Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg looks up at the sky.

A Lot of Grown-Ass Men Sure Do Seem to Feel Threatened by Teen Climate Activist Greta Thunberg

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16-year-old Greta Thunberg is currently on a two-week transatlantic sailing voyage aboard a carbon-neutral, zero-emissions, 60-foot racing yacht. The Swedish teen is travelling from Plymouth, England to New York in order to attend the United Nations Climate Action Summit.

Earlier this summer, she announced her desire to attend both this summit and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Santiago, Chile this December, because these two summits will be, as she put it, “pretty much where our future will be decided.” At the same time, she noted the difficulty in attending, since she’s so committed to her activism that she doesn’t fly. So the invitation to sail was a big deal.

Thunberg is doing something truly incredible in this voyage, though it’s not her only accomplishment. She’s spoken to foreign government officials on the issue of climate change. She also recently sparked a school walkout among students worldwide in protest of governmental inaction on the issue. And on top of all of that, she’s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize this year. So why do so many grown men seem to see her as a direct threat?

Here’s a Fox News contributor and former member of Donald Trump’s transition team calling her a “teenage puppet” and a “bedwetter.”

Here’s a French politician–who recently called Thunberg a “prophetess in shorts”–calling on his colleagues to boycott Thunberg’s recent speech to French lawmakers.

Here’s a right-wing pundit blue-check nobody going for the reliable old chestnuts of “shrill” (because woman) and “infantile” (because young).

And then there’s Arron Banks, the co-founder/bankroller of the Leave.eu (aka Brexit) movement, publicly making jokes about her death.

Banks has since done a big public “it was just a joke” eyeroll, as if there was confusion over whether he was seriously hoping for a teenager’s death or was just a giant asshole.

In his defense of his “joke,” Banks accuses Thunberg of “being used,” although he doesn’t specify by whom. Which pretty much encapsulates so much of the criticism of her and others in her position. As a young woman, she is deemed too “shrill” to be listened to, too young to be taken seriously, but formidable and old enough to have both jokes about her death and serious calls for boycotts lobbed her way.

Of course, none of these men have any bearing over what Thunberg actually stands for, what she plans to say or do at the UN summit, and what her future as a likely Nobel Peace Prize winner holds. They’re just flies buzzing around her greatness.

(image: Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.