Air Conditioning is Sexist (And Other Ridiculous Neo-Feminist Arguments)

Over the holiday weekend, the New York Times published an article describing how bad air conditioning is. Not only is AC a cause of global warming, but it’s apparently the latest manifestation of the patriarchy.

Yes, according to writers at the Grey Lady, men are responsible for women being cold in the summer.

Let me tell you how this works. First, the temperature in your building is set by a building manager (who probably is a man). He sets the temperature according to guidelines developed by American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (who are mostly men) in order to keep 80 percent of the building’s occupants comfortable.

Studies show that men prefer a temperature of around 70 degrees, while women seem to prefer the thermostat set to 72.5 degrees. It should be noted that these studies were all conducted with people from first world nations. The rest of the world has a much wider tolerance to temperature variation. 

Of course, most men in offices in places on the East Coast are wearing a coat and tie to work (summer dress code doesn’t seem to be a thing), while women can get away with dresses and skirts, and most importantly, no stockings or hose. So, it seems that men might want it to be a little cooler in the office—they have on more and heavier clothes.

Other factors (not sexism) in determining office comfort are activity level and age of the people involved. As most of you know, sitting behind a desk all day doesn’t burn off a lot of energy, so you’re probably not going to need to be cooled down to Arctic levels.

An older workforce also will drive the need for a temperature change. Except for women in their menopausal years, elderly people tend to like things warmer. I just visited my parents last week. They are in their late 80s. The temperature in the house was 78 degrees. They were comfortable. I was melting. 

On second thought, that could have been just a subtle way that my parents used to make sure I didn’t overstay my welcome. Could my mother be that devious? Hmmm. Maybe.

As I write this, I am sitting in my office in Houston. Today, the high is expected to be around 98 degrees with a heat index around 105 degrees. That’s hot! Houston gets HOT in the summer. A little known historical tidbit is that until the wide adoption of AC in Houston, the British Foreign Service considered its consulate here as a “tropical” posting. Yep. This meant the diplomats could wear shorts in the summer.

The temperature this morning in the office is a rather warm 73 degrees. It might cool down some, but that’s doubtful. You see, the thermostat that controls the temperature in my office is located in another office suite down the hall. That office suite seems to be populated by young-ish women (it’s a law office), and those ladies don’t like to wear sweaters that cover their mini dresses. In the meantime, I am wearing pants and a light blouse, and I am already sweating over here.

So, is AC sexist? Is it an example of the patriarchal subjugation of women? My answer is a resounding NO! AC is not sexist. It’s a wonderful thing that enables the growth of cities like Houston and other places in the south and southwest. 

What’s sexist (and ageist) is the fact that my thermostat is controlled by a bunch of Generation Zers wearing rompers, while I, a mature woman in my 50s slowly melt as the day heats up.

Sandra Peterson

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The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness

Ken Webster Jr is a talk radio personality and producer from Houston, TX. He started his career in Chicago on the Mancow show and has since worked at dozens of radio stations all over the country. He’s currently the host of Pursuit of Happiness... Read more

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