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Abstract

Gender plays an important role in considerations of sustainable consumption. Not only are there gender differences in the amount and type of sustainable consumption among women and men, but gender stereotypes and norms shape the way women and men think about the topic, respond to its necessity, and choose to act. Further, differences are embedded in larger lifestyle practices and intersect with other social identities, which can alter the occurrence or manifestations of gender differences in environmentally relevant actions. Finally, efforts to make consumption more sustainable are both influenced by and influence people differently based on gender as well as other marginalized group statuses. We highlight major psychological and social science research on the gendered aspects of sustainable consumption. Our goal is to illuminate social influences on gender differences in behaviors, motivations, and solutions and to emphasize the need for future policies and practices related to sustainable consumption to address and improve issues of gender equality.
Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 76, No. 1, 2020, pp. 1--13
doi: 10.1111/josi.12370
This article is part of the Special Issue “Sustainable consumption: The
psychology of individual choice, identity, and behavior;” Matthew B Ruby,
Iain Walker and Hanne M Watkins (Special Issue Editors). For a full listing
of Special Issue papers, see: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/josi.
2020.76.issue-1/issuetoc
Sustainability and Consumption: What’s Gender Got
to Do with It?
Brittany Bloodhart
California State University San Bernardino
Janet K. Swim
The Pennsylvania State University
Gender plays an important role in considerations of sustainable consumption. Not
only are there gender differences in the amount and type of sustainable consump-
tion among women and men, but gender stereotypes and norms shape the way
women and men think about the topic, respond to its necessity, and choose to act.
Further, differences are embedded in larger lifestyle practices and intersect with
other social identities, which can alter the occurrence or manifestations of gender
differences in environmentally relevant actions. Finally, efforts to make consump-
tion more sustainable are both influenced by and influence people differently
based on gender as well as other marginalized group statuses. We highlight major
psychological and social science research on the gendered aspects of sustainable
consumption. Our goal is to illuminate social influences on gender differences in
behaviors, motivations, and solutions and to emphasize the need for future policies
and practices related to sustainable consumption to address and improve issues
of gender equality.
Among the many issues facing achievement of a more equitable society is the
need to make global consumption of goods and resources more sustainable. Two of
the United Nations’ key Sustainable Development Goals are to “urgently reduce
our ecological footprint by changing the way we produce and consume goods
and resources” (Goal 12; United Nations, 2015) and “to achieve gender equality
and empower all women and girls,” (Goal 5; United Nations, 2015). However,
considerations of gender equality, norms, and structures in practice and policy
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Brittany Bloodhart, Department
of Psychology, California State University, San Bernardino, 5500 University Parkway, San Bernardino
CA 92407, 909-537-7304. [E-mail: Brittany.Bloodhart@csusb.edu].
1
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2020 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues
2 Bloodhart and Swim
meant to address sustainable consumption often fall short (Johnsson-Latham,
2007). Instead, these efforts require a nuanced understanding of the ways in which
sustainable consumption (SC) is constructed around, influenced by, and ultimately
further impacts individuals based on gender and other social group memberships.
Here we address the integral role of gender in issues of sustainability, and
contend that research and interventions meant to address SC must be examined
through a gendered lens. We start by outlining the research on gender differences
in SC behaviors and discuss how these behaviors often align with social roles for
women and men. We then examine the degree to which social science research
can inform the underlying motivations and social influences on these behaviors,
as well as the influence of gender on interest in and concern about SC. Finally,
we end with an examination of how gender processes can impact solutions to SC,
and how an understanding of these processes can promote SC solutions that are
equitable in terms of gender and other marginalized identities.
Gendered Differences in SC Behavior
Most research indicates that women engage in more SC behaviors than men
(Zelezny, Chua, & Aldrich, 2000). Women are more likely than men to engage in
forms of SC that are private and less conspicuous because they are also more likely
to take care of private-realm aspects of living (e.g., using less water and energy in
the home, Hunter, Hatch, & Johnson, 2004; reusing material goods, which con-
tributes to the greater sustainability of those products (Bulut, K¨
okalan C¸ımrin, &
Do˘
gan, 2017). Although women purchase more food, clothing, and items for the
home than do men, men’s overall consumption is less sustainable than women’s
when considering the number of people for whom the purchases are made (women
purchase goods for themselves and family members), men’s forms of transporta-
tion (e.g., cars, motorcycles) and the tendency for men to travel farther distances
than women (Johnsson-Latham, 2007). Further, wealthy people consume far more
than low-income people, and gender differences in consumption are most aggra-
vated between poor women and men (Johnsson-Latham, 2007). Therefore, income
inequality between women and men may be an important factor in general patterns
of gender differences in SC, and highlights the importance of intersections be-
tween gender and social class in understanding SC behaviors and attitudes (Axsen,
TyreeHageman, & Lentz, 2012; Kurz, Gardner, Verplanken, & Abraham, 2015).
