By Saumya Jain – staff writer
Greta Thunberg was recently declared to be the greatest threat to the fossil fuel industry by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a title she said she is very honored to hold. She began a little over a year ago, skipping school every Friday to ‘Strike For the Climate’.
She has become the face for the global shift in agenda, with climate change since becoming a top priority for every United Nation summit. Three countries have now declared a climate crisis, in no small part due to her efforts which culminated in two separate global climate strikes in September. These both garnered massive crowds worldwide.
Climate Change is real. It’s not something that can be diluted with flowery words, nor should it be delivered with a smile. Greta does just that – she tells it like it is and people are not and have never been happy with the idea of being held accountable for their actions. She knows the facts and she isn’t afraid to hold up a mirror to the world when needed.
Her stoic expression and unapologetic tone garners a lot of criticism because they often go against the acceptable narrative of how women or girls should behave; completely against image, the notion that women must smile and be cheerful, even while delivering stark warnings about the biggest existential threat to life presently. Have we kidded ourselves into believing that this 16 year old is here to hold everyone’s hand through the process?
When you look at her as a political or cultural figure, a lot of her identity is born of the conflict of her influence, being a girl, being a Gen Z, and having a developmental disorder. It doesn’t quite fit the stereotype of a ‘typical teenager’.
In the West, where people who are in charge of almost all structures of power are older white men, someone who is the direct opposite of them holding so much power is threatening. After all: for those who holds all the power, any restriction feels like oppression.
Her critics largely seem to consist of conservative white men, for whom being told they’re not simply wrong but part of the problem by a young girl with pigtails appears to raise no introspective concern. Nevertheless, the wisdom-beyond-her-years she possesses the influence she has allowed her to expose old systems that have been in place for decades that just aren’t working anymore.
Greta is someone who certain people should be afraid of
If we look at the more frequent criticisms she faces, it becomes clear that the negative reactions she encounters are rooted in misogyny. She gets attacked for not smiling enough, being too stiff and looking angry all the time; all are statements that every woman attempting to rise through the social ladder has encountered.
Critics are always eager to dissect every aspect of her life to prove her to be some sort of hypocrite so that they have their eureka moment of “exposing” her. They scrutinise every word she says, only to use it in a different context altogether later.
A photo of her recently on a train eating breakfast went viral because people thought that she was being hypocritical by eating out of a plastic container. What they failed to analyse was that she was using public transport; she wasn’t using any single-use plastic – it’s apparently easier to attempt to critique than to attempt to understand.
Her notorious United Nations speech where she famously said that her childhood was being stolen and she was still one of the lucky ones was used to bring her down and remind her that she still came from a first world country.
She even recognized her privileges in the same speech, still it seemed that everyone was too busy scrambling on their twitter feeds to hear it. Had the tables been turned and there was a boy saying these same things, he likely would’ve been applauded; we’ve seen that with Australia’s ‘Egg Boy’. It’s an ugly truth to reckon with – the standards to which we hold men and women accountable for their actions towards their passion are different. We ask girls like Greta to constantly prove their commitment to the causes they’ve taken up. But beware ladies: One tiny, reusable plastic container is enough cost you your respectability.
Greta is someone who certain people should be afraid of. She is dedicated and openly, with publicity, speaks truth to power. She is a force and isn’t easily wavered by the amount of criticism she gets because she uses that as a fuel to keep carrying on.
Though ultimately, while she might be Greta, but she is still human.
Image credit: Anders Hellberg