James Wilkie, a business professor at the University of Notre Dame, wanted to understand what drives this gender eco-friendliness gap. After years of exploring psychological bias, he and his colleagues developed a theory.
"Men’s resistance may stem in part from a prevalent association between the concepts of greenness andfemininity and a corresponding stereotype (held by both men and women) that green consumers are feminine," they assert this month in the Journal of Consumer Research. "As a result of this stereotype, men may be motivated to avoid or even oppose green behaviors in order to safeguard their gender identity."
The researchers conducted a set of experiments, each designed to gauge if we actually do ascribe gender to green products and whether such perceptions impact our willingness to use them. They found people consistently connect environmentally conscious goods to their idea of femininity.
The first survey of 127 college students asked respondents if they thought green products appeared masculine, feminine or neither. Most participants, both men and women, said items designed to protect the planet seemed feminine.
Another group of 194 students took an online quiz instructing them to imagine two grocery store shoppers, one carrying a green reusable bag and another toting a plastic sack. The quiz asked: Which seemed more eco-friendly, wasteful, masculine and/or feminine? The green shoppers seemed to respondents more eco-friendly and feminine, regardless of their gender. The plastic shoppers came off as more wasteful and masculine.
The researchers next gave a group of men phony gift cards and told them to pick from a selection of batteries, which included a green option. In both a faux Walmart and an online shopping scenario, the men avoided the green choice. “Self-perceptions of femininity suggest that threats may also influence private behavior,” the authors wrote.
Read the entire story on The Washington Post website.