Is Eco-Friendly Unmanly? The Green-Feminine Stereotype and Its Effect on Sustainable Consumption

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DOI: 10.1093/jcr/ucw044
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Abstract
Why are men less likely than women to embrace environmentally friendly products and behaviors? Whereas prior research attributes this gender gap in sustainable consumption to personality differences between the sexes, we propose that it may also partially stem from a prevalent association between green behavior and femininity, and a corresponding stereotype (held by both men and women) that green consumers are more feminine. Building on prior findings that men tend to be more concerned than women with gender identity maintenance, we argue that this green-feminine stereotype may motivate men to avoid green behaviors in order to preserve a macho image. A series of seven studies provides evidence that the concepts of greenness and femininity are cognitively linked and shows that, accordingly, consumers who engage in green behaviors are stereotyped by others as more feminine and even perceive themselves as more feminine. Further, men’s willingness to engage in green behaviors can be influenced by threatening or affirming their masculinity, as well as by using masculine rather than conventional green branding. Together, these findings bridge literatures on identity and environmental sustainability and introduce the notion that due to the green-feminine stereotype, gender identity maintenance can influence men’s likelihood of adopting green behaviors.
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Is Eco-Friendly Unmanly?
The Green-Feminine Stereotype and Its
Effect on Sustainable Consumption
AARON R. BROUGH
JAMES E. B. WILKIE
JINGJING MA
MATHEW S. ISAAC
DAVID GAL
Why are men less likely than women to embrace environmentally friendly products
and behaviors? Whereas prior research attributes this gender gap in sustainable
consumption to personality differences between the sexes, we propose that it may
also partially stem from a prevalent association between green behavior and femi-
ninity, and a corresponding stereotype (held by both men and women) that green
consumers are more feminine. Building on prior findings that men tend to be more
concerned than women with gender-identity maintenance, we argue that this green-
feminine stereotype may motivate men to avoid green behaviors in order to pre-
serve a macho image. A series of seven studies provides evidence that the con-
cepts of greenness and femininity are cognitively linked and shows that, accordingly,
consumers who engage in green behaviors are stereotyped by others as more femi-
nine and even perceive themselves as more feminine. Further, men’s willingness to
engage in green behaviors can be influenced by threatening or affirming their mas-
culinity, as well as by using masculine rather than conventional green branding.
Together, these findings bridge literatures on identity and environmental sustainabil-
ity and introduce the notion that due to the green-feminine stereotype, gender-
identity maintenance can influence men’s likelihood of adopting green behaviors.
Keywords: gender identity maintenance, green marketing, environmental sustain-
ability, stereotypes, motivated consumption
As the threat posed by environmentally destructive be-
haviors intensifies, it becomes increasingly important
to identify ways to increase environmental consciousness and
eco-friendly behavior. One of the obstacles identified by
prior research is that compared to women, men are less likely
to be eco-friendly in their attitudes, choices, and behaviors
(Davidson and Freudenburg 1996;Lee and Holden 1999).
Women display greater concern and willingness to take ac-
tion to help the environment, and this effect is robust across
age groups and countries (Cottrell 2003;Dietz, Kalof, and
Stern 2002;Levin 1990;Zelezny, Chua, and Aldrich 2000).
In contrast, men litter more (Kallgren, Reno, and Cialdini
2000), recycle less (Zelezny et al. 2000), have a larger overall
carbon footprint (R
aty and Carlsson-Kanyama 2010), and
feel less guilty about living a nongreen lifestyle (Tiller 2014).
Aaron R. Brough (aaron.brough@usu.edu) is assistant professor of
marketing, Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, Utah State University,
3555 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322. James E. B. Wilkie
(James.E.Wilkie.9@nd.edu) is assistant professor, Mendoza College of
Business, University of Notre Dame, 381 Mendoza, Notre Dame, IN
46556. Jingjing Ma (jingjingma@nsd.pku.edu.cn) is assistant professor of
marketing, National School of Development at Peking University, 5
Yiheyuan Road, Beijing, China, 100871. Mathew S. Isaac (isaacm@seat
tleu.edu) is associate professor of marketing, Albers School of Business &
Economics, Seattle University, 901 12th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122.
David Gal (davidgal@uic.edu) is professor of marketing, Liautaud
Graduate School of Business, University of Illinois at Chicago, 601 S.
Morgan Street, Chicago, IL 60607. The first two authors contributed
equally to this work. Stimuli and other supplementary materials are avail-
able online in the online appendix.
Darren Dahl served as editor, and Andrea Morales served as associate
editor for this article.
Advance Access publication August 4, 2016
V
CThe Author 2016. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Journal of Consumer Research, Inc.
All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com Vol. 43 2016
DOI: 10.1093/jcr/ucw044
567
Past research has explained this gender gap in environ-
mental sustainability by exploring differences in personality
traits typically observed in women versus men. For exam-
ple, women’s concern for the environment has been attrib-
uted to their tendency to be more prosocial, altruistic, and
empathetic (Dietz et al. 2002;Lee and Holden 1999).
Women also display superior perspective taking and a stron-
ger ethic of care, which have both been linked to environ-
mentalism (Zelezny et al. 2000). In addition, women may
exhibit greater commitment to the environment because
they are more inclined to adopt a future time perspective
(Eisler and Eisler 1994) and are more concerned with health
and safety, particularly if their children are living at home
(Davidson and Freudenburg 1996).
While we do not dispute that personality differences be-
tween the sexes contribute to the gender gap in environ-
mental sustainability, the present research offers a novel
explanation for this phenomenon. Specifically, we propose
that men’s resistance may stem in part from a prevalent as-
sociation 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 op-
pose green behaviors in order to safeguard their gender
identity. The following section further explains the ratio-
nale behind our proposition that gender-identity mainte-
nance, stemming from men’s desire to avoid a prevalent
green-feminine stereotype, contributes to the gender gap in
sustainable consumption.
CONCEPTUAL DEVELOPMENT
The Green-Feminine Stereotype
Consistent with the idea that green products and behav-
iors are associated with femininity, survey data collected
by OgilvyEarth suggest that “going green” is considered
more feminine than masculine by a majority of American
adults (Bennett and Williams 2011). There are several rea-
sons why the concepts of greenness and femininity might
be cognitively linked among both male and female con-
sumers. For example, many proenvironmental messages
use font styles and colors that are more feminine than mas-
culine. In addition, many green marketing efforts target
areas in which women tend to be more involved than men,
such as cleaning, food preparation, family health, laundry,
and domestic maintenance. More fundamentally, environ-
mentalism and conservationism reflect caring and nurtur-
ing of the environment, which are prototypical feminine
traits (Gilligan 1982;Tavris 1999;Watson 1994), and
green consumers are rated as more cooperative, altruistic,
and ethical than their nongreen counterparts (Mazar and
Zhong 2010, study 1). Finally, to the extent that women are
in fact more green than men, this association could simply
be the result of the exemplars that come to mind when
thinking of people who typically engage in green behavior.
If an association between greenness and femininity is
sufficiently strong, it may affect social judgments and self-
perception. That is, men and women may judge those who
engage in green behaviors as more feminine than those
who do not, and to the extent that such a stereotype is inter-
nalized, men and women who engage in green behaviors
may experience a heightened sense of femininity. Thus a
green-feminine stereotype may be held by consumers of ei-
ther gender and could affect perceptions of the self and of
others.
Consumers’ response to the existence of a pervasive
green-feminine stereotype is likely to depend on both indi-
vidual differences (e.g., the extent to which the consumer
is concerned with gender-identity maintenance) and situa-
tional factors (e.g., gender cues that threaten or affirm gen-
der identity). For example, a green-feminine stereotype is
likely to discourage consumers from engaging in green be-
havior who, either dispositionally or situationally, feel a
need to avoid feminine associations, but it may have less
impact when consumers are not as concerned with main-
taining a masculine gender identity. Based on this logic,
consumers who feel motivated to undertake actions that
serve to reinforce gender identity as a central aspect of
their self-concept should be most influenced by the green-
feminine stereotype.
