Gender Bias on Environmental Issues

David Trammel's picture

One of the things we try and instill in people here on Green Wizardry is the ability to think critically, not just about the issues and problems facing us as our civilization heads into climate collapse and economic downturn, but also to see their own conscious and unconscious bias that can prevent them from making better choices.

I found this article on Forbes by Carolyn Centeno Milton to be of interest:

Does Unconscious Bias Affect Our Sustainable Lifestyle Choices?

"When a person walks out of the grocery store holding an eco-friendly canvas bag instead of a plastic bag, what gender do you think they are? Most likely, your unconscious bias answers that they are female. This is the type of answer Dr. Aaron Brough of Utah State University is trying to get to the bottom of through his research.

They found that both men and women associated doing something good for the environment with being “more feminine.” This unearths a deeply held unconscious bias that Brough and team call the “Green-Feminine Stereotype.” Once this unconscious bias is revealed, it has the potential to help society shift our increasingly precarious relationship with the environment for the better. If it remains hidden, it has the potential to greatly damage our environment permanently."

I would say I'm surprised but I'm not. I work around many blue collar, fly over country men. And most display a casual attitude where it comes to climate change, but do love gardening, hunting, caring for their families and the land. I think as we frame our message we must be careful to not focus on blaming anyone, but instead seek to tailor the message to use the way people positively see themselves. Green Wizardry isn't male or female, but is protective and concerned for the state of our World and what kind of environment our children will inherit.

Professor Brough's paper is here: Is Eco-Friendly Unmanly? The Green-Feminine Stereotype and Its Effect on Sustainable Consumption

I certainly run into the problem "Green-Feminine Stereotype" when trying to sell my cloth shopping bags to men. They aren't "manly" enough. I tried making them in "manly" colors of off white, black, navy and tan, or "manly" hunting or outdoor themed fabrics, no luck. I think I can count the number of cloth bags I have sold to men on the fingers of one hand.

Now as a woman, I can safely say I probably don't have a real sense of what is "manly" when it comes to shopping bags, but when I have asked men to tell me what "manly" shopping bags should look like or what fabric I should use, I get blank stares. I will read this paper and maybe get an insight and boost my sales.

ClareBroommaker's picture

I hear many people have all the reusable grocery bags they can use given to them, but I do not, so I've been keeping an eye out for sturdy, washable ones at thrift stores. I also have kept in mind that if I ever want to get my husband to use them, they will need to have not the least bit girly to them. What I did when I needed to make sure he would take along a diaper bag for baby, was to use a plain black gym bag / sports bag for that. So, maybe if you based a grocery bag on that? (Truth is, I will probably just eventually make bags out of his old shirts, reinforced somehow.)

LoL! Have you tried quilting them and advertising a local craft beer? Or printing the words of the U.S. Constitution or Declaration of Independence or Flags 'n Fireworks for 4th of July? Or pictures of Steak and potatoes with ketchup? Or dogs and ducks in a watery marsh at dawn? That's all the cliches I can come up with at the moment. If I think of any more stereotypes, I'll pass them along.

David Trammel's picture

Kay you might try sizing it so a six pack fits easily into the bottom and has enough height to add a couple of bags of chips or pretzels. Put a full one on your table and just point to it when men come by. See if you can't get a Harley Davidson logo or some such too.