Sign up for The week in patriarchy, a newsletter on feminism and sexism sent every Saturday.
The gender wars are heating up
Are you a victim of thermal bullying? Does your partner or roommate always get their way when it comes to hot your house is? If you answered “yes” then stay strong – you’re not alone. According to a new study, conducted by researchers from Ohio State University, a lot of households contain a “thermostat dictator” who rules the temperature dial with an iron fist. As it turns out there’s a gendered nature to this – the thermostat dictator is normally a man.
The study, Thermostat wars? The roles of gender and thermal comfort negotiations in household energy use behavior, examined temperature discussions in 112 Ohio households. They found that men tend to get their way while women are more likely to be forced to compromise.
“It’s possible that women are losing the thermostat battle,” the study’s lead author told CNN. “This hints at a status quo gender bias in thermostat settings that leads to a home thermal environment that does not cater to women’s preferences.” Women’s preferences, by the way, tend to veer towards warmer environments, while men prefer it chilly. There is actually a fascinating scientific reason for this: it is because men are from Mars (where it’s normally a cool -81F), while women are from Venus (a toasty 864F).
Temperature is about more than just comfort. Studies show that women are more productive and perform better on math and verbal tasks in warmer temperatures. However, as you may have noticed yourself, most offices are freezing, catering to men’s preferred temperatures. According a 2015 study, the optimal office climate has been tailored to the work clothing and metabolic rates of a 154-pound, 40-year-old man.
While there has been a fair amount of research and discussion around “sexist” air-conditioning in the workplace, this latest study is the first to focus on household temperature settings. It should be noted, of course, that the sample size was pretty small, so the findings aren’t exactly definitive. And it’s also worth noting that living in a single-sex household isn’t a failsafe way to end the thermostat wars. My otherwise perfect girlfriend likes to sleep in morgue-like temperatures while I prefer not to lose feeling in my feet during the night. Seriously, the first person who can invent dual-temperature beds deserves a Nobel peace prize.