Battle of the Sexes: Are Gender Stereotypes Hindering Greening Efforts? by Samantha Jakuboski, November 11 2015, 0 Comments


As unfortunate as it may be, stereotypes are very much a part of our society. By categorizing people based on their culture, race, gender, religion, occupation, school, age, body type, neighborhood, clothing, and even hairstyle, humans frequently make judgments about each other—whether deliberately or unintentionally.

As a sophomore at Barnard College, I have grown to be particularly mindful of the issue of stereotyping, specifically in regards to gender. Most recently, I have become aware of a stereotype that is the icing on the inaneness cake: Caring for the planet is for women, and men who strive to live greener lives are “less masculine.”

Upon first learning that this is an actual categorization, I was a little perplexed. How did this label come to be? After all, what does caring for the planet have to do with gender? Well, dear readers, the answer seems to lie in the word care, and is therefore the result of other gender stereotypes. 

Age-old gender labels pigeonhole caring and compassion as maternal qualities specific to females, thereby discouraging men from showing the same feelings in public. Thus, expressing concern for the future of our planet and working to foster change is seen as feminine and unmanly. 

Wow. 

With this said, the question now arises as to whether men are less environmentally friendly than women. To start with, men seem to express less concern over climate change than do women, as The Effects Gender on Climate Change Knowledge and Concern In the American Public found through the analysis of Gallup Polls.  

In terms of behavior, men also differ from women in energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. In America, for instance, men release more carbon dioxide per year than do women (32 tons versus 30 tons), and a European study found that Greek and Swiss men consume more energy than women, especially in the transportation category. 

Furthermore, when it comes to the sustainable life style of vegetarianism, only 4% of the males surveyed in a 2012 Gallup poll where vegetarian, compared to 7% of females surveyed—a 3% difference*?

*It is interesting to note that there are more vegan males than there are females.

Now, are such differences in mentality and behavior the result of gender stereotypes promoting the idea that going green is for girls? In the case of vegetarianism, this seems very probable. According to a study conducted by the University of British Columbia titled “Meat, Morals, and Masculinity”, people tend to characterize vegetarians as more virtuous and less masculine than their omnivorous counterparts. Due to such stereotypes, men may feel that by giving up meat, they are also losing part of their masculinity as well. 

However, it is truly impossible to know for sure whether these stereotypes have a large impact, if any, on the behaviors and outlook on men. Perhaps these trends in the data are due to some other factors at play. 

Yet, even if these gender stereotypes have no bearing on the actions of males and females. I am proud to say that I believe my generation is persistent in making strides to gradually rid society of these false categorizations. On my campus in particular (which, as you may or may not know, houses some of New York’s most adamant feminists), many students are working hard to promote gender equality and remove such facetious judgments from circulation.

As we, millennials, grow up and educate the next generation, I hope that being environmentally friendly is simply seen as “cool,” and not just labeled as some emotional womanly pursuit.