In a recent study that explored why we are falling behind in sustainable consumption, researchers learned that the idea of “eco-friendliness” is based entirely within the feminine sphere. That means a lot of men think that going green is unmanly, and therefore are more likely to eschew any attempt at caring about the earth.
“Western societies are grounded in this idea that God made the world and gave it to ‘The Dude’ to control,” says ecofeminist activist and retired professor Lyndsay Kirkham. “This is the basis for men and women’s [differing] relationship with ecology…And why men struggle to connect to it.”
And struggle, men do. In their research, the scientists found that men were particularly sensitive when faced with the notion that they may do something feminine, and men’s perception of what’s feminine was proved to be highly dependent on branding. Some of the test subjects were asked about using reusable shopping bags (girly) versus plastic ones (macho), using a gift card with pink flowers on it versus plain and even what cleaning products they’d use based on the packaging. One of the studies that took place in a BMW dealership in China also found that male shoppers were more likely to avoid the eco-friendly hybrid model, that is until the marketing language of the car was changed to sound more masculine. In any instance where the male consumer felt their masculinity was threatened, they went for the more masculine option—even if it was terrible for the environment. This leads to men, on average, leaving a more significant carbon footprint than women.
So while you may love the idea of buying that powerful, gas-guzzling SUV instead of a Prius, you should consider how those decisions impact the world around you.
“The gendered notion that women ‘nurture and tend’ to land and space, or our proverbial gardens of Eden, [make] men feel an immediate disconnect to ecology,” Kirkham explains. “There’s also the way that ecology activism grew up right beside second-wave feminism in the 1970s and was associated directly with that camp of women-centric activism.”
Without men on board, the environment will continue to decline. While it may seem alarmist, most of us like having air to breathe and fresh foods to eat, so it’s probably a good idea to start making changes. And while researchers think the solution is to market green living in a more manly way, Kirkham says it’s high time bros re-evaluated their idea of masculinity.
“[Men] need to recognize that this isn’t an invitation or a ‘favor’ they are doing [in caring for the environment]. In the same way they are expected to function without being sexist dicks, they are expected to care for the planet and recognize their responsibility to the world they inhabit,” she says.
So while you may love the idea of buying that gas-guzzling SUV instead of a Prius, or you don’t bother recycling because you think it’s stupid, you should consider how those decisions impact the world around you. No one’s saying you have to take a bus, but driving a less consumptive car helps keep the environment clean, and recycling your beer bottles keeps that glass out of landfills, and stops industrial waste from taking over the ocean.
But don’t just pay attention to the environment because of future generations—care for it because you’re selfish as hell. “Men shouldn’t be compelled to care for the earth because of potential children they are leaving behind. It’s about the right now, and how much manspreading they are doing in the space they live in,” Kirkham cautions.
Basically, recycling, reducing and reusing aren’t about being a pussy, but they’re about being the selfish dude you know you can be. So go out there, and take care of the planet, own it, control its bounty. It’s yours, and it’s the only one you have. So try not to kill it, okay?