The Archaic Reasons Men Care Less About Climate Change Than Women, According To New Research

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Why Men Care Less About Climate Change Than Women

With Earth Day approaching, all people should be thinking about what they can do to save the planet from the effects of the climate crisis. However, it’s likely that more women will be celebrating with action than men. 

In the world of bamboo toothbrushes and reusable food containers, women are leading the charge to make environmentally-friendly consumer choices and reduce their carbon footprint. 

This is partially because women tend to be a more powerful consumer demographic and are, for better or worse, typically in charge of domestic duties like recycling and food preparation. 

However, even though we can’t seem to move away from viewing women as caregivers in the home, we shouldn’t force them to also be the sole custodians of the future of the planet. 

Making climate action a women’s issue is not only unfair, it’s dangerous since universal action is imminently necessary if we want to curb the effects of climate change. 

So, why do men care less about protecting the environment than women and what can we do to change that? 

Men fear caring about the planet will make them less “manly”

Archaic and old-fashioned gender expectations play a role in how men view climate action. 

In one study, which examined 2,000 American and Chinese participants, most participants described eco-friendly products, behaviors, and consumers as more feminine than their non-green counterparts.

Something as simple as bringing a reusable canvas bag to the grocery store was rated as more feminine than using a plastic bag. 

Similar research shows that men are less likely to carry reusable shopping bags and reluctant to adopt vegan or vegetarian diets for fear of being perceived as gay or effeminate. 

Abstaining from green behaviors has become a way for men to safeguard their gender identity. While this logic is somewhat nonsensical, rebranding environmentally friendly products to be more aesthetically pleasing to men could, perhaps, encourage them to get on board with the cause. 

In an effort to market sustainability as being fashionable, environmentally-friendly products have adopted a certain style that may not appeal to all. But, in the interests of the planet, we may need to meet men where they are with some “manly” looking sustainable products. 

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Men are more likely to be skeptical about climate change

However, making “greenness” aesthetically pleasing to men only solves part of the problem. Getting men to actually care about the environment is another. 

A 2019 study in the U.K. found that 75% of women believe the climate has changed since when they were younger in comparison to 64% of men. 

A previous study linked men’s higher rates of climate skepticism to their more individualistic worldviews. Men, the study says, are less interested in egalitarianism and tend to be disbelieving of the human impact on climate change.

Climate change is often humanized in order to appeal to our emotions and promote the idea of the “greater good.” However, this does not incentivize all men to care.

Another study shows that most men prefer arguments focused on science and business when debating climate change. These men tend to “attribute negative feminine traits” to men who argued on the basis of ethics and environmental justice.

This is also something that climate activists can work with in order to get more men on board. There are just as many scientific and economic impacts of climate change as there are human impacts. 

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Misogyny stops men from getting on board with climate activism

Sexism is an issue as challenging to correct as climate change itself and plays a huge role in how men view climate action. 

This, of course, is part of the problem with male fears about being seen as effeminate for using environmentally-friendly products. Many men see femininity as inherently bad. 

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But misogyny also trickles into other aspects of climate activism. Saving the planet relies on an entire reorganization of some of the structures and systems where men have come to root their masculinity.

Building a carbon-neutral economy and ending the use of fossil fuels requires a takedown of many male-dominated industries.  

A 2014 study into the threat climate change poses on traditional masculinity found, “For climate skeptics, it was not the environment that was threatened; it was a certain kind of modern industrial society built and dominated by their form of masculinity.”

Then, there is the issue of who is leading the fight against climate change. 

Two of the most prominent and vocal contemporary climate activists in the world are Greta Thunberg and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, two young women who subvert traditional views of leadership. 

We’ve already seen Trump shout Thunberg down and regularly watch the GOP yell at Ocasio-Cortez

The climate action movement has become characterized by conservative men diminishing the work of women, so it’s not surprising that other men who are uncomfortable with female leadership tend to shy away from engaging in necessary action against climate change. 

Climate action simply does not work if we cannot be united on this front. Try as we might to offset carbon outputs with canvas shopping bags and reusable water bottles, collective action from all genders and nations is necessary to preserve the planet and our species.

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her Twitter for more.