IS TOXIC MASCULINITY MAKING MEN LESS LIKELY TO DRESS SUSTAINABLE?

POINT OF VIEW — GENDERLESS SUSTAINABILITY 

Tell me your top 5 male fashion influencers that promote mostly ethical & sustainable brands. If you know them from the top of your head, please share them in the comments, if you are struggling to even find them on Instagram, you are not the only one. Not because they don’t exist, but mostly because the influencers market is prevailed by women, with men influencers rising indeed. But if you narrow the search for the sustainable fashion niche which is still small, finding a variety of men influencers it’s not so easy.

Ok, is this the reason why men don’t engage so much in sustainable actions, there are just fewer role models and marketers, or could there be more to it?

Of course, there is more. If we plunge into the academic literature on this subject, two main explanations can be found.

Most researches suggest that personality differences between sexes, such as women’s prioritization of altruism, may help to explain this gender gap in green behavior. So, just by being a woman, one could be more likely to care about the environment.

But we should go beyond personality and innate traits. This research shows that another reason why men avoid sustainable actions is that they find them threatening their masculinity:

“Specifically, that men’s resistance may stem in part from a prevalent association between the concepts of greenness and femininity and a corresponding stereotype (held by both men and women) that green consumers are feminine. As a result of this stereotype, men may be motivated to avoid or even oppose green behaviors in order to safeguard their gender identity.”

Because of this “green-feminine stereotype”, both men and women judged eco-friendly actions as more feminine than their non-green counterparts. In one experiment, participants of both sexes described an individual who brought a reusable canvas bag to the grocery store as more feminine than someone who used a plastic bag — regardless of whether the shopper was a male or female.

The research suggests that eco-marketers should create ‘manly’ packaging & advertisement, namely to use boulders fonts, dark colors, images that convey wilderness and power, and they actually test this, and it worked. So, reinforcing once again the sexist stereotypes seems to help. While, I agree that each product or campaign will be design in a way that will appeal to its target consumer, leaving this only in the hands of marketers doesn’t seem wise.

Even when it comes to fashion, a field that for so long was associated with femininity, broke that barrier, but it still has a long way to go, especially when it comes to dressing and designing sustainable clothes.

We should make caring for the planet and consuming mainly sustainable products a given, and not something that is feminine or masculine. This should be common sense these days and in order to become that, we need to educate ourselves and others and not just to market the sustainable product in ‘manly’ packaging. Reinforcing toxic masculinity traits won’t help us for long, marketing is important in redefining these stereotypes, so I say let’s make sustainability genderless and appealing to everyone.

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