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Men Don’t Recycle Because They Don’t Want People Thinking They’re Gay

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.

The fear seemed to be that if men were to engage in these allegedly gender nonconforming tasks, other people might think they’re gay.

A new study out of America’s Penn State University—titled Gender Bending and Gender Conformity: The Social Consequences of Engaging in Feminine and Masculine Pro-Environmental Behaviours— men who are unwilling to perform environmentally friendly tasks such as recycling, using reusable bags, or turning off the air conditioner, do so because they perceive these behaviors to be “gendered”.

“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.

Environmentalist volunteers picking up trash. MS, tilt up, LR pan, real time.

As Penn State professor of psychology and lead researcher Janet K. Swim puts it: “there may be subtle, gender-related consequences when we engage in various pro-environmental behaviors. 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 study asked a total of 960 participants—male and female—to evaluate whether fictional characters felt “feminine” or “masculine” based on a series of environmentally friendly activities. Participants then gave their impression of the characters based on a 10-point scale ranging from heterosexual to homosexual, according to Out magazine. Advertisement

“Reflecting the tendency to see environmentalism as feminine, all the people were rated as more feminine than masculine regardless of the behaviors they did,” said Swim—noting that those whose behaviors conformed to their gender were generally seen as more heterosexual than those whose behaviors did not. The study further indicated that if people think it’s important to be viewed as heterosexual, they’ll opt out of gender nonconforming behaviors in order to avoid any associated stigma. It was found that “men were most likely to socially distance themselves” from gender nonconforming behavior.

“If being seen as heterosexual is important to a person, that person may prioritize gender-conforming over gender-nonconforming pro-environmental behaviors in anticipation of how others might see them,” said Swim.

“Behaviors 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 behaviors are seen as gendered, they may signal other things, as well.”

So there you have it: masculinity, homophobia, and the desire to be a heterosexual might actually be contributing to the destruction of the planet.

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