New research conducted at Penn State University in the US has found that traditional gender roles are causing some men to ignore their responsibilities to the environment.
According to Penn State professor of psychology Janet K. Swim, men can be unwilling to perform environmentally friendly tasks if they perceive them as 'gendered', such as using reusable shopping bags.
“There may be subtle, gender-related consequences when we engage in various pro-environmental behaviors,” Swim said.
“People may avoid certain behaviors because they are managing the gendered impression they anticipate others will have of them. Or they may be avoided if the behaviors they choose do not match their gender.”
The research, published in journal Sex Roles, involved three separate studies of 960 participants, focused on men and women both avoiding and engaging in 'feminine' and 'masculine' behaviours. One activity saw participants read the fictional daily activities of different people and then rate how masculine or feminine they thought the person was.
"Reflecting the tendency to see environmentalism as feminine, all the people were rated as more feminine than masculine regardless of the behaviors they did," Swim said, noting that participants whose behaviours conformed to their gender were seen as more heterosexual than those whose behaviors did not.
“Behaviours don’t just help us accomplish something concrete, they also signal something about who we are. Line drying clothes or keeping tires at proper pressures may signal that we care about the environment, but if those behaviours are seen as gendered, they may signal other things, as well.”
She added: “If being seen as heterosexual is important to a person, that person may prioritise gender-conforming over gender-nonconforming pro-environmental behaviors in anticipation of how others might see them."