Differences in women’s and men’s SC are often linked to gender roles and
associated practices. Private-sphere care-taking behaviors and practices, such as
cooking, cleaning, and purchasing clothes for others are stereotypically done by
women, and these extend to sustainable forms of these behaviors being done more
often by women as well (e.g., buying organic food, “green” cleaning products, and
sustainably produced clothing; Dahl, Vescio, Swim, & Johnson, 2013). Alternately,
home renovations, which are stereotypically done by men and follow practices
Gender and Sustainable Consumption 3
associated with men’s homeowner roles, also include more sustainable forms of
these behaviors being done more often by men (e.g., installing energy-efficient
technologies in homes and buildings; Dahl et al., 2013). Further, men tend to
avoid consuming sustainable products and engaging in sustainable behaviors that
are more strongly associated with women than men (e.g., line drying clothes,
recycling, and using reusable shopping bags; Dahl et al., 2013; Johnson, Dahl,
Swim, & Vescio, 2013). On the other hand, women do not show the same avoid-
ance when purchasing sustainable products (e.g., electronic air leak detectors and
flashlights with renewable power; Dahl et al., 2013) or engaging in SC behaviors
(Johnson et al., 2013) that are more strongly associated with men than women.
This pattern suggests that social stereotypes and a preference to adhere to gender
role norms may particularly influence men’s engagement in SC, above and beyond
the tendency for individuals to simply carry out SC behaviors that align with their
traditional gender roles.
Limited research on individuals with queer and nonbinary gender identities
also suggests that patterns of SC are influenced by gender identity rather than
biological gender or the maintenance of gender roles per se. In general, queer
communities are often more accepting of behaviors and beliefs that are “gender-
bending” or do not consistently adhere to one gender role, which may explain a
greater overall level of activism (including environmental activism) among those
with queer identities (Sbicca, 2012). For example, sociologists have theorized that
trans and queer individuals are more open to challenging the strong link between
eating meat or other animal byproducts and masculine gender identity because they
already challenge traditional assumptions about gender roles and behaviors asso-
ciated with masculinity or femininity in other realms (Simonsen, 2012). Similarly,
Greenebaum and Dexter (2018) found that vegan men challenge ideas of tradi-
tional masculinity and femininity in order to align their sustainable consumption
practice with their gender identity. Although research has not specifically com-
pared the behaviors or attitudes of cisgender and queer/transgender individuals,
these findings highlight the role of the social construction of gender on SC and fu-
ture research may be able to illuminate how current and changing gender identities
interact with consumption and concerns about environmental sustainability.
Motivations and Social Influences
Gender norms, status, and SC behavior. In general, consuming sustain-
ably decreases, rather than increases, status. While some exceptions exist (e.g.,
buying organic produce, installing solar panels on one’s home), the majority of
SC behaviors include having fewer things, saving money, and doing less (e.g.,
traveling). Therefore, SC is strongly tied to gender through status. As such,
both men and women who engage in SC behaviors generally are more likely
to be ascribed feminine than masculine traits (Swim, Gillis, & Hamaty, 2019).
4 Bloodhart and Swim
Additionally, women can be simultaneously stereotyped as being highly con-
sumeristic (e.g., enjoying and engaging in shopping and being obsessed with
material goods; Sandlin, Stearns, Maudlin, & Burdick, 2011), and expected to
be more responsible for SC (Johnsson-Latham, 2007; Vinz, 2009) than men.
Although these expectations may seem contradictory, both can allow for greater
consumption by men because they place the blame and responsibility on women to
change consumption patterns and allow men’s consumption and responsibility to
remain hidden. In reality, research shows that men are more likely than women to
value self-enhancement, including power, achievement, and hedonism (Schwartz
& Rubel, 2005), and men’s larger environmental footprints compared to women’s
are likely tied to their having higher status and more resources, resulting in greater
spending practices and consumption impacts (Medina & Toledo-Bruno, 2016).
