Could going green make others question your sexual orientation?
The disturbing answer is that it might – new research led by Pennsylvania State University shows specific types of environmentally-friendly behavior are often associated with masculine or feminine stereotypes.
The study highlights that a person engaging in the ‘wrong’ kind of eco-actions for their gender is more likely to have their sexuality questioned and could even be avoided in social settings.
The experiment saw 170 people asked to evaluate a fictional character named either David or Diane, whose daily routine included a number of green activities – these were either actions traditionally associated with women, such as recycling and using a reusable shopping bag, or actions traditionally associated with men, such as implementing energy efficiency measures, or gender-neutral.
Participants then picked the personality traits they felt described this character – across the board, respondents felt David or Diane had more positive feminine than positive masculine traits, confirming that certain green behaviors are not seen to be ‘manly’.
Researchers noted this “gender-bending” created uncertainty about an actor’s heterosexual identity.
As part of a later exercise, 303 people were asked who they would be interested in speaking with about environmental behaviors.
Men generally avoided “gender-bending women” and researchers noted many were uncomfortable engaging with a woman who is “not clearly heterosexual”.
Lead Author Janet Swim, Pennsylvania State University Psychologist, said: “Behaviors don’t just help us accomplish something concrete; they also signal something about who we are.
“Line-drying clothes, or keeping tires at proper pressures, may signal that we care about the environment, but if those green behaviors are gendered, they may signal other things as well.”