Gender-Identity Maintenance
Social-identity theory contends that a portion of one’s
self-concept is derived from perceived group membership
(Turner and Oakes 1986;Gal 2015 offers a review). This
group membership may be a group to which one belongs,
aspires to join, or actively avoids. In terms of identity sig-
naling and maintenance, people tend to imitate the behav-
ior of positive (Berger and Heath 2007,2008;Escalas and
Bettman 2003,2005;McFerran et al. 2010;Wang, Zhu,
and Shiv 2012) and aspirational ingroups (Englis and
Solomon 1995), while refraining from acting in a similar
fashion to dissociative outgroups (Berger and Heath 2007,
2008;White, Argo, and Sengupta 2012;White and Dahl
2006,2007).
Prior research suggests that gender identity, which has
been defined as the extent to which one identifies with being
masculine or feminine, is an integral part of one’s self-
concept (Fischer and Arnold 1994;Spence 1985) and serves
as the fundamental scaffolding that allows individuals to
process information about themselves and the world around
them (Bem 1981;Palan 2001). Moreover, because posses-
sions and behaviors can act as signals of identity (Berger
and Heath 2007,2008) and prompt inferences about per-
sonal characteristics (Calder and Burnkrant 1977), gender
identity can be maintained through one’s choices.
568 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
The notion of gender-identity maintenance is consistent
with the idea that self-discrepancies, which are inconsisten-
cies between actual and desired self-views (Higgins 1987),
prompt compensatory actions. Indeed, threats to one’s mem-
bership status in a meaningful group can lead to compen-
satory efforts to reestablish ingroup status and restore a
positive self-view. These efforts may include engaging in
follow-up behaviors that are representative of the ingroup
(Branscombe et al. 2002;Maass et al. 2003;Munsch 2012;
Schmitt and Branscombe 2001) and/or distancing oneself
from outgroup members (Branscombe et al. 1993;Maass
et al. 2003;Quillian 1995;Tajfel and Turner 1986). In line
with this, threatening men’s gender identity can lead to
derogation of women and greater explicit identification
with a masculine identity (Maass et al. 2003;Schmitt and
Branscombe 2001). The affirmation of group status, how-
ever, can have the opposite effect. For instance, when mascu-
linity had been previously affirmed through a self-reflection
task, men were more inclined to choose prototypically femi-
nine food options that were listed in a menu (Gal and Wilkie
2010; experiment 4).
Interestingly, research suggests that men and women are
differentially sensitive to maintaining their gender identity.
In particular, men tend to be more attentive than women to
maintaining their gender identity because they face greater
penalties for gender-inconsistent transgressions (Bosson
and Michniewicz 2013;Carter and McCloskey 1984;
Martin 1990;McCreary 1994;Moller, Hymel, and Rubin
1992). For instance, research has shown that boys are pun-
ished more severely than girls for displaying gender-
incongruent forms of play (Langlois and Downs 1980) and
that gay men are perceived more negatively than lesbians
in various domains (Herek 2000). Further, research has
shown that men experience greater psychological damage
following gender-inconsistent behavior than women (Aube´
and Koestner 1992). Thus given the greater price they pay
for making gender-incongruent choices, men may be more
responsive to the subtle ways in which gender is often
cued, such as through colors, shapes, sounds, numbers, and
foods (Gal and Wilkie 2010). For instance, prior research
has found that men tend to avoid products associated with
female reference groups (White and Dahl 2006) and fear
gender contamination of products and brands (Avery
2012).
Hypothesis Development
In accord with the notion that behavior is often
guided by the need to maintain gender identity, particu-
larly among male consumers, we posit that one plausi-
ble explanation for men’s avoidance of environmentally
friendly behaviors is that a pervasive mental association
exists between greenness and femininity, such that en-
gaging in green behaviors could threaten men’s mascu-
line identity. Thus we predict that due to the green-
feminine association and its effect on social judgments
and self-perception, men will be more likely than
women to avoid green products and behaviors, particu-
larly when their masculinity is threatened.
While the basic thesis of our research is that men may be
motivated to eschew green choices in order to maintain their
gender identity, there might be boundary conditions under
which men may be willing to be associated with green prod-
ucts and behaviors in spite of their feminine connotation.
For example, prior research suggests that men may be more
likely to engage in an activity that is perceived as stereotypi-
cally feminine if their masculinity has been affirmed, but
that they may be reluctant to do so when their masculinity
has been threatened (Gal and Wilkie 2010). Building on this
research, we predict that when their masculine identity is af-
firmed, men will feel less compelled to reassert their mascu-
linity through nongreen behaviors and will therefore be
more open to engaging in environmentally friendly behav-
iors. We likewise predict that when the association between
greenness and femininity is weakened (e.g., through mascu-
line branding), men will be more likely to engage in green
(vs. nongreen) behaviors.
Across a series of seven studies, we test our hypotheses
that both men and women mentally associate greenness
with femininity, which leads them to stereotype green con-
sumers as more feminine than nongreen consumers (studies
1, 2, and 3), and that as a result of this green-feminine ste-
reotype, men’s willingness to engage in green behavior is
sensitive to gender-related cues that threaten or affirm their
gender identity or influence a brand’s gender associations
(studies 4, 5, 6A, and 6B). Together, these studies aim to
provide support for our prediction that due to the prevalent
cognitive link between greenness and femininity, gender-
identity maintenance contributes to men’s relatively low
engagement in green behaviors.
STUDY 1
The objective of study 1 was to test for an implicit cogni-
tive association between the concepts of greenness and femi-
ninity. To do this, we used a Single Category Implicit
Association Test (SC-IAT; Karpinski and Steinman 2006)to
measure participants’ implicit attitudes toward the perceived
gender-affiliation and greenness of products. The rationale
underlying the SC-IAT is that when asked to categorize
stimuli, participants will respond more quickly when paired
categories match (vs. mismatch) their subjective mental rep-
resentation. For example, if participants cognitively repre-
sent green products as feminine, response latencies should
be shorter when the label “Female” is paired with the com-
patible label “Environmentally Friendly” rather than the in-
compatible label “Environmentally Unfriendly.” In a
separate SC-IAT, we examined the extent to which green-
ness is associated with masculinity.
BROUGH ET AL. 569
Method
A total of 127 university students (52.0% male; mean
age ¼21.42) were randomly assigned to complete either
the Feminine SC-IAT (designed to test different combina-
tions of femininity and greenness) or the Masculine SC-
IAT (designed to test different combinations of masculinity
and greenness). Each participant completed four blocks of
trials. In each trial, the target stimulus (either the name of a
person or the photo of a product) was displayed in the cen-
ter of the screen and category labels were displayed in
the upper right and left corners of the screen. For our
Feminine SC-IAT [Masculine SC-IAT], participants cate-
gorized names as Female [Male] and products as either
Environmentally Friendly or Environmentally Unfriendly.
The procedures for both the Feminine SC-IAT and the
Masculine SC-IAT were identical except for the gender of
the names used. See online appendix A for stimuli and ad-
ditional details.
Results
Using Greenwald, Nosek, and Banaji’s (2003) improved
scoring algorithm, we created an IAT D-score for each par-
ticipant. The D-score is an effect size estimate that reflects
strength of association between two concepts and is created
by dividing differences between the mean response laten-
cies of compatible and incompatible blocks by the standard
deviation of all latencies in the blocks. IAT D-scores can
range from 2toþ2, with the direction and size of the ef-
fect reflecting the strength of associations between the tar-
get concepts and attributes (Greenwald, McGhee, and
Schwartz 1998).
For the Feminine SC-IAT, the mean IAT D-score was
.23, which is significantly different from 0; t(57) ¼4.25,
p<.001, d¼1.13. Consistent with our prediction that
greenness and femininity are cognitively associated, this
positive D-score indicates that participants were quicker to
categorize stimuli in compatible than incompatible trials.