A focus on gender equality has largely assumed that women should be
“brought up” to men’s level of, for example, economic prosperity, educational
opportunities and choices, or reduction of household labor. For instance, girls and
women are encouraged to join STEM fields in higher numbers, but less emphasis
is placed on boys and men entering care giving, humanities, and artistic fields
(Henseler, 2018). In the context of sustainability, increasing women’s access to
traditionally male fields may include greater unsustainable consumption practices
that are traditionally involved with working in these fields, such as more traveling
(consuming fuel), greater use of electronics and technology (consuming energy
and electronic goods), and relying on new tools and technologies to reduce house-
hold labor (e.g., increased use of prepackaged meals to replace home cooking;
Soper, 2013). Further, emphasis is placed on women’s ability to gain status and
power through consumption, which further strengthens traditionally male-oriented
values of individualism, hedonism, self-enhancement, and greed (Soper, 2013).
The link between status and consumption parallels the finding that wealthy women
consume in similar rates to wealthy men, and underscores the likelihood that it is
not biological gender, but differences in economic resources and the enactment
of feminine and masculine ideals, that contributes to gender differences in SC. In
contrast, there is little discussion of how men should be “brought up” to women’s
level of compassion, self-transcendence, and engagement in sustainable consump-
tion. In other words, increasing gender equality is often promoted through making
women more like men, including consuming at higher levels like men, instead
of alternatives that could increase gender equality through promoting “feminine”
values and behaviors among men, which may include consuming less. Thus, it
is important to challenge the idealized consumption that comes along with the
gains that need to be made in economic and career gender equality, as well as to
recognize that a history of marginalization requires the continued consumption of
goods and resources by those groups in order to increase equality.
Because conspicuous consumption is associated with power, status, and
wealth, which are simultaneously stereotypically masculine traits, the reduction
Gender and Sustainable Consumption 5
or alteration of consumption to be more sustainable may by default be considered
more feminine. Thus, while women are more likely to adopt behaviors that are
consistent with a feminine identity, men may specifically avoid “feminine” behav-
iors in order to adhere to a more masculine identity. This likely results from strong
cultural norms about men’s rigid adherence to masculinity through the avoidance
of femininity, while gender roles for women are more flexible and less likely to
be socially policed (Bosson, Vandello, Burnaford, Weaver, & Arzu Wasti, 2009;
Diekman & Goodfriend, 2006). Supporting the extension of masculinity threat
research to SC, men are less motivated to engage in SC when their masculin-
ity is threatened, and more likely to engage when their masculinity is affirmed
(Brough, Wilkie, Ma, Isaac, & Gal, 2016). For instance, men who experience
masculinity threat are less likely to buy “green” products (Brough et al., 2016) and
to favor meat-eating (Nakagawa & Hart, 2019), which is culturally equated with
masculinity (Greenebaum & Dexter, 2018). One explanation for these preferences
may be that men anticipate greater discomfort when engaging in “feminine” pro-
environmental behaviors compared to women engaging in “masculine” behaviors
(Johnson et al., 2013).
Additionally, concern about self-presentation and acceptance by others may
also drive SC behavior to be consistent with gender roles. Both men’s and women’s
heterosexual identity can be questioned when they engage in nongender conform-
ing SC behaviors, suggesting that SC behavior and preferences may be motivated
by self-presentation concerns about sexual identity (Swim et al., 2019). Further,
women may experience negative interpersonal consequences for expressing inter-
est in stereotypically masculine forms of SC (Swim et al., 2019). For example,
men socially distance themselves from women who indicate interest in mascu-
line pro-environmental behaviors, such as caulking windows and maintaining tire
pressure in cars to conserve energy, compared to women who indicate interest
in stereotypically feminine behaviors, such as line-drying clothes, using reusable
shopping bags, or interest in sustainably produced clothing (Swim et al., 2019).
