With ongoing conversations about climate change at the global level and cuts to the funding of the Environmental Protection Agency, environmental issues are at the forefront of political discussion.
Do you think men and women care about the environment in different amounts?
Some studies show that engaging with environmentally-friendly behaviors (recycling, gardening, buying locally grown products, walking/biking instead of driving, etc) is a gender issue.
Environmental awareness appears to be more prevalent amongst women than men. According to a study published in the Journal of Social Issues, women report stronger environmental attitudes and behaviors than men due to the fact that females had higher levels of socialization to be other-oriented and socially responsible.
Meanwhile, according to research conducted by Scientific American, researchers found that men tend to avoid engagement in eco-friendly practices because it appears to be feminine. The magazine suggests that environmentally-friendly products need to be marketed in a different way to appeal to men to appeal to their masculinity. Although this is a good strategy to sell products, changing the mindset toward environmental practices can rectify this discrepancy.
Men may be deterred from engaging in many different fields or practices due to fear of appearing feminine, but this mindset is problematic in a few ways. First, caring about the environment does not have any gender bias because it is neither masculine nor feminine. All humans interact with the earth, and therefore it is everyone’s responsibility to look after it.
There is a philosophical aspect to this perceived femininity as well. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, there is a phenomenon called “feminist environmental philosophy” that involves different approaches to understanding the connection between women and the environment. One subsection of feminist environmental philosophy is “ecofeminism” that originated in the 1970s. This philosophy proposes a connection between women’s historical domination by men and the environment’s domination by humans. This philosophy can be broken down into even more schools of thought, but ultimately this philosophy highlights the perceived importance women place on the environment.
Further, regardless of its perceived femininity, being feminine is not a bad thing and doing so-called “feminine” things is neither good nor bad. Acting “masculine” is seen as the best way for men to act, but this is not the case for everyone or every activity. Studies have shown that men consume more energy while women in first world countries are more likely to buy organic food and recycle. In the case of environmental consciousness, doing activities and buying products that preserve the earth should not be struck down as unworthy of a man’s efforts because more women do it.
Redefining the focus of environmentally-friendly practices can help overcome the gender stereotypes that are associated with it. Different marketing is a start, but making these behaviors seem manly is not a long-term solution to the problem. Men should not be ridiculed for engaging in eco-friendly behaviors, just as women should not be ridiculed for engaging in traditionally “masculine” behaviors. Putting aside our perceptions about gender in regards to these issues will bring attention back to the real issue of protecting the environment.