There was no difference in IAT D-score by participant gen-
der; F(1, 57) ¼.11, p¼.74, g2
p<.01, suggesting that both
men and women cognitively associate the concepts of
greenness and femininity.
For the Masculine SC-IAT, the mean IAT D-score was
.03, which is not significantly different from 0; t(68) ¼.56,
p¼.58, d¼.14, and there was no difference in this D-score
by participant gender; F(1, 68) ¼.69, p¼.41, g2
p¼.01.
The lack of a prevalent cognitive association between
greenness and masculinity suggests that the concepts of
femininity and masculinity may be independent constructs
rather than polar ends of a single continuum.
Discussion
Study 1 provided evidence consistent with our theorizing
that a mental association exists, among both men and
women, between the concepts of greenness and femininity.
Our theory further suggests that this green-feminine associ-
ation results in a prevalent stereotype (held by both gen-
ders) that green consumers are more feminine than
nongreen consumers—a stereotype that may encourage
men to avoid eco-friendly behaviors. Whereas prior re-
search has shown that women are more likely to engage in
green behaviors than men, it has not examined the possibil-
ity that a person’s green or nongreen behavior might im-
pact others’ perceptions of his or her gender identity. Our
next study examines whether consumers who engage in
green behaviors are indeed judged by others to be more
feminine.
STUDY 2
In this study, we aimed to show that the association be-
tween greenness and femininity observed in study 1 affects
social judgments, such that those who do (vs. do not) en-
gage in green behavior are perceived as more feminine. It
is important to document this stereotype because we theo-
rize that men will be reluctant to engage in green behaviors
if doing so would cause them to be perceived as feminine.
Thus study 2 examined the prevalence of a stereotype,
among both men and women, that green consumers are
more feminine than nongreen consumers.
Method
Participants were 194 students (45.9% male; mean
age ¼23.05) simultaneously recruited from two private
universities to participate in an online survey. Participants
were randomly assigned to one of four conditions in a 2
(target: male vs. female) 2 (behavior: green vs. non-
green) between-participant design. Participants read the
following scenario that included an image of groceries in a
plastic bag (nongreen behavior) or an image of groceries in
a reusable canvas bag (green behavior): “Imagine you are
at your local grocery store and see a [man/woman] leaving
the checkout lane, carrying [his/her] groceries in a [plastic
bag/reusable canvas bag]. Please indicate the extent to
which you feel each word below describes this [man/
woman]” (see online appendix B for stimuli).
Participants then used a 5 point scale (1 ¼Not at all;
5¼Perfectly) to provide ratings for 11 traits that were pre-
sented in a random order to each participant. Two traits
(eco-friendly and wasteful) were intended as a manipula-
tion check to ensure that using the reusable canvas bag was
in fact perceived as more green than using the plastic bag.
The remaining nine traits were considered to be stereotypi-
cally masculine (masculine, macho, and aggressive), ste-
reotypically feminine (feminine, gentle, and sensitive), or
gender neutral (athletic, attractive, curious). Our selection
of these nine traits and their expected classification was
empirically based, leveraging both prior research on
570 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
individuals’ perceptions of the gender affiliations of these
traits (Hoffman and Borders 2001;Holt and Ellis 1998)
and our own pretesting.
Following this task, participants were asked to guess
what this study was designed to test. They then reported
their age, gender, gender identity, interest in dating men,
interest in dating women, and indicated whether they were
currently single or in a relationship.
Results
An analysis of responses to the hypothesis-guessing
question showed that 21 participants explicitly linked gen-
der or gender stereotypes to environmental behavior.
However, the pattern of results does not change when these
participants are excluded, so the analysis here includes the
full set of respondents. Our between-participant manipula-
tion of green versus nongreen behavior was successful;
participants in the two green conditions rated the trait eco-
friendly as more descriptive of the target (M¼4.54,
SD ¼.68, N¼94) than participants in the two nongreen
conditions (M¼1.43, SD ¼.88, N¼100; t(192) ¼27.42,
p<.001). Conversely, participants in the two green condi-
tions rated the trait wasteful as less descriptive of the target
(M¼1.07, SD ¼.30) than participants in the two nongreen
conditions (M¼2.44, SD ¼1.09; t(192) ¼11.68, p<.001).
To test our prediction that the green target would be per-
ceived as more feminine than the nongreen target, we first
formed a femininity index by averaging the three feminine
traits (a¼.80) and a masculinity index by averaging the
three masculine traits (a¼.76). The creation of these indi-
ces was supported by principal component exploratory fac-
tor analysis with oblique rotation (Promax), which showed
that these six traits loaded on the two hypothesized factors,
together explaining 71.2% of the total variance. Moreover,
a confirmatory factor analysis with the same six traits on
two factors yielded a chi-square residual of 413 (df ¼15,
p<.001), a goodness-of-fit index of .95, a root square
mean residual of .07, and a comparative fit index of .95.
These statistics indicate a reasonable fit to the data, and the
/coefficient of .25 provides evidence of discriminant va-
lidity. Each loading estimate was highly significant
(p<.001), and the .80 and .76 reliability of the feminine
and masculine factors, respectively, was acceptable
(table A in online appendix H shows the results of the fac-
tor analysis). Together, these results provide support for
the notion that ratings on these six traits adequately capture
perceptions of a target’s masculinity versus femininity.
As expected, the femininity index differed significantly
based on the target’s environmental behavior;
F(1, 190) ¼44.00, p<.001, g2
p¼.19, such that the green
target (M¼2.64, SD ¼.90, N¼94) was perceived as more
feminine than the nongreen target (M¼1.82, SD ¼.86,
N¼100); table B in online appendix H lists the mean rat-
ings for each trait. Not surprisingly, a main effect of the
target’s gender was also observed; F(1, 190) ¼8.39,
p¼.004, g2
p¼.04, such that the female target (M¼2.40,
SD ¼1.04, N¼95) was perceived as more feminine than
the male target (M¼2.04, SD ¼.88, N¼99). The interac-
tion was not significant; F(1, 190) ¼2.42, p¼.12, g2
p¼.01,
indicating that both male and female targets were judged as
more feminine when they engaged in green (vs. nongreen)
behavior. Next, we examined whether the results were influ-
enced by participants’ gender, age, gender identity, interest
in dating men, interest in dating women, or relationship sta-
tus. Across all these demographics, participants seemed to
hold the same stereotypes about the heightened femininity
of consumers who engage in green behaviors; when these
variables were included as covariates, the target’s gender
and environmental behavior remained significant predictors
of femininity (p’s <.01) but none of the covariates was sig-
nificant (p’s >.37).
We then examined perceptions of the targets’ masculin-
ity. The masculinity index also differed significantly across
conditions, but this effect was driven entirely by the target’s
gender, such that the male target (M¼1.67, SD ¼.74,
N¼99) was perceived as more masculine than the female
target (M¼1.38, SD ¼.63, N¼95); F(1, 190) ¼8.52,
p<.01, g2
p¼.04. There was neither a main effect of envi-
ronmental behavior; F(1, 190) ¼.28, p¼.60, nor a signifi-
cant interaction; F(1, 190) ¼.70; p¼.40. The different
patterns observed for masculinity and femininity in this
study and in study 1 are consistent with prior research that
conceptualizes these constructs as independent rather than
mutually exclusive (Hoffman and Borders 2001).
Our claim is that because green behavior is cognitively
associated with femininity, targets who engage in green be-
havior will be perceived not only as more green, but also
as more feminine. To test this claim, we examined whether
the effect of green versus nongreen behavior on a target’s
perceived femininity was mediated by perceptions of the
target’s eco-friendliness. For this analysis, we used the
femininity index as the dependent variable and a dummy
variable to indicate the type of environmental behavior
(1 ¼Green; 0 ¼Nongreen) as the independent variable.
