Masculinity and the environment. Two of the most fragile things on earth.
Just kidding. But do they have anything in common? Or more importantly, should they?
According to recent studies zero-waste and other environmental movements are overwhelmingly more popular with women than men. And researchers think it has something to do with masculinity.
Overwhelmingly more women are actively involved in making eco-conscious changes to their lifestyle. For example, 89 per cent of those following the zero-waste travelling roadshow The Rubbish Trip on Facebook are female (October 2019) while 84.6 percent of the Zero Waste in NZ Facebook group were female, 14.6 per cent male and 0.6 per cent custom (October 2019).
A Colmar Brunton poll also follows a similar trend noting those most likely to be against banning of all single use plastic were men aged 18-54.
The idea that caring about the environment isn’t ‘manly’ is far from a new idea. A few months ago the ‘Dad Bag’ hit New Zealand supermarket shelves – a reusable bag with a swanndri pattern targeted specifically towards men. This idea came as the result of a Penn State University study which found some men were avoiding reusable shopping bags as they believed they might be seen as feminine.
So how do we change this? Obviously the state of the planet isn’t just a ‘women’s issue’. It affects all of us. Does the environmental movement need to specifically appeal to the masculine? Or will this add more fuel to stubborn and harmful stereotypes such as the idea that men shouldn’t appear to care too much about anything except rugby, racing and beer?
Enter Ecofeminism. The term Ecofeminism was coined in 1974 by French writer Françoise d’Eaubonne and is founded on the relationship between the environment, women and the earth.
At the risk of getting too deep, ecofeminism can best be explained as the exploration of how social oppression and environmental exploitation are connected to capitalist-colonial power relations.
Basically, researchers have theorised that an imbalance between male-female power, parallels the oppression of nature and the oppression of women. This might explain why some women feel more comfortable identifying as an environmentalist and being more open about the eco-friendly measures they are taking.
Equally it could be argued that many of these zero-waste lifestyle changes are decisions made by the person in charge of the home which, as much as it might pain feminists to admit, is still largely a feminine domain.
While ecofeminism might explain why more women are involved in these movements there is still one very important problem with it. It sounds dangerously like women pointing the finger and blaming men for all environmental problems.
And judging by how the world’s men-in-suits reacted when Greta Thunberg spoke at the recent United Nations summit, that certainly won’t win the cause any points.
Perhaps instead of changing the way we market environmentalism we need to continue to take a good hard look at masculinity and unpack why men are still afraid of appearing to care about the environment.
Then maybe everyone, and the planet, will be a lot better off.