What Masculinity Has to do With the Environment

By Marcia-Ruth Ndege ‘21

Figure 1. Studies suggest men will almost always try to demonstrate their masculinity even when it comes down to simple things such as everyday food items.
Figure 1. Studies suggest men will almost always try to demonstrate their masculinity even when it comes down to simple things such as everyday food items.

Trends throughout the years have underlined the fact that women tend to be more eco-friendly than their male counterparts. This trend has long been attributed to personality differences between the two sexes. Through a series of various psychological experiments, Dr. Aaron Brough and his team explore the role of masculinity in the commitment to make eco-friendly decisions.

Brough and his team gathered a sample of 2,000 American and Chinese participants—male and female—who were given seven different tests. One of these tests focused primarily on execution and findings. The fourth test was conducted on 389 males to determine whether gender-identity threats (vs age-related threats) made participants less likely to choose eco-friendly alternatives. Participants were divided into two groups, one was given a pink, floral design gift card that read “Happy Birthday” in frilly font, and the other with the words “You’re HOW old? Happy Birthday” on the standard font. They were asked to imagine buying three items with their cards, either in-store or online. Men who received the feminine cards were less likely to purchase eco-friendly products both online and in stores, suggesting the need to feel manly in both public and private contexts.


In the second test, the researchers studied the effects of colors, fonts, and diction on the tendency of participants to donate to an eco-friendly cause. Two set-up organizations, Friends of Nature and Wilderness Ranger, were used to test these characteristics. Friends of Nature, was perceived to be feminine, with a green and light tan logo, frilly font, and a tree symbol with a mission to preserve nature, while Wilderness Ranger had a black and dark blue logo, a howling wolf symbol, and a mission to preserve wildlife areas. Out of a sample of 322 participants (59.3% men), the majority of men and women were more likely to donate to the masculine condition. The results call attention to a psychological finding that can be used in order to effectively market eco-friendly solutions; By affirming a man’s masculinity, producers may attract more consumers while playing their part in creating a better environment.



  1. A. Brough, et al., Is Eco-Friendly Unmanly? The Green-Feminine Stereotype and Its Effect on Sustainable Consumption. Journal of Consumer Research (2016) DOI: 10.1093/jcr/ucw044
  2. Image retrieved from: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c3/Whitehead-link-alternative-sexuality-symbol.svg/2000px-Whitehead-link-alternative-sexuality-symbol.svg.png

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