The moderator was an eco-friendliness index we created
by averaging the wasteful (reverse-coded) and eco-friendly
traits (a¼.71). Then, using Hayes’s (2013, model 4)
PROCESS macro, we found that the indirect effect of envi-
ronmental behavior through eco-friendliness was positive
(B ¼.59, SE ¼.26) and statistically different from zero
(95% confidence interval [CI], .12–1.12), thus providing
evidence of the suggested mediation.
Discussion
Consistent with our predictions, results of study 2 showed
that consumers who engaged in green behavior were per-
ceived by both male and female participants as more femi-
nine than consumers who engaged in nongreen behavior.
BROUGH ET AL. 571
The fact that none of the covariates we measured in study 2
moderated the effect is consistent with the results of study 1
in suggesting that the green-feminine association is preva-
lent across both genders. We argue that this association may
discourage men from engaging in green behaviors, particu-
larly if they are motivated to maintain a macho image and
wish to avoid being stereotyped as feminine.
STUDY 3
Study 3 tests whether the green-feminine association can
affect not only social judgments about others but also self-
perception. Central to our hypothesis that gender-identity
maintenance can affect sustainable consumption is the no-
tion that the perception of one’s gender identity can be
influenced by environmentally friendly (vs. environmen-
tally unfriendly) actions. Correlational data from a pretest
(online appendix H offers details) showed that participants
who indicated a higher [lower] degree of greenness per-
ceived themselves as more [less] feminine, but in order to
argue that this association promotes gender-identity main-
tenance, there must be evidence of a causal link between
recalling green behavior and feeling a heightened sense of
femininity. Therefore, in this study we tested whether peo-
ple feel more feminine after being randomly assigned to re-
call a time that they performed a green versus nongreen
action.
Method
Participants were 131 individuals (58.0% male; mean
age ¼35.21) recruited on Mechanical Turk (MTurk) to
participate in an online study session. After completing an
unrelated study, participants were randomly assigned to a
green versus nongreen condition (between-participants)
and prompted to recall and write about a time in which
they performed an action that was good [bad] for the envi-
ronment (online appendix C describes the stimuli).
Following this task, participants indicated their gender and
then indicated on two separate scales the degree to which
they felt masculine and feminine (1 ¼Not at all to
7¼Extremely). After completing other demographic infor-
mation (i.e., gender, age, race, and nationality), participants
were prompted to guess the purpose of the study.
Results
Eleven participants correctly surmised that the environ-
mental writing task was related to the gender-identity per-
ceptions. However, the pattern of results does not change
when these participants are excluded, so the analysis here
includes the full set of respondents.
First, a univariate analysis of variance was run with the
environmental action manipulation (green vs. nongreen)
and participant gender (male vs. female) as the between-
participant independent variables and participants’ self-
reported femininity score as the dependent variable.
A marginal main effect of environmental behavior
emerged; F(1, 130) ¼2.94, p¼.09, g2
p¼.02, such that
people reported feeling more feminine in the green condi-
tion (M¼3.84, SD ¼1.90, N¼67) than in the nongreen
condition (M¼3.56, SD ¼2.04, N¼64). A main effect of
participant gender also emerged; F(1, 130) ¼138.86,
p<.001, g2
p¼.52, such that women (M¼5.34, SD ¼1.36,
N¼55) reported feeling more feminine than men
(M¼2.51, SD ¼1.40, N¼76). As expected, no interaction
between the two independent variables emerged; F(1,
130) ¼1.23, p¼.27, g2
p¼.01 indicating that both sexes
showed similar patterns in terms of femininity perceptions.
Next, the same analysis was conducted with participants
self-reported masculinity score as the dependent variable.
The main effect of environmental action was nonsignificant;
F(1, 130) ¼2.38, p¼.13, g2
p¼.02, but a significant main
effect of participant gender emerged; F(1, 130) ¼149.88,
p<.001, g2
p¼.54, such that women (M¼2.40, SD ¼1.49,
N¼55) reported feeling less masculine than men
(M¼5.31, SD ¼1.26, N¼76). As expected, no interaction
emerged between the two independent variables;
F(1, 130) ¼.04, p¼.84, indicating that both sexes showed
similar patterns in terms of masculinity perceptions.
Discussion
Whereas the findings of study 2 showed that people
judge others who engage in green (vs. nongreen) behavior
as more feminine, the findings of study 3 show that the
same stereotype is applied to perceptions of the self.
Specifically, recalling green (vs. nongreen) behavior led to
a higher self-perception of femininity among both men and
women. The similar patterns observed across male and fe-
male participants in the first three studies suggest that the
green-feminine association is held by both men and women
and that participants of both genders are influenced by this
association as they make judgments about others’ feminin-
ity and about their own femininity.
In the next four studies, we examine whether consumers’
response to this prevalent green-feminine stereotype is a
function of gender-identity maintenance by testing how con-
sumers’ likelihood to engage in sustainable behavior is
influenced by gender-related cues. Given the findings of
past research that men are more likely than women to be
influenced by gender-identity maintenance motives (Bosson
and Michniewicz 2013;Carter and McCloskey 1984;Gal
and Wilkie 2010;Martin 1990;McCreary 1994;Moller
et al. 1992), in study 4 we restrict our sample to men and
test whether a gender-identity threat will lead men to reas-
sert their masculinity through nongreen choices. In subse-
quent studies, we examine the extent to which women may
also be influenced by gender-identity maintenance motives.
572 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
STUDY 4
The objective of study 4 was to test whether a gender-
identity threat can decrease men’s preference for green
products. If our theory is correct that men avoid green be-
haviors in order to maintain their gender identity, then
choice of green (vs. nongreen) products should decrease in
response to threats that are specific to gender identity, but
not to other kinds of ego threats (e.g., an age-related
threat). Moreover, given the findings of studies 2 and 3
that engaging in green behavior leads to greater percep-
tions of femininity by both others and the self, we wanted
to test whether the effect of a threat would differ in a public
versus private context. Although prior research has found
that gender-identity threats have a greater effect on men’s
public versus private behavior (White and Dahl 2006), the
findings of study 3 that recalling green behavior can in-
crease self-perceptions of femininity suggest that threats
may also influence private behavior.
Method
A total of 403 American men (mean age ¼32.68) were
recruited from MTurk to participate in the study.
Participants were randomly assigned to one of four condi-
tions in a 2 (threat type: gender vs. age) 2 (shopping con-
text: public vs. private) between-participant design. All
participants were instructed to imagine receiving a $150
gift card from coworkers with a note saying “we thought
this card was perfect for you—happy birthday!”
Next, participants were shown a Walmart gift card de-
signed to threaten their ego by making them feel either
feminine (gender threat) or old (age threat). The gender-
threat card featured a floral design on a pink background
with the words “Happy Birthday” in a frilly font. The age-
threat card featured a surprised emoji below the text
“You’re HOW Old?!” with the words “Happy Birthday” in
a standard font (online appendix D shows the stimuli).
Pretests showed that compared to the age-threat card, the
gender-threat card was perceived as more feminine;
t(185) ¼15.9, p<.001, and less masculine; t(185) ¼16.5,
p<.001. The shopping context was manipulated by asking
participants in the public condition to think about how they
would feel taking the gift card to a store and handing it to
the cashier. In contrast, participants in the private condition
were asked to think about how they would feel using the
gift card to shop online at home. On the following screen,
to reinforce our manipulation and ensure that participants
had paid attention to the threat, we asked participants to de-
scribe the card’s appearance.
Next, participants were asked to imagine using the gift
card to purchase three different products—a lamp, back-
pack, and batteries. Product descriptions were adapted
from Griskevicius, Tybur, and Van den Bergh (2010).
Within each product category, participants were shown
two items (one green and one nongreen) and asked to
choose between them. The order in which each pair of
items were presented was counterbalanced across partici-
pants. Participants then provided their general attitude to-
ward Walmart and completed demographic information
(i.e., nationality, first language, age, and gender).
