Environmentalism Is Sexy

vice headline
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I read this back in August:

This article was in VICE Australia and introduced a study completed at Penn State University.

And I wish I could say that I’m surprised by the headline or the reporting.

It’s sad and infuriating.

In the late 2000s, I wrote a cheeky piece for a now-defunct website for singles that addressed similar issues. I can’t remember if it was about how men reject vegetarianism as too feminine or if it was my “finding love at the farmers’ market” article. They might have been the same article. Several computer hard drive deaths later, it’s long gone. It was an opinion piece based on observations.

In the sassy-toned article, I discussed my male friends’ tendency to perpetuate the “man eat meat and shun vegetables” stereotype, and they mostly seemed serious about it. These men were in their early-to-mid 20s. According to sitcoms, every friend group includes friends like that.

He/Him, She/Her, They

I thought that we’d progressed with gender stereotypes. I mean, I see so many Twitter bios that state preferred gender pronouns (“He/Him”, “She/Her”), even when the preferred pronoun corresponds to their birth gender. (Am I using the word “gender” correctly there?)

Or maybe, that’s indicative of the people whose accounts that I follow and whose company I keep.

Pink: Not just for girls

I live with a man who jokingly acts out stereotypes about meat-eating and environmentalism. He never attaches a gender-related word to it, but he’ll play the role because it amuses him. It’s more like the bouffon genre of clowning, which mocks people’s absurdities. It’s not an authentic expression of his opinion

The reality is that he loves vegetables. Among his favourites as rapini, Chinese broccoli, asparagus and fiddleheads. I’ve seen him dance with joy upon fiddlehead sighting.

Walking the sustainability talk, he has spent the last several months researching ways to minimize waste generated by restaurant delivery and takeout orders. He’s invested time and money in this project and spoken to several stakeholders. He complains that he hates “raping the earth.”

Also, one of his favourite colours is pink.

My boyfriend hates greenwashing as much as I do. I detest any variety of “-washing”, except for the kind of washing that gets dirty things clean. (Although if you visited my house, you might think that I’m offended by that too.)

Photo by Lindsay Lenard on Unsplash

Eat a vegetable

More people are vegetarian or vegan than ever (there are also more people). There are more vegan restaurants than ever, more “regular” restaurants with options. I often see men at farmers’ markets now. A decade ago, before my current relationship, I’d swoon over some of the men with children in two and wonder which of those men were single. Did the term “DILF” ever catch on?

Gender stereotypes propagate and perpetuate

So, because of existing gender stereotypes, it does not surprise me that some consider environmentalism a “feminine trait”.

The study asked a total of 960 participants — male and female — to evaluate whether fictional characters felt “feminine” or “masculine” based on a series of environmentally friendly activities.

The lead researcher concluded,

If being seen as heterosexual is important to a person, that person may prioritise gender-conforming over gender-nonconforming pro-environmental behaviours in anticipation of how others might see them,

“If being seen as… is important to a person.”

That’s sad.

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

Homophobia and misogyny at the expense of the planet

The study’s findings are rife with homophobia and misogyny. “Misogyny “ is not a term I use unless I’m confident that it’s justified based on one’s treatment of women vs. men.

Some individuals are simply horrible people.

Sadly, some men care more about what others think of them than helping the planet. Unfortunately, people are so insecure about themselves that they project their insecurities into propagating stereotypes. It’s infuriating that for some people, “being viewed as straight” is a stronger value than leaving the planet habitable for future generations.

People will always bond over activities that conform to gender stereotypes, and that’s okay. We all need to bond, and not all gender stereotypes are harmful.

If women choose to spend the day at the spa with their girlfriends and men choose to spend an evening drinking scotch and smoking cigars with their male friends, why not? That’s not to say that some men won’t take a spa day, and some women won’t enjoy some scotch and stogies. I find it refreshing when men get manicures, and a woman can drink a man under the table. (The latter impresses me, and there are certain profanities that, if uttered, endear me to a woman.)

Some of the language that I used in that paragraph points to gender differentiation. Did you spot it?

Gendered slang

I’ve often wondered why it’s common for women to refer to their female friends as “girlfriends”, while no similar non-romantic friend terms exist. At least, in North America. It’s likely due to living in a patriarchal society and a world where “-man” exists as a suffix. I’ve never heard a woman refer to a male friend with whom they are not a couple as a “boyfriend”. People would interpret “boyfriend” to mean a romantic partner. As a child, it confused me when I first heard it. As an adult, I sometimes wonder whether a woman is referring to a friend or a romantic partner.

Furthermore, men never refer to platonic friends as “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”. If anyone knows the origin of using “girlfriend” to refer to a platonic female, please share.

Men and women are different

They are. They just are. No two humans are alike. Everyone has unique strengths and weaknesses, and some are related to the sex they were born into. The existence of strengths, weaknesses and roles isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Do you, and own it.

However, we all have the capacity for love and compassion for ourselves, the people we know, for strangers and the planet.

As the Vice article concludes, “toxic masculinity, coupled with an archaic brand of small-minded homophobia, might actually be contributing to the destruction of the planet.”

I genuinely hope that you all take action to help the planet. To any man who fears that caring about the environment is “too feminine”, to those who choose fear over helping the planet, I’d hope that they get their head our of their ass and help. If anyone is judging you, it’s because you’re hurting yourself and the world.

The planet needs all of us.

(Cross-posted from Medium)

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