Men may avoid using reusable shopping bags to not look gay: study

man holding shopping bag pink gender roles study stock photo
Photo: Vector Fusion Art/Adobe Stock

A new study out of the US has suggested that traditional gender stereotypes are causing some men to dodge efforts to be environmentally-friendly.

According to Pennsylvania University 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.

“There may be subtle, gender-related consequences when we engage in various pro-environmental behaviors,” she 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 academic journal Sex Roles, involved three separate studies with 960 participants.

The study looked at men and women both avoiding and engaging in perceived “feminine” and “masculine” behaviours.

One task saw participants read the daily activities of fictional people and then rate how masculine or feminine they thought the person was.

Gender stereotypes caused ‘uncertainty’ about perceived heterosexuality

Participants said a male fictional character exhibited gender stereotypes associated with women said that they were “uncertain of his heterosexual identity,” the researchers said.

They were also more likely to question a woman’s sexual orientation if she engaged in “masculine” pro-environmental behaviors.

Men were also more likely to avoid women who were interested in “masculine” pro-environmental behaviors.

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

She also noted that participants whose behaviours conformed to their gender were seen as more heterosexual than those whose behaviors did not.

“Behaviours don’t just help us accomplish something concrete, they also signal something about who we are,” she said.

“Line drying clothes or keeping tires at proper pressures may signal that we care about the environment.

“But if people see those behaviours as gendered, they may signal other things as well.

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

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