Results
Although only mem had been recruited to participate in
this study, 14 participants reported their gender as female
and were therefore excluded. This left 389 participants for
the analysis. The choice data were analyzed using a logit
model with threat type (gender vs. age) and shopping con-
text (public vs. private) as two between-participant vari-
ables and product category as a repeated measure. Results
showed a main effect of threat type, such that across all
three product categories, participants were less likely to
choose a green product following a gender threat
(M¼41.9%, N¼198) than an age threat (M¼49.6%,
N¼191); z¼2.51, p<.01. In each of the three individual
product categories, the choice share of the green product
was lower following gender versus age threat. For batter-
ies, this effect was significant (M
gender
¼35.9% vs.
M
age
¼48.7%; v
2
(1) ¼6.57, p¼.01); for backpacks, the
effect was marginally significant (M
gender
¼28.8% vs.
M
age
¼37.2%; v
2
(1) ¼3.10, p¼.08), and for lamps, the ef-
fect was not significant (M
gender
¼61.1% vs.
M
age
¼62.8%; v
2
(1) ¼0.12, p¼.73). There was no main
effect of shopping context (z¼.53, p¼.60), nor a signifi-
cant interaction between threat type and shopping context
(z¼1.03, p¼.30).
Discussion
Consistent with our theory that due to gender-identity
maintenance, men’s environmental choices can be influ-
enced by gender cues, results showed that following a
gender-identity (vs. age) threat, men were less likely to
choose green products. The fact that shopping context did
not appear to influence participants’ choices could be ex-
plained by the notion that men seek to maintain their gen-
der identity not only in public, but also in private, shopping
contexts. Building on the findings of studies 2 and 3, this
interpretation is consistent with the notion that men may be
affected by both impression management and self-
perception concerns when making choices between green
and nongreen products. Another possible explanation could
be that the subtlety of the shopping context manipulation
or the hypothetical nature of the study caused participants
to underestimate the true impact of a public versus private
shopping context on their decisions. In any case, the signif-
icant main effect of threat type was consistent with our key
prediction that a gender threat would be more likely than
an age threat to lead men to avoid green products.
BROUGH ET AL. 573
In the next study, we further examine the influence of
gender-identity maintenance on sustainable choices by test-
ing whether affirming a man’s masculinity affects his pref-
erence for a green (vs. nongreen) product. We also explore
how feeling more masculine will influence women’s likeli-
hood of engaging in green behavior. Considering that the
results of studies 1, 2, and 3 were not gender dependent
and were observed among women as well as men, it is
plausible that the gender gap in environmental behavior
could be explained by a combination of both dissociative
identity goals among men and associative identity goals
among women (White et al. 2012). That is, perhaps men
shun green behaviors to avoid feeling feminine, but women
seek out green behaviors in order to feel more feminine.
However, it is also possible, considering the findings of
prior research that women are less motivated to maintain
their gender identity than men (Bosson and Michniewicz
2013;Carter and McCloskey 1984;Gal and Wilkie 2010;
Martin 1990;McCreary 1994;Moller et al. 1992), that
while the green-feminine stereotype is prevalent among
both men and women, it is more likely to influence the en-
vironmental choices of men than women.
STUDY 5
The objective of study 5 was to test whether masculine
affirmation can differentially influence preferences for
green products (vs. product preferences more generally).
Building on the notion that self-affirmation can attenuate
the impact of a social-identity threat (Gal and Wilkie
2010;White and Argo 2009), we reasoned that if our
theory is correct that men avoid green behaviors in order
to maintain their gender identity, then affirming their
masculinity should increase their comfort expressing a
preference for green products. It was less clear to what
extent women would be influenced by gender-identity
motives.
Method
A total of 472 participants (49.4% male; mean
age ¼35.29) recruited from MTurk completed the study.
The experiment involved a 2 (gender identity: control vs.
masculinity affirmation) 2 (product type: green vs. non-
green) 2 (participant gender: male vs. female) between-
participant design, of which the former two factors were
randomly determined. The primary dependent variable was
product preference.
As a cover story, participants were informed that the
study session consisted of two short unrelated studies being
conducted by two separate teams of researchers. In the first
study, participants were asked to write about what they did
the previous day and were informed that their writing sam-
ple would be analyzed in real time using a propriety algo-
rithm developed by the National Linguistics Research
Laboratory. The cover story further explained that in tests
conducted with more than 12,000 participants, the algo-
rithm was shown to be over 97% accurate in predicting
personal characteristics of the writer. Participants in the
masculine affirmation condition were informed that the
analysis strongly indicated that they write more like a man
than a woman, whereas participants in the control condi-
tion were given no feedback. The idea for this feedback
manipulation was prompted by prior research that docu-
ments the use of an algorithm to guess an author’s gender
based on a writing sample (Koppel, Argamon, and
Shimoni 2002). After rating how masculine and feminine
they currently perceived themselves to be (1 ¼Not at all to
11 ¼Extremely), participants were thanked and began a
purportedly separate study.
In the second part of our study, participants were asked
to read about a new household drain cleaner, with green
versus nongreen descriptions adapted from Newman,
Gorlin, and Dhar (2014). In the green condition, the prod-
uct was described as being “better for the environment”
and in the nongreen condition, it was described as being
“better at dissolving grease.” The remaining text was iden-
tical across conditions (online appendix E shows the
stimuli).
Upon reading the description, participants were asked to
complete three measures of product preference
(1 ¼Definitely wouldn’t try it, definitely wouldn’t buy it,
likely to be worse than current drain cleaner to
9¼Definitely would try it, definitely would buy it, likely
to be better than current drain cleaner) and to provide a ra-
tionale for their ratings. Participants then rated how mascu-
line and feminine they found the cleaner on two bipolar
scales (1 ¼Not at all feminine/masculine to 11 ¼Very
feminine/very masculine).
To ascertain if participants suspected that the first half
of the study was meant to make them feel more masculine
in order to see how that would impact their choices in the
second half of the study, participants were asked to hypoth-
esize the purpose of the studies. Specifically, they were
asked, “What do you think was the purpose of the two
studies you conducted today? Be specific.” Finally, given
that this study measured product preferences on an evalua-
tion scale, we wanted to capture individuals’ dispositional
tendency to have positive versus negative attitudes toward
objects. Therefore, participants were asked to complete the
16 item Dispositional Attitude Measure (DAM) (Hepler
and Albarracin 2013). While this measure was primarily
included to control for individual variance, there is some
evidence that dispositional attitudes vary by gender
(Hepler and Albarracin 2013, study 2); thus including
DAM as a covariate was also expected to help control for
gender differences in product evaluations (particularly
since gender was a factor in our experimental design that
could not be randomly assigned). No other potential covar-
iates were included.
574 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
Results
Based on two independent coders’ judgments of the
hypothesis-guessing question (disagreement between coders
was resolved by a third coder), 14 participants could be ex-
cluded. However, the pattern of results does not change
when these participants are excluded, so the analysis here
includes the full set of respondents.
Our manipulation of product type was successful; the
green version of the product was viewed across genders to
be less masculine than the nongreen version (M¼6.12,
SD ¼2.18, N¼246 vs. M¼7.60, SD ¼2.23, N¼226);
F(1, 470) ¼52.93, p<.001, g2
p¼.10, and more feminine
than the nongreen version (M¼6.07, SD ¼2.21, N¼246
vs. M¼4.46, SD ¼2.29, N¼226); F(1, 470) ¼60.80,
p<.001, g2
p¼.11. Moreover, our masculine affirmation
manipulation was also successful; compared to participants
in the control condition, participants in the masculine affir-
mation condition perceived themselves to be more mascu-
line (M¼6.94, SD ¼3.39, N¼231 vs. M¼5.34,
SD ¼3.41, N¼241); F(1, 470) ¼25.96, p<.001, g2
p¼.05
and less feminine (M¼4.56, SD ¼3.18, N¼231 vs.
