The XX Factor

What the 2015 Air-Conditioning Debate Really Needed Was Some Mansplaining

One of these people (the woman) is not appropriately attired for the office. 

The power of a mansplainer to ruin everything was never better illustrated than in this CNN clip, grabbed by RawStory’s David Edwards, where contributor Richard Quest dresses down all of womankind for wearing summery clothes in the summer. The segment, hosted by Brooke Baldwin, was intended to be a light-hearted discussion of a recent New York Times story exposing the unconscious sexist bias in how offices are air-conditioned. According to a study published in Nature Climate Change, office thermostats are generally set to favor men’s metabolic rates, which are faster than women’s and produce heat more efficiently … but enough of all that, because it’s time for Richard Quest to deliver his lecture:

“Look at what you’re wearing as opposed to sensible clothes,” Quest announced to his colleagues, as the laughing died down and things got weirdly tense. “A proper shirt and a vest and a jacket.”

“So I should be here in the middle of summer in New York in a polo neck and closed shoes and maybe a nice pair of jeans?” guest Samantha Barry asked.

“You don’t necessarily have to go that far. But certainly nothing too skimpy,” Quest continued.

The segment does a good job of distilling the entire debate. On one hand, you could use up less energy and money on air-conditioning, meaning that some people would have to wear lighter clothes instead of a suit and tie. On the other hand, you could … just do nothing in the face of scientific and anecdotal evidence that lots of women who work in offices are freezing all day. That the latter approach has been winning out for so long tells us a lot about the subtle workings of sexism in day-to-day life.