How caring for environment makes you ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’

Washington: Getting classified as ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’ for the methods you adopt to protect the environment might come across as odd. But a new study says that some pro-environmental behaviours may be seen as either ‘feminine’ or ‘masculine’.

The findings published in the journal ‘Sex Roles’ found that men and women were more likely to question a man’s sexual orientation if he engaged in “feminine” pro-environmental behaviours, such as using reusable shopping bags.

They were also more likely to question a woman’s sexual orientation if she engaged in “masculine” pro-environmental behaviours, such as caulking windows. Additionally, men were more likely to avoid women who were interested in “masculine” pro-environmental behaviours.

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“There may be subtle, gender-related consequences when we engage in various pro-environmental behaviours,” said study author Janet K Swim.
Swim added, “People may avoid certain behaviours because they are managing the gendered impression they anticipate others will have of them. Or they may be avoided if the behaviours they choose do not match their gender.”

“Behaviours 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 behaviours are seen as gendered, they may signal other things, as well,” she said.

Researchers incorporated a total of 960 participants in three studies.
During the first two studies, participants read fictional summaries of a person’s daily activities, which included feminine, masculine or neutral pro-environmental behaviours.

They then rated whether the person had masculine or feminine traits and guessed what the person’s sexual orientation might be.

“Reflecting the tendency to see environmentalism as feminine, all the people were rated as more feminine than masculine regardless of the behaviours they did,” Swim said.

The researchers found that participants whose behaviours conformed to their gender were seen as more heterosexual than those whose behaviours did not. And while participants didn’t view the nonconformists as gay or lesbian, but on average they were uncertain about the person’s sexuality.

The researchers did a third study to examine whether people avoided others based on their pro-environmental behaviour preferences.

In a room with several people, participants completed a digital survey where they indicted which environmental topics they would like to discuss with a partner.

Following which researchers found that women avoided men more than women, as well as people who were interested in more masculine behaviours. And men were more likely to distance themselves from women engaging in masculine behaviours.

The researchers said these results suggested that compared to men, women were more likely to experience negative social consequences from men for engaging in non-gender role-conforming pro-environmental behaviours.

“We were surprised that it was only women who experienced being avoided if they engaged in nonconforming gender-role behaviours,” Swim said.

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