This form of ostracism may be based on assumptions that women engaging in
masculine behaviors are not heterosexual, are feminists (for choosing to defy gen-
der roles), or environmentalists (Swim et al., 2019), all of which carry negative
stereotypes (Bashir, Lockwood, Chasteen, Nadolny, & Noyes, 2013). It has also
been suggested that men have historically experienced social forms of ostracism
for engaging in pro-environmental action (Rome, 2006). For example, men who
supported the environmental movement into the late 1900s were concerned that
they would receive the emasculated characterization of “birds and bunny boys,”
and male environmental activists such as John Muir were described as effeminate
and unmanly (Rome, 2006). In order to counter this feminine stigmatization, Rome
argues that men purposefully chose to use science and economic terms to promote
environmentalism during this time period, which continues to influence gender
differences in SC solutions (as discussed later). Thus, it is possible that a legacy
6 Bloodhart and Swim
of concerns about the social consequences of gender role violations could affect
the motivations and interests of women and men to engage in specific types of SC
(Brough et al., 2016; Nakagawa & Hart, 2019; Swim, Vescio, Dahl, & Zawadzki,
2018).
Gendered SC interest and concern. Attitudes and beliefs (including “pro-
environmentalism”) predictive of SC are implicitly and explicitly associated with
women (Brough et al., 2016), and people expect women to be more concerned
about environmental issues like climate change while they expect men to be
dismissive (Swim & Geiger, 2018). Research that documents gender differences
in forms of SC which follow traditional caretaking roles for women can easily be
interpreted as “women are naturally more caring than men.” However, research
on the socialization of gender roles and values suggests a more complicated and
nuanced explanation for surface-level findings about gender differences. Girls and
women are taught to behave in loving and caring ways, and to put the needs of
others before themselves, while boys and men are often socialized to avoid feeling
and showing concern for those outside themselves, and to avoid engaging in
behaviors that are feminine (Eccles, Jacobs, & Harold, 1990). These socialization
processes may be a primary influence on the fact that women tend to value
egalitarianism and men tend to value hierarchy, which subsequently influences
whether they hold pro-environmental attitudes and beliefs (e.g., women are more
likely to be socialized to be other-oriented and socially responsible, which accounts
for their greater SC compared to men; Zelezny et al., 2000). To the degree that
caring for others and the environment are integrated into one’s gendered group
identity, women may prefer or feel pressured to adhere to group norms that
stress SC (e.g., vegetarianism or veganism; Kurz & Prosser, in press). Thus,
concern about the natural environment may not be a result of one’s genetic sex, but
rather, developed through a socialization process that encourages or discourages
an egalitarian belief that all living people and things deserve equal treatment.
Ecofeminist theory provides a different framework for understanding the
connection between gender identity and environmental concern. Ecofeminism
suggests that gender differences occur because women and marginalized gen-
der groups have experience with the injustice of marginalization, and are there-
fore more likely to reject hierarchical values (Berman, 2006; Sandilands, 1999;
Warren, 1997). Women are more likely to ascribe to self-transcendence values than
men and are more concerned about social justice, unity with nature, and social and
environmental accountability, while men are more likely than women to ascribe
importance to self-enhancement values, being more worried about success, ca-
pability, and ambition (Fukukawa, Shafer, & Lee, 2007; Lindeman & Verkasalo,
2005; Schwartz & Rubel, 2005). For instance, levels of empathy and adherence
to social dominance orientation account for some of the variability in women’s
tendency to hold greater pro-environmental attitudes than men (Milfont & Sibley,
Gender and Sustainable Consumption 7
2016). Additionally, states and countries whose residents tend to value hierarchical
over egalitarian values are more likely to implement laws and policies devaluing
women, children, and future generations, and harming the environment (Bloodhart
& Swim, 2010; Kasser, 2011), and cultural differences play a much stronger role
than gender in international research on value orientations (Schwartz & Rubel,
2005).
This is not to say, however, that women are always socialized to care about
others and the environment while men are not. Some research suggests that women
and men share similar value orientations, but that women are more likely to apply
these values to sustainability policies that support others (Stern, Dietz, & Kalof,
1993). For instance, women are more likely to consider the consequences of their
consumption on others compared to men (Mainieri, Barnett, Valdero, Unipan, &
Oskamp, 1997). Other research has found that engaging in SC is more highly
gendered and consistent with gendered values (i.e., self-transcendence for women
and self-enhancement for men) when one’s personal identity is salient, but that
both women and men intend to behave more sustainably when a collectivistic,
group identity is salient (Costa Pinto, Herter, Rossi, & Borges, 2014). This social,
rather than biological, explanation also helps to account for the finding that many
men are deeply concerned about environmental issues as well as other social issues.
Thus, relative to men, women’s greater willingness to express concern about the
environment and engage in SC suggest that gender differences stem from a social
construction of gender and its applicability to sustainability rather than women’s
natural tendencies toward concerns for the environment.