M¼6.02, SD ¼3.20, N¼241); F(1, 470) ¼24.77,
p<.001, g2
p¼.05. No significant differences were
observed on these measures between male and female par-
ticipants (all p’s >.14).
Next, a univariate analysis of covariance was run with
the gender-identity manipulation (control vs. masculinity
affirmation), participant gender (male vs. female), and
product type (green vs. nongreen) as the between-
participant independent variables, a composite product
preference measure (a¼.83) as the dependent variable,
and the DAM (a¼.78) as a covariate. This analysis
yielded a marginally significant three-way interaction;
F(1, 450) ¼3.62, p¼.06, g2
p¼.01, a significant two-way
interaction between the gender-identity manipulation and
gender; F(1, 450) ¼3.80, p¼.05, g2
p¼.01, and a main ef-
fect of gender; F(1, 450) ¼6.61, p¼.01, g2
p¼.01.
The DAM control variable was also significant;
F(1, 450) ¼13.11, p<.001, g2
p¼.03. All other effects
were not significant; p’s >.16.
In decomposing this three-way interaction, we found a
significant two-way interaction between the gender-identity
conditions and gender among participants who evaluated the
green product; F(1, 235) ¼7.47, p<.01, g2
p¼.03, but no
significant two-way interaction between gender-identity con-
ditions and gender among participants who evaluated the
FIGURE 1
MASCULINE AFFIRMATION REDUCES MEN’S INHIBITIONS TOWARD A GREEN PRODUCT (STUDY 5)
6.38 6.38
5.57
6.69
3
4
5
6
7
Male Participants Female Participants
Green Product Preference Rating
Masculine Affirmation Control
NOTE.—In a no-feedback control, men preferred a green product less than women. However, following masculine affirmation, men’s preference for the green product
increased significantly.
BROUGH ET AL. 575
nongreen product; F(1, 214) ¼.04, p¼.84. As predicted,
men in the masculine affirmation condition (M¼6.38,
SD ¼1.57, N¼68) preferred the green product more than
men in the control condition (M¼5.57, SD ¼1.56, N¼50);
F(1, 450) ¼7.91, p<.01, g2
p¼.02. In contrast, women
showed no difference in preference for the green product
across gender-identity conditions; F(1, 450) ¼1.20, p¼.28.
As expected, men in the control condition (M¼5.57,
SD ¼1.56, N¼50) disliked the green product more than
women in the control condition (M¼6.69, SD ¼1.54,
N¼73); F(1, 450) ¼15.30, p<.001, g2
p¼.03. In contrast,
men and women in the affirmation condition did not differ
in their preference for the green product; F(1, 450) ¼0.001,
p¼.98. These results, illustrated in figure 1, suggest that
while men typically prefer green products less than women,
affirming their masculinity can increase preference for green
products (in comparison to a control group) to be similar to
that of women.
Discussion
Convergent with the green-feminine association ob-
served among both men and women in our prior studies,
the green product used in study 5 was perceived by both
men and women as more feminine and less masculine than
a nongreen version of the same product. The results of the
study were also consistent with our hypothesis that due to
this green-feminine association, men in a control condition
would engage in gender-identity maintenance and prefer
the product less than women. We further reasoned that af-
firming men’s masculinity would mitigate the need for
men to engage in gender-identity maintenance, resulting in
increased preferences for a green product. As expected,
men whose masculinity was affirmed preferred the green
product more than men in the control group and to a simi-
lar degree as women. However, this pattern was not ob-
served in preferences for a nongreen product, suggesting
that the affirmation manipulation differentially affected
preferences for green and nongreen products among men.
Together, these findings suggest that one avenue to in-
crease male preference for green products is to affirm their
masculinity.
Although women and men both perceived the green
product as more feminine and less masculine than the non-
green product, unlike men, women’s preferences for a
green product were unaffected by our gender-identity ma-
nipulation. Thus this study provides converging evidence
with our earlier studies that both men and women associate
greenness and femininity. It also suggests that the green-
feminine association may affect the environmental deci-
sions of men more than women, consistent with prior re-
search that women are less concerned than men with
gender-identity maintenance (Bosson and Michniewicz
2013;Carter and McCloskey 1984;Gal and Wilkie 2010;
Martin 1990;McCreary 1994;Moller et al. 1992).
STUDY 6
Study 6 aimed to highlight a boundary condition for the
effect observed in earlier studies. Specifically, we hypothe-
sized that presenting a green stimulus in a more masculine
frame might attenuate its cognitive association with femi-
ninity and temper men’s reluctance to embrace proenviron-
mental causes. Thus study 6 tests the effectiveness of
masculine branding as a practical tool marketers can use to
reduce men’s inhibitions toward green behaviors in both a
lab setting (study 6A) and in the real world (study 6B).
Study 6A
We expected that willingness to donate to a green non-
profit might be influenced by masculine branding via col-
ors, fonts, words, and symbols. Research suggests that dark
colors tend to be perceived as more masculine than light
colors (Fugate and Phillips 2010), that traditional square,
bold fonts tend to be perceived as more masculine than
frilly, rounded, curlier fonts (Davies 2002;Gal and Wilkie
2010), and that words can carry masculine or feminine con-
notations (Corbett 1991;Tight 2006). For example, Coke
Zero was designed to be perceived as more masculine than
traditional diet colas through the use of more masculine
colors, fonts, and words (zero vs. diet) (Stoeffel 2014).
Analogously, we examined whether framing a green non-
profit as less feminine through the use of colors, fonts, and
words could reduce men’s tendency to avoid proenviron-
mental behaviors.
Method
Experiment 6A had a 2 (branding: conventional vs. mas-
culine) 2 (participant gender: male vs. female) design.
Participants were 322 individuals recruited on MTurk
(59.3% male; mean age ¼32.43) who were randomly as-
signed to either the conventional or masculine branding
condition. Participants in both branding conditions were
asked how likely they would be to donate to a nonprofit on
a 7 point scale from 1 ¼Not at all likely to 7 ¼Extremely
likely based on viewing a logo of the nonprofit and reading
a brief description of its mission.
In the conventional branding condition, the organization
was named Friends of Nature, the logo was green and light
tan with a tree symbol, the font was frilly, and the mission
of the organization was described in terms of preserving
nature areas. Conversely, in the masculine branding condi-
tion, the organization was named Wilderness Rangers, the
logo was black and dark blue with a howling wolf symbol,
the font was bold and lacked frills, and the mission of the
organization was described in terms of preserving wilder-
ness areas (online appendix F describes the stimuli). We
reasoned that both branding conditions would similarly af-
fect perceptions of the organizations’ proenvironmental
576 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
missions, but that the masculine-branded green organiza-
tion would be perceived as more masculine and less femi-
nine than the conventional-branded green organization.
The perception of masculinity could be attributed to a com-
bination of the more masculine color scheme, font, sym-
bols (wild animal vs. tree), and word choice (wilderness
vs. nature). Although both symbols reflect the natural envi-
ronment and use the term “wilderness” or “nature” to refer
to the unspoiled natural environment, we surmised that the
former, being tied to the stereotypical male traits of adven-
ture seeking and nonconformity (Zuckerman and Kuhlman
2000), would have a more masculine connotation. To as-
sess the impact of the difference in logos on participants’
perceptions of the masculinity and femininity of the differ-
ent organizations, after indicating their likelihood of donat-
ing to the organization, participants were also asked to
indicate how masculine and how feminine they would feel
wearing a T-shirt featuring the logo of the organization,
both on 7 point scales ranging from 1 ¼Not at all to
7¼Extremely.
