Men may shun eco-friendly products and behaviours because of what they say about their masculinity, suggests new research by social scientists in America.
In their paper Is Eco-Friendly Unmanly? The Green-Feminine Stereotype and Its Effect on Sustainable Consumption, the researchers note that men are less likely than women to embrace environmentally friendly products. While previous research has attributed this gender gap in sustainable consumption to personality differences between the sexes, this latest study looked at whether a “prevalent association between green behaviour and femininity” may also be an influence.
The US researchers carried out a series of experiments involving more that 2000 American and Chinese participants.
In one experiment, the scientists “threatened the masculinity of male participants” by showing them a pink gift card with a floral design and asking them to imagine using the card to purchase three products (lamp, backpack, and batteries). They found that compared to men shown a standard gift card, threatened men were more likely to choose the non-green rather than green version of each item. In another experiment, participants perceived themselves to be more feminine after recalling a time when they did something good versus bad for the environment.
Writing in Scientific American, Aaron R Bough and James E B Wilkie, say: “The idea that emasculated men try to reassert their masculinity through non-environmentally-friendly choices suggests that in addition to littering, wasting water, or using too much electricity, one could harm the environment merely by making men feel feminine.”
So, how should green marketers address the problem of the ‘green-feminine stereotype’? Bough and Wilkie suggest that marketing messages and materials should be “designed to affirm men’s masculinity”. Second, they say, green products and organizations can be marketed as more ‘men-vironmentally-friendly’. Summing up, they say, “make the man feel more manly, and he’s more likely to go green”.
Image: Graphic for the website themanlygreen.com created by Tyler E Lloyd