STUDY: Men who recycle more likely to have their sexuality questioned

A Pennsylvania State University (PSU) professor’s study concluded that men who engage in environmentally friendly behaviors deemed feminine are more likely to have their heterosexuality questioned.

The study, a copy of which Campus Reform reviewed, was led by PSU psychology professor Janet Swim and published in the journal Sex Roles

Titled “Gender Bending and Gender Conformity: The Social Consequences of Engaging in Feminine and Masculine Pro-Environmental Behaviors,” the study involved three individual studies, each with 960 subjects, according to a PSU news release. In one of the study’s activities, participants read a list of hypothetical daily activities of different profiles and then judged the sexual identity of a person on a −5 (gay or lesbian) to 0 (bisexual) to 5 (heterosexual) scale.

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

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

The study concluded that people were more likely to doubt the heterosexual orientation of a man if he participated in feminine pro-environmental behaviors like recycling or using reusable bags, as opposed to masculine pro-environmental behaviors like caulking windows or switching furnace filters. 

“There may be subtle, gender-related consequences when we engage in various pro-environmental behaviors,” Swim 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.”

Swim pointed out that men might not engage in certain behaviors if they did not want to be seen as gay.

”Other research suggests that [m]en will be most likely to avoid feminine type behaviors and prefer masculine type behaviors when they are in a context where they may not be perceived as sufficiently masculine or perceived as feminine,” she told Campus Reform.

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The professors also noted in their study that men were less likely to view women who participated in masculine pro-environmental behaviors favorably, whereas the opposite did not hold true.

“Conserving the environment shouldn’t be seen as a political or as a gendered issue,” Bethany Bowra, spokeswoman for the American Conservation Coalition, told Campus Reform. “Remarks like this one prevent productive conversations from occurring, and ACC believes it is in everyone’s best interest, regardless of gender or political affiliation, to preserve and protect our environment.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @ethanycai