Results
Pretesting among 151 participants confirmed that the
masculine- and conventional-branded organizations were
perceived as similarly proenvironmental (M¼6.29,
SD ¼.92 vs. M¼6.46, SD ¼.76); t(149) ¼1.27, p¼.21
(rated on 7 point scales from 1 ¼Not at all to 7 ¼Very
much). There were no significant differences in these per-
ceptions by gender. In the main study, participants reported
they would feel more masculine wearing a T-shirt featuring
the masculine-branded logo than a T-shirt featuring the
conventional-branded logo (M¼3.83, SD ¼1.62, N¼163
vs. M¼3.43, SD ¼1.55, N¼159); t(320) ¼2.27, p¼.02;
likewise, participants reported they would feel less femi-
nine wearing a T-shirt featuring the masculine-branded
logo than a T-shirt featuring the conventional-branded logo
(M¼3.03, SD ¼1.50, N¼163 vs. M¼3.49, SD ¼1.58,
N¼159); t(320) ¼2.69, p<.01. Thus consistent with the
intent of our manipulations, the conventional-branded logo
was perceived as similarly proenvironmental, but more
feminine than the masculine-branded logo.
Our analysis revealed a main effect of participant gender
on donation likelihood, such that women (M¼4.33,
SD ¼1.72, N¼131) were more likely to donate than men
(M¼3.85, SD ¼1.67, N¼191); F(1, 318) ¼6.27, p¼.01,
g2
p¼.02. There was no main effect of branding, with a
similar likelihood of donating to the conventional-branded
(M¼3.99, SD ¼1.63, N¼159) and masculine-branded
FIGURE 2
MASCULINE BRANDING REDUCES MEN’S INHIBITIONS TO DONATE TO A GREEN NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION (STUDY 6A)
4.05 4.20
3.63
4.44
2
3
4
5
Male Participants Female Participants
Likelihood to Donate to a Green Non-Profit
Masculine Branding Conventional Branding
NOTE.—Following exposure to conventional green branding, men were less likely than women to donate to a green nonprofit. However, following exposure to mascu-
line green branding, men and women were similarly likely to donate.
BROUGH ET AL. 577
nonprofit (M¼4.10, SD ¼1.78, N¼163); F(1, 318) ¼.21,
p¼.65. Consistent with the notion that men tend to be less
eco-friendly than women, men in our study were less likely
to donate to the conventional-branded green nonprofit than
women (M¼3.63, SD ¼1.61, N¼89 vs. M¼4.44,
SD ¼1.55, N¼70); F(1, 318) ¼9.10, p¼.003, g2
p¼.03.
Moreover, consistent with our prediction for this experi-
ment, men and women were similarly likely to donate to
the masculine-branded green nonprofit (M¼4.05,
SD ¼1.71, N¼102 vs. M¼4.20, SD ¼1.91; N¼61); F(1,
318) ¼.29, g2
p<.01. This difference in the effect of the
framing manipulation was reflected in a marginal gender
by branding interaction; F(1, 318) ¼3.01, p¼.08,
g2
p¼.01. These results are illustrated in figure 2.
To test the possibility that perceptions of femininity/
masculinity mediated the effect of masculine versus con-
ventional branding on men’s and women’s likelihood of
donating to a green nonprofit, we used model 14 of
Hayes’s (2013) PROCESS macro. We predicted that
men’s greater likelihood of donating to the masculine-
branded nonprofit (over the conventional-branded non-
profit) would be mediated by greater perceived mascu-
linity (or lower perceived femininity), whereas this
mediating effect would be absent (or perhaps opposite)
for women.
We ran the model twice, once using perceived masculin-
ity and once using perceived femininity as the mediating
variable. Perceived masculinity and perceived femininity
were operationalized as the degree to which participants’
reported feeling masculine or feminine wearing a T-shirt
branded with the logo of the nonprofit. The independent
variable (branding), the mediating variables (perceived
femininity/masculinity), and the moderating variable (gen-
der) were entered in predicting donation likelihood. In the
model where perceived femininity was entered as the me-
diator, evidence for moderated mediation was not signifi-
cant. Conversely, in the model where perceived
masculinity was entered as the mediator, the indirect effect
of branding on donation likelihood through perceived mas-
culinity was contingent on gender (Index of Moderated
Mediation ¼.17, 95% CI, .02–39), in that it was significant
for men (B ¼.13, SE ¼.07, 95% CI, .02–28), but not for
women (B ¼.04, SE ¼.05, 95% CI, .17 to .03). Thus
the moderated mediation suggests that men’s increased do-
nation likelihood was due to the greater perceived mascu-
linity of the masculine-branded (vs. conventional-branded)
green nonprofit.
Study 6B
The purpose of this field study was to extend the find-
ings in study 6A to a more realistic setting by showing that
masculine branding can reduce men’s resistance to an eco-
friendly car.
Method
This field study was conducted with 73 customers
(58.9% male) who visited one of three different BMW car
dealerships in Northern China during the same one-month
period. The sales teams at these dealerships and most cus-
tomers in China refer to the BMW i3 as an eco-friendly car
(). This conventional green branding could dis-
courage male shoppers from being interested in the car.
However, we predicted that branding this environmentally
friendly model with a masculine name could mitigate
men’s inhibitions. Consequently, we designed two types of
print ads (conventional branding vs. masculine branding)
for the BMW i3 (online appendix G describes the stimuli).
For the conventional branding ad, we used the original car
ad without changing any information. For the masculine
branding ad, we changed only the name of the car; instead
of the “2015 BMW i3 Eco-friendly Model ( ),” it
was branded as the “2015 BMW i3 Protection Model
(),” with the latter being a masculine word in
Chinese. All other information remained the same (as re-
quested by the dealers). Customers who visited these deal-
erships and agreed to participate were randomly assigned
to view one of these two ads and asked how much they
liked the car (1 ¼Dislike a lot, 5 ¼Like a lot) and their
overall feeling about driving this car to work (1 ¼Very
bad, 5 ¼Very good).
Results
Because the two dependent measures were highly corre-
lated (a¼.87), we averaged them to form a composite
evaluation measure. A general linear model, with gender
and two types of branding (conventional vs. masculine) as
two independent variables and consumers’ evaluation of
the car as the dependent variable, showed that the two-way
interaction of branding and gender was significant; F(1,
69) ¼17.15, p<.001, g2
p¼.20. Specifically, two contrasts
showed that relative to conventional green branding, mas-
culine branding significantly increased male customers’
evaluation (M¼3.95, SD ¼.87 vs. M¼3.05, SD ¼1.14);
F(1, 69) ¼9.69, p<.005, g2
p¼.12, but decreased female
customers’ evaluation (M¼2.93, SD ¼.96 vs. M¼3.91,
SD ¼.78); F(1, 69) ¼7.82, p<.01, g2
p¼.10. This finding
that masculine branding can increase men’s (but not wom-
en’s) preference for a green car is consistent with our pre-
diction that masculine branding is one way to decrease
gender-identity threat among male consumers. Neither the
main effect of branding (M¼3.56, SD ¼1.03 vs.
M¼3.42, SD ¼1.08); F(1, 69) ¼.36, p¼.55, g2
p¼.005
nor the main effect of gender was significant (M¼3.51,
SD ¼1.10 vs. M¼3.45, SD ¼.99); F(1, 69) ¼.07, p¼.79,
g2
p¼.001.
578 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
Discussion
The results from study 6 were consistent with our propo-
sition that men avoid green behaviors at least in part to
maintain a macho image, and that masculine (vs. conven-
tional) branding can increase men’s likelihood to donate to
green organizations (study 6A) and their evaluation of green
products (study 6B). These findings identify masculine
branding as a managerially relevant boundary condition and
complement prior research (Stafford and Hartman 2012)in
suggesting that perhaps men would be more willing to make
environmentally friendly choices if the feminine association
attached to green products and actions was altered.
Of interest is that masculine branding resulted in less fa-
vorable evaluations among female customers in study 6B.
Although we did not find evidence that women’s prefer-
ences were impacted by product gender associations in our
other studies (e.g., studies 5 and 6A), the finding of study
6B is consistent with the idea that women, like men, tend
to prefer products that match their gender identity. This
suggests that a strategy to weaken the association between
greenness and femininity through branding may be most
effective when the majority of customers are men.
