04-15 roadside litter 1.jpg

Volunteer organizations this weekend will clear roadsides of litter and debris that has accumulated over the winter.

Turns out our perceptions of masculinity can be toxic. Literally.

Studies show that demonstrating concern about the environment can be perceived as unmanly in American and European cultures.

Apparently, to some people, saving the earth isn’t as macho as it sounds. Maybe I grew up with different role models, but how does a selfless concern for future generations, for animals and the environment become perceived as unmanly?

Researchers have documented that men have a tendency to litter more, recycle less and generally leave a larger carbon footprint than their female peers. The differences, studies found, reach across age and national boundaries.

According to studies by the Oxford Journal of Consumer Research, men avoid eco-friendly behavior and activities because those behaviors could be perceived as feminine and not macho.

Their research, conducted by Oxford with three other colleges, examined behavior of more than 2,000 American and Chinese participants under seven experiments. Results indicate participants perceived a psychological link between environmentally friendly behaviors and perceptions of femininity.

In one study, participants, regardless of their gender, described a shopper who brought a reusable shopping bag to a grocery store as more feminine than someone who used a plastic bag — regardless of the shopper’s gender.

In another study, one group of men who were shown a flowery, pink gift card were asked to list what three products they might purchase with the card. They were more likely to list environmentally harmful products than a group shown a standard gift card. The results indicate emasculated men might have a tendency to try to reassert their masculinity through non environmentally friendly behavior.

So what can be done to address that gender gap? Camo reusable shopping bags?

Well, maybe.

Another study showed men were more likely to donate to an environmental advocacy nonprofit that has a masculine logo — with darker colors of blue and black, or featuring fierce wildlife — than one that has more neutral features — green and light tan colors featuring trees. Another study conducted in China at a BMW dealership showed male customers showed more interest in a hybrid electric vehicle after viewing a print ad featuring a masculine term in the car’s description than those who viewed the traditional print ad.

So, a bit of marketing could help the cause. It will be hard to measure the success of those efforts and they can only go so far to reassure those who feel emasculated by environmentally friendly decisions. I’m not expecting to spot a Prius jacked up on a lift kit any time soon.

What's your reaction?


General Assignment Reporter

John joined the Post Bulletin in May 2018. He graduated from the University of Iowa in 2004 with degrees in Journalism and Japanese. Away from the office, John plays banjo, brews beer, bikes and is looking for other hobbies that begin with the letter “b.”