There’s one thing that’s driving a wedge between men and women in the church every single week, that creates discomfort and distrust for both. Is it polygamy? Gender roles in the proclamation? No. It’s the Gospel Doctrine Thermostat Wars. Every week the drama plays out again in my Arizona ward: the men want the AC cranked up, and the women are shivering under pashminas and cardigans. It’s largely because of the ridiculous dress code at church in which women (who are often colder anyway) have bare legs and feet in sandals and short sleeves while the men (who are often warmer anyway) are wearing socks, closed shoes, heavy pants, jackets, long sleeved shirts buttoned to the neck.
I would say this is a heated argument, but not from where I’m sitting.
To defend my sisters, I stake out a position by the thermostat like a goalie, ever vigilant. If I duck out to go to the restroom, though, if I leave my post for even a minute, inevitably some unnamed man will crank that AC up to the max. When Gospel Doctrine ends, and the women are the only ones left in the Relief Society room, the sisters unite in complaints about the low temperature, huddled together like sides of beef in a meat locker.
Apparently, this phenomenon has sexist origins beyond the dress code at church. Who knew? An article in Fortune magazine explains why the thermostat is also conspiring to make women uncomfortable in the work place. Yes, men are literally freezing women out of male spaces. The article points out the dress code problems already mentioned that apply doubly at church. At least in the workplace women often wear pants and even jackets, although I noticed real problems dealing with the AC living in Singapore. Outside temperatures are so consistently high that I found pants to be much less comfortable than skirts, but interior temperatures were so low to combat the humidity that I was often freezing indoors. Just walking from my car to the office, I was often soaking from the heat and humidity. Within minutes in the office, I’d be shivering under a cardigan. In the US, I had my own thermostat in my office, so I didn’t have a problem, but in Singapore, the office wasn’t built that way.
“Many men, they wear suits and ties, and women tend to dress sometimes with cleavage. The cleavage is closer to the core of the body, so the temperature difference between the air temperature and the body temperature there is higher when it’s cold. I wouldn’t overestimate the effect of cleavage, but it’s there.”
Even if women aren’t wearing something that shows cleavage, they aren’t generally buttoned to the neck either, and menopausal women often have temperatures that range broadly during the day. The dress code problem led to a creative solution from one 20-year old male worker in Buckinghamshire who was sent home for wearing “smart shorts”:
But rather than changing into a stuffy suit, the call centre worker decided to don a bright pink dress as a ‘protest’ against the rules. Predicting that he’d be sent home again, Joey posted a chic selfie to Twitter, racking up dozens of likes and retweets.
Instead his act of defiance sparked a change in the rules – with bosses sending out an email allowing ‘gentlemen in the office’ to wear three-quarter length shorts in ‘black, navy or beige only’. Despite the u-turn – which Joey branded a ‘partial win’ – he opted to wear the colourful dress for the whole day in an act of defiance against the policy.
While I doubt the men at church are going to be this progressive to help regulate the differences in male and female comfort, a girl can dream! Beyond traditional dress codes, the other issue that causes the comfort disconnect is physiological, and changing our clothing isn’t going to do much about that.
Most office building temperatures are set using a decades-old formula for a “thermal comfort model” that takes into account factors like air temperature, air speed, and clothing insulation. That’s converted into a seven-point scale and compared to the Predicted Percentage Dissatisfied, which gauges how many people are likely to feel uncomfortably cool or warm.
The problem is that one variable in that formula is inherently sexist. Turns out that the resting metabolic rate, or the measure of how fast we generate heat, that’s used in the calculation is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds. But women, who make up half of today’s workforce, typically have slower metabolic rates because they’re on average smaller and have more body fat. Thus, the study says the current “thermal comfort model” may overestimate women’s resting heat production by up to 35%.
In fact, this disparate cooling ability is actually a cause of more global warming. As a NY Times article points out:
“If women have lower need for cooling it actually means you can save energy, because right now we’re just cooling for this male population,” said Joost van Hoof, a building physicist at Fontys University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands.
I’m saving the fricken planet, guys.
The war continues. Men and women responded to the NY Times article, weighing in on these issues, but mostly just talking past each other.
“It’s the men who are discriminated against, as we are required to wear heavy shirts, shoes and socks, and long pants. Women get away with T-shirts and flip flops, literally.” Dan, Palm Beach FL
Susan W. in NY fights back:
“The suggestion that women should dress differently (ie, in warmer clothes) makes sense, except when you consider the enormous pressure women are under to look ‘fashionable. Apparently women’s comfort just isn’t important, whether it’s what they wear or where they work.”
And as Carolyn of NY points out:
“Let’s not pretend that women just need to put on a sweater and our fingers will stop turning purple. All of the whining from male commentators completely disregards the point of this article–that indoor temperatures are calculated based on men’s body temperatures ALONE. In what world is that not inherently discriminatory?? It needs to change.”
In the meantime, I will be at my post every Sunday, on the lookout for sweaty, self-centered men who think nothing of freezing their faithful sisters with the touch of a button.
Viva la resistance!
** This post originally published at By Common Consent.