Sustainable Consumption Solutions and Recommendations
Prioritizing solutions. The questions of “how much?” and “how soon?”
must we enact sustainable consumption solutions in order to address social justice
is highly dependent on the incorporation of gendered and intersectional perspec-
tives. For example, the type of solutions that are proposed or endorsed may result
from gendered attitudes, beliefs, norms, and values. Men tend to prefer techno-
logical solutions to sustainability issues, such as water desalinization and cloud
seeding, compared to women who are more likely to simply prefer to reduce their
rates of consumption (Brody, 2008). Importantly, masculine approaches take the
perspective that humans can create a “fix” for otherwise unsustainable consump-
tion practices, do not require changing or reducing our current rate of consumption
of resources, and are linked to gender differences by gendered perspectives about
dominating versus fitting in with the environment and others. Reflecting these
differences, pro-environmental energy policies that are tied to justice issues are
expected to come from women more than men, whereas policies that are sug-
gestive of maintaining power and dominance (e.g., being a leader) are expected
to come from men more than women (Swim et al., 2018). Further, solutions for
8 Bloodhart and Swim
sustainability issues are more likely to be seen as creative when proposed by a
man than by a woman (e.g., Judge, Fernando, Paladino, Mikolajczak, & Kashima,
in press). Thus, SC solutions that are suggested by men leaders and that fit into
masculine preferences are more likely to be prioritized, and it remains important
to consider ideas and perspectives from marginalized groups.
Who decides? It is likely no surprise that the majority of laws, policies,
procedures, and solutions to the world’s pressing problems, including sustain-
able consumption, are led by men (Johnsson-Latham, 2007), and, thus, do not
consistently take gender and other marginalized identity impacts into account
(Koehler, 2016). As many gender researchers point out, men are often assumed
to be the voice of all people, while women are assumed to speak only for their
social/gendered group (e.g., see Bem, 1994; Hamilton, 1991). However, nations
with greater numbers of women in government leadership positions are more
likely to enact policies that improve sustainable and environmental justice for all
people (Norgaard & York, 2005). Importantly, the types of solutions that increase
SC locally and globally may impact social groups differently if their perspectives
are not incorporated into the development of these solutions (Nelson, Meadows,
Cannon, Morton, & Martin, 2002; Tschakert & Machado, 2012). For instance,
the focus of many sustainable development goals tends to emphasize how poor
people can change individual behaviors, rather than how big consumption, most
often done by rich people, can be curtailed (Johnsson-Latham, 2007). As Schmitt,
Neufeld, Mackay, and Dys-Steenbergen (in press) argue, the common framework
for assessing sustainable behavior change, the “Psychological Barriers Explana-
tion,” importantly leaves out considerations of social context, including power,
inequality, and social structure. As we detail next, solutions to sustainable con-
sumption have disproportionate impacts on women and other marginalized groups,
and decisions around SC must include the perspectives of not just women, but also
racially, economically, sexually, nationally, physically marginalized peoples.
Disproportionate impacts. Not only do single-lens perspectives on SC im-
pact some groups more than others, these vulnerabilities become compounded by
intersections with multiple identities across race, culture, religion, age, and class
(Masika & Joekes, 1997). First, the majority of proposed SC solutions include
individual, home-based changes in behavior, such as using less water and energy
and consuming less of products involved in cooking, cleaning, and clothing, all ac-
tivities for which women are more likely to be responsible (Vinz, 2009). Likewise,
policies meant to cut automobile emissions focus on behaviors that are more often
done by women and low-income individuals than by men and wealthy individuals,
such as restricting idling in parking lanes, or promoting walking, biking, or public
transport over personal automobile use. Importantly, both of these behaviors are
more difficult for individuals in care-taking roles, who generally tend to be women
Gender and Sustainable Consumption 9
(Wang, 2016). Not only do these “solutions” to SC focus on women’s and other
marginalized groups’ need to change, freeing responsibility from men and socially
privileged groups, but they also increase women’s time and workload in the home
and caring for others, contributing to greater personal, economic, and professional
impacts (Vinz, 2009).
