, despite the fact that the effects of climate change disproportionately impact women. It took place in the aftermath of the election of the 45th man to lead the United States, one who denies the realities of climate change. Must we wear mustaches to be heard?

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