We talk of toxic pollution of the environment and of toxic masculinity, and now a series of experiments from Scientific American show a connection between the two. Specifically, they find that men tend to avoid being too eco-friendly because they view that as too feminine.
The research, conducted with three other colleagues, consisted of seven experiments involving more than 2,000 American and Chinese participants. We showed that there is a psychological link between eco-friendliness and perceptions of femininity. Due to this “green-feminine stereotype,” both men and women judged eco-friendly products, behaviors, and consumers as more feminine than their non-green counterparts. In one experiment, participants of both sexes described an individual who brought a reusable canvas bag to the grocery store as more feminine than someone who used a plastic bag—regardless of whether the shopper was a male or female. In another experiment, participants perceived themselves to be more feminine after recalling a time when they did something good versus bad for the environment.Men may eschew green products and behaviors to avoid feeling feminine.
In one study, we threatened the masculinity of male participants by showing them a pink gift card with a floral design and asking them to imagine using the card to purchase three products (lamp, backpack, and batteries). Compared to men shown a standard gift card, threatened men were more likely to choose the non-green rather than green version of each item. 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.
One can picture Scott Adams feeling all emasculated in one of his now-infamous v-neck sweaters, filling up his bathtub with toxic waste to prove that he’s a Real Mantm. Seriously, how pathetic is the male ego? It’s toxic because it’s so fragile. Men like to pretend we’re the stronger gender, but a mere hint that another man thinks we are something less than the full John Wayne and we launch elaborate and destructive displays of posturing to convince other men that we are truly macho.
Frankly, we’re a bunch of cowards, collectively. We cower at the slightest whiff of disapproval from men and women, alike. We feel this constant, crying, obsessive desire to puff ourselves up, hoping to cast a shadow far larger than our macerated egos can manage in the light of day.