Fragile masculinity may explain why many men don't want to go green

According to research studies, men feel their masculinity is threatened if they engage in environmentally conscious activities, such as recycling and purchasing green products. (Photo: AFP)
According to research studies, men feel their masculinity is threatened if they engage in environmentally conscious activities, such as recycling and purchasing green products. (Photo: AFP)

It’s not that men don’t care about engaging in eco-friendly habits to help conserve the planet to leave their kids an inhabitable world, but according to new research, they may mind being labeled as “girly” or “feminine” for caring about it.

Scientific American reports on a new research study that indicates men value feeling macho over engaging in eco-friendly practices. In a series of seven studies, researchers found that people who engage in green behaviors are stereotyped by others, and even themselves, as more feminine.

Researchers set out to find why women embrace environmentally friendly products and behaviors more than men do. Over 2,000 American and Chinese participants surveyed in the study “showed that there is a psychological link between eco-friendliness and perceptions of femininity.” Due to this “green-feminine stereotype,” both men and women tend to judge eco-friendly products, behaviors, and consumers as more feminine than their non-green counterparts.

For example, regardless of gender, the participants viewed themselves as more feminine when they did something good for the environment versus when they did something bad. Also, participants viewed a person who chose a reusable canvas grocery bag over a plastic bag as feminine.

When presented with a pink and floral gift card, (purposely done to threaten masculinity) the men in the research study choose to buy a non-green rather than green version of the same item.

So what is a possible solution for men to be less sensitive toward the green-feminine stereotype? A possibility the researchers suggest lies in the marketing of eco-friendly products.

Masculine affirmations on environmentally friendly products can potentially influence men’s  purchasing decisions. Marketing green products geared toward masculine identity could potentially give them the confidence to overcome their fear of being judged as feminine. For example, when BMW in China marketed its new hydro car with a masculine term to identify the model, men were more interested in purchasing the vehicle.

The researchers suggest so-called “men-vironmentally friendly” marketing and branding tactics that use more traditionally masculine fonts, colors, words, and images. This could include leaving the classic natural green behind and embracing black and dark blue colors for logos.

Until “men-vironmentally friendly”marketing becomes mainstream, though, it may be helpful to remind the men in your life that there is nothing girly about wanting to make the world a better place.

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