IAJBS 23rd Annual World Forum University of Namur, Namur, Belgium

Experience level: 
Intermediate
Speaker(s): 
carl obermiller
Authors: 
carl obermiller matthew isaac

Why are green men from Venus?

“Not only do men and women communicate differently but they think, feel, perceive, react, respond, love, need, and appreciate differently.” John Gray articulated this distinction in the sexes in his well publicized book, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (1992). Gray's book contributed to a vast effort to identify and explain sex differences that continues today. One difference relevant to sustainability is the observation that men are less eco-friendly than women (see, for example, Dietz, Kalof and Stern 2002). Considerable research has identified socio-cultural and personality sex differences related to differences in green behavior. Without disputing these causes, Brough, et al. (2016) recently demonstrated that another reason for the sex difference in eco-friendliness is that men sense sustainability as more feminine, and, therefore, a threat to their self-perceived masculinity. In other words, Martians may be green , but Earth men, who are from Mars, don't want to be "green". Brough, et al. (2016) contend that the sustainability-femininity association is an implicit association: Men and women are socialized to associate sustainability with femininity through years of pervasive and subtle socialization. Such a link to femininity is bolstering and positive for most women but threatening and negative for most men. Thus, the prospect of green behavior triggers an automatic association to femininity, which is positive for women but negative for men. And, that automatic negative reaction can predispose men against environmentally friendly behavior. In our paper, we review the literature relevant to a consideration of an implicit association between green behavior and femininity and pose alternate solutions to the challenge of recruiting men to the green side. We conducted two experiments to test hypotheses based on the potential beneficial effect of sustainability education. Our first study tested the hypothesis that men who know more about sustainability are more immune (than men who know less) to the implicit association of green behavior to femininity. A sample of two hundred participants were asked to characterize shoppers who used either plastic or reusable bags. Results showed that males were more likely to judge the green behavior as feminine, regardless of their level of sustainability literacy. Our second study (data collection underway) tested the hypothesis that men who know more about sustainability are more able to resist the implicit association at the point of decision. Participants were presented with donation requests that were positioned by means of brand elements (name, font, colors, etc.) as either feminine or masculine. Previous research showed that the masculine positioning overcame the negative association to femininity for males. Our hypothesis is that males who scored high in sustainable literacy will be equally likely to donate to the female and male positionings in the donation request. Such results support the claim that education in sustainability, although it may not override the implicit green-femininity association, may still be a determinant in more reflective calls to action.   References Brough, Aaron, James Wilkie, Jingjing Ma, Mathew Isaac and David Gal (2016). Is Eco-Friendly Unmanly" The Green-Feminine Stereotype and its Effect on Sustainable Consumption," Journal of Consumer Research (August), 1-16. Dietz, Thomas, Linda Kalof and Paul Stern (2002). "Gender, Values and Environmentalism," Social Science Quarterly, 83 (1), 353-364. Gray, John (1992) Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, New York, New York: HarperCollins.