Toxic Masculinity Negatively Impacts The Environment, And It's Time We Make Changes

"Men who feel secure in their manhood are more comfortable going green."

Not recycling, polluting the air, and destroying the planet's forests are fairly obvious ways in which the environment is negatively impacted by human behavior, but did you know that toxic masculinity also has a damaging effect on the health of our Earth?

Believe it or not, a wide array of research has shown that toxic masculinity, which Psychology Today defines as "traditional norms of behavior among contemporary men that are associated with detrimental social and psychological effects," is damaging to the environment. According to a recent study in Scientific American, men resist green behavior because it is seen as unmanly, which in turn has devastating consequences for the planet.

"It's not that men don't care about the environment. But they also tend to want to feel macho, and they worry that eco-friendly behaviors might brand them as feminine," it is stated in Scientific American. While this might not sound important, imagine a man declines to buy reusable grocery bags because he's worried how such a purchase might impact his masculinity. The additional harmful waste created by just one person because of that ill-informed choice is hard to ignore.

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The study, which collected data by analyzing the behavior of more than 2,000 American and Chinese participants via a series of experiments, found that both men and women judged eco-friendly products, behaviors, and consumers as more feminine than their non-green counterparts. Furthermore, the research showed that even something as innocuous as a floral gift card can threaten a man's perceived masculinity. Men given such a card were found more likely to buy non-green items, compared with men who were given a non-floral card. 

As ridiculous as that notion may seem, it reaffirms what was discovered in a previous study conducted by Sage Journals. That study suggested that men find it to be more difficult than women to choose between masculine and feminine versions of everyday food and household items, and will usually alter their preferences to be more manly when allowed time to ponder over their options.

Now that we know there's a correlation between toxic masculinity and damage to the environment, we can work to fix both problems. However, while the obvious solution would be to combat toxic masculinity (which John Legend and others are already working to do) that will take years, possibly decades of pushing back against established social norms, and the extreme weather conditions we've seen over the past several months is just one indication we can't afford to wait.

Instead, Scientific American suggests companies market eco-friendly products so they affirm men's masculinity. This can be done by using more masculine fonts, colors, words, and images in the branding. As the publication puts it, "Men who feel secure in their manhood are more comfortable going green."

Still, as HelloGiggles points out, this strategy does nothing more than enforce already harmful gender roles, and it seems ridiculous to have to take a step back in that department so we can increase men's dedication to the planet. On the bright side, at least we know there is a fix, even if it isn't ideal.

In the meantime, there is a responsibility, at the very least, to keep educating the public about the positive effects of a sustainable lifestyle, and to take the findings from this study as a call to action. We all must put our heads together to think of ways to combat this issue with immediacy, without playing into gender stereotypes. We're open to your ideas. 

Cover image via  Andriy Blokhin I Shutterstock

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