GENERAL DISCUSSION
The central focus of this research was to examine why a
gender gap exists in sustainable behavior. We argued that
women’s likelihood to embrace sustainable behaviors more
readily than men may be partially explained by an associa-
tion between green behavior and femininity that threatens
the gender identity of men. Consistent with this theorizing,
we provide the first experimental evidence of the implicit
cognitive association between the concepts of greenness
and femininity (study 1), and show that this association can
affect both social judgments (study 2) and self-perception
(study 3) among both men and women. Focusing on the
downstream consequences of this green-feminine stereo-
type, studies 4, 5, and 6 suggest that as a result of gender-
identity maintenance, gender cues (e.g., those that threaten
or affirm a consumer’s gender identity or that influence a
brand’s gender associations) are more likely to affect
men’s (vs. women’s) preferences for green products and
willingness to engage in green behaviors.
At a conceptual level, these results help to bridge litera-
tures on gender-identity maintenance and environmental
sustainability and introduce the notion that gender-identity
maintenance can influence men’s likelihood of adopting
green behaviors. Our findings complement prior work in
transformative consumer research that has investigated
means to facilitate the adoption of green behaviors and the
consumption of green products (Goldstein, Cialdini, and
Griskevicius 2008;Griskevicius et al. 2010;Kidwell,
Farmer, and Hardesty 2013). While prior research has
tended to focus on facilitating sustainable consumption
through enhancing the appeal of green products or behav-
iors, our research differs conceptually in its focus on facili-
tating sustainable consumption through attenuating men’s
inhibitions.
Our findings that this inhibition can be mitigated through
masculine affirmation or masculine branding suggest that
similar interventions may be effective in other domains
where gender stereotypes have been shown to affect con-
sumer behavior. For example, prior research shows that men
actively avoided a product named the “ladies’ cut steak”
due to its feminine connotations, particularly when the prod-
uct was to be consumed in public (White and Dahl 2006)
and that the extent to which individuals would prepare for a
hurricane was affected by whether its name is masculine or
feminine (Jung et al. 2014). Moreover, prior work has iden-
tified conditions under which women engage in gender-
identity maintenance by avoiding masculine products such
as meat (Rozin et al. 2012). Although our studies did not
provide strong evidence that women were as motivated as
men to maintain their gender identity, we did find that the
green-feminine stereotype was as prevalent among women
as men. These findings illuminate our understanding of how
products with strong associative links to a particular gender
can influence the way consumers behave.
More generally, our findings also add to a growing body
of research pointing to a link between identity and con-
sumers’ tendency to engage in sustainable behavior. For
example, recent work shows that identity-linked products
are more likely to be recycled rather than trashed (Trudel,
Argo, and Meng 2016). Similarly, prior research suggests
that adherence to social norms about environmental behav-
ior may depend on the extent to which individuals identify
with a particular reference group (Goldstein et al. 2008).
Other work suggests a link in the opposite direction of
causality—that mere exposure to green products can alter a
general sense of moral self that guides consumer behavior
(Mazar and Zhong 2010). Our findings that gender identity
can influence consumers’ likelihood to engage in green be-
haviors provide additional evidence in support of the link
between identity and sustainability.
This work also contributes to an understanding of the
similarities and differences between genders in environ-
mental attitudes and behaviors. While we found strong evi-
dence that a green-feminine association is prevalent among
both genders, our findings also suggest that the extent to
which this association affects green attitudes and behaviors
is influenced by gender-identity maintenance. Specifically,
our finding that women’s (vs. men’s) behaviors and
choices are less influenced by the green-feminine stereo-
type is consistent with prior research showing that women
tend to be less preoccupied than men with gender-identity
maintenance (Bosson and Michniewicz 2013;Carter and
McCloskey 1984;Gal and Wilkie 2010;Martin 1990;
McCreary 1994;Moller et al. 1992). However, our results
do not necessarily preclude the possibility that women’s
BROUGH ET AL. 579
willingness to engage in green (vs. nongreen) behaviors
may be influenced by an associative motive to undertake
actions consistent with a feminine gender identity. More
broadly, our findings raise the question of whether gender-
identity maintenance tends to be more associative or disso-
ciative (e.g., whether men engage in gender-identity main-
tenance primarily to avoid feminine associations or to
protect masculine associations). Although our measures of
masculinity and femininity showed a strong inverse corre-
lation, the differences we observed are consistent with
prior research (Hoffman and Borders 2001) in suggesting
that masculinity and femininity may be unique constructs
rather than a single bipolar construct. Future research may
further explore gender differences in gender-identity main-
tenance motives, as well as whether these motives tend to
be more associative or dissociative.
In terms of managerial and policy implications, our find-
ings suggest masculine branding as a strategy that marketers
and policymakers may consider when promoting green
products and behaviors to men. Marketers have used gender
as a branding segmentation strategy for a wide array of
products (Wolin 2003), and masculine branding of stereo-
typically feminine products has already been attempted by
marketers in a number of product categories. For instance,
diet soda is a category traditionally considered more femi-
nine, but several brands of diet soda have recently framed
their products to be masculine using slogans such as “Dr.
Pepper 10—it’s not for women” and “Pepsi Max—the first
diet cola for men.” Similarly, Powerful Yogurt is a yogurt
brand designed specifically for men, and Broga is a yoga
studio for men. In another example, although masculinity is
often conceptualized as being in opposition to home and do-
mesticity, home improvement products have nevertheless
become associated with masculine identities such as
suburban-craftsman and family-handyman (Moisio,
Arnould, and Gentry 2013). These examples are consistent
with prior research suggesting that the identity signaled by a
particular product or behavior can change when a new social
group identifies with it (Berger and Rand 2008) and high-
light the possibility that masculine branding could be an ef-
fective strategy for altering the feminine association
attached to green products and actions.
In conclusion, this research enhances our understanding
of the role gender-identity maintenance plays in men’s
greater likelihood than women to avoid environmentally
friendly behavior. Despite a prevalent stereotype that green
consumers are more feminine than nongreen consumers,
we show that men’s inhibitions about engaging in green
behavior can be mitigated through masculine affirmation
and masculine branding. Given the serious threat to the en-
vironment posed by failure to adopt green behaviors, we
hope that the actionable solutions identified by this re-
search will attract the interest of researchers, marketers,
and policymakers and prompt additional research in this
important domain.
DATA COLLECTION INFORMATION
Data for study 1 were collected from students at Notre
Dame in October 2015 and analyzed by the second author.
Data for study 2 were simultaneously collected from stu-
dents at both Notre Dame and Seattle University in
September 2015 and jointly analyzed by the first and fourth
authors. Data for study 3 were collected from MTurk in
October 2015 and analyzed by the second author. Data for
study 4 were collected from MTurk in March 2016 and
jointly analyzed by the second and third authors. Data for
study 5 were collected from MTurk in January 2016 and
jointly analyzed by the first and second authors. Data for
study 6A were collected from MTurk in October 2015 and
analyzed by the fifth author. Data for study 6B were col-
lected from visitors to BMW dealerships in Beijing in
December 2015 and analyzed by the third author. For all
studies, data were discussed and results reviewed on multi-
ple occasions by each author.
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582 JOURNAL OF CONSUMER RESEARCH
  • ... Graphic courtesy of Arnulf Grubler. (McCright 2010, Gifford and Comeau 2011, Brough et al. 2016. Apart from gender socialization that may explain female value orientations toward the environment (Strapko et al. 2016), having less capacity to cope with and respond to the changing climate make women more vulnerable and more concerned about the impact of climate change. ...
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  • ... Graphic courtesy of Arnulf Grubler. (McCright 2010, Gifford and Comeau 2011, Brough et al. 2016. Apart from gender socialization that may explain female value orientations toward the environment (Strapko et al. 2016), having less capacity to cope with and respond to the changing climate make women more vulnerable and more concerned about the impact of climate change. ...
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