In an eye-opening research article titled "Men Resist Green Behavior As Unmanly," Scientific American showed how fragile and toxic masculinity could kill the planet. Ultimately, the piece showed that there is a lot of weird and evidently harmful psychology that goes in the minds of men when it comes to eco-friendly initiatives. It's much more about gender than the average person would think.
Now, you probably already get what the whole green movement is about. The gist of it is simple: We should be as environmentally conscious as we can. But when it came to the perception held by men, the research says that men think of eco-friendly measures, initiatives, and products as inherently feminine. And for many men, sociological research shows that femininity means weakness while masculine ideas and products evoke power. It's no surprise since, culturally, we tend to devalue femininity.
The research was backed by seven experiments and included responses from more than 2,000 American and Chinese participants. Scientific American was able to demonstrate just how fragile and even toxic men's notion of masculinity was. To appear masculine, male participants would actually avoid environmentally friendly products. The scientific magazine noted that this reluctance wasn't because men were born to hate Mother Earth but because they think "eco-friendly behaviors might brand them as feminine."
This reported deliberate practice of no-thanks became obvious in one of the experiments when both male and female participants were asked to describe a person holding a recycled bag for shopping. In the results, male participants would describe such a person as more feminine — simply because of that reusable bag. In another experiment, men described themselves as feeling feminine when they put effort in keeping their surroundings clean.
The research also showed that men would go as far as avoiding green products so that they could feel masculine. When it came to just how a product looked, masculinity-conscious male participants would ditch floral-patterned gift cards for standard-looking versions. This has been proven before in a Northwestern University study titled, "Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche," which showed men prefer to buy masculine-branded versions of everyday products. For example, remember that "man-sized" soap? Yeah. It seems like there is such an intense obsession with appearing masculine that Scientific American said:
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.
Socially, men are perceived to be thick-skinned and generally unconcerned with the opinions of others. But the research shows that men actually do care (and reportedly a lot) about their social image in society. The more masculine they're seen as, the research seems to say, the better.
What can society do? It's hard to say if we'll ever have a successful conversation on how toxic masculinity harms both men and women but Scientific American does have a suggestion on the environment-related front. It comes down to solid marketing. That's right. The magazine said that if eco-friendly companies want more participation and endorsement from male consumers, they will have to try "men-vironmentally-friendly" marketing. This mean masculine color selection (like blue, black, and gray), bolder font, and messaging. This will apparently affirm masculinity to these guys.
The idea, the magazine said, is to "make the man feel manly" so that he will "go green." For this, marketing agencies will have to assure image-conscious men that they will not be judged for going eco-friendly. It seems like it'll take a lot of rebranding, aggressive tone, austere colors, and more. If that's what it takes to get men to participate in reducing our carbon footprint and massive pollution, it may just be a worthy pursuit.