Second, solutions directed at particular types of SC can have greater implica-
tions for women’s than men’s health and safety. Asking women to travel by foot,
bike, or public transport instead of by personal automobile increases vulnerabil-
ities to safety risks for trans and queer individuals, and women and girls more
than cis men and boys (Johnsson-Latham, 2007). A common argument related to
sustainability is that the global population needs to stop growing in order to reduce
our demand on nonrenewable resources, and this can result in curtailing women’s
rights. For example, the “one child” policy in China, combined with cultural values
that prioritize men over women, resulted in mass abortions and giving up female
Chinese babies for adoption and an even greater restriction on women’s repro-
ductive rights (Hartmann, 1995). More globally, women are assumed to have a
choice about and be responsible for the number of children they have, which tends
to place responsibility and blame for increasing the population on women rather
than larger cultural forces that influence reproductive choices (Swim, Clayton, &
Howard, 2011).
Third, solutions can be beneficial for all people regardless of gender when
they attend to the social consequences along all aspects of unsustainable consump-
tion. Consumption involves not just the use of goods and materials, but also the
extraction, shipment, production, and disposal. For example, poor men often ex-
perience health risks from their greater employment in the extraction of resources,
such as mining of metals and minerals (e.g., Eisler, 2003). The unsustainable pro-
duction of many material goods, such as the use of toxic materials, water pollution
and waste, and poor working conditions, disproportionately impact the health and
safety of women who are more likely than men to be garment and factory workers
(Vinz, 2009). The unstainable production and consumption of agriculture create
food shortages in many parts of the world, which differentially impact women’s
nutrition and health in cultures where men eat first, while the unstainable use and
pollution of water impacts women’s physical mobility and daily lives when they
must walk miles a day to access clean water (Terry, 2009).
Unfortunately, the number and immediacy of sustainable solutions often de-
pends on who experiences the impacts. While many individuals from economically
wealthy nations in the northern hemisphere are less likely to register the personal
impacts of the current climate crisis which are driven at least in part by their con-
sumption behaviors, others in economically impoverished nations in the Global
South are experiencing harms to personal health, safety, and livelihoods (Shaw,
2009). While international environmental watch groups have emphasized a spe-
cific amount of global warming that will be “catastrophic,” this evaluation allows
10 Bloodhart and Swim
for a window of “acceptable” change in our consumption of natural resources
and production of heat-trapping gasses, and ignores the harms that certain groups
experience currently (Seager, 2009). Therefore, sustainable solutions need to in-
corporate the needs and perspectives of marginalized groups in order to make
sure that the solutions are effective for those already experiencing climate change
impacts and do not harm them further.
Conclusions
Although it is somewhat natural for psychologists to focus on the individual,
and, thus, personal-level behaviors that are involved with sustainable consumption,
our understanding of and focus on change that incorporates social, cultural, and
structural influences on attitudes, behaviors, and capacity for change is critical.
As a result, a broader view of SC should include consideration of the intersec-
tion of lifestyle practices with gendered social identities and the importance of
including marginalized voices in solutions implemented to address unsustainable
practices. Interventions to make consumption more sustainable range from small-
scale, individual behaviors to large-scale public infrastructure, laws and policies,
regulation of goods, services that reduce the need for consumption, increased
knowledge/information, and cultural change, all of which start with individual
and group-based action. Psychologists can address the nuanced involvement of
gender, as well as other marginalized social and groups and identities, by consid-
ering the influence of stereotypes and social norms on our beliefs and behaviors
related to SC, and the cultural pressures and values that shape our motivations to
engage in SC. Finally, we must contend with whether unstainable consumption
or the solutions meant to increase more sustainable consumption differentially
impact the most vulnerable and overlooked members of marginalized groups.
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BRITTANY BLOODHART, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychology at Cal-
ifornia State University, San Bernardino. Her research broadly examines how
social processes motivate engagement in or denial of social and environmental
injustices, and how changing attitudes and beliefs rooted in social identity can
encourage greater pro-social behavior. In particular, she is interested in how at-
titudes about the environment are related to attitudes about sexism, racism, and
other forms of prejudice, and in using prejudice-reduction theories to increase
pro-environmental behavior.
JANET K. SWIM, PhD, is a professor of psychology at The Pennsylvania State
University. She studies ways to facilitate collective participation in creating condi-
tions where all may live more harmoniously with other people and the planet—now
and in the future. She does so by using correlational and experimental research
to study preferred ways of responding to environmental problems and how mes-
saging, social interactions and experiences in nature influence how people make
sense of social and environmental problems.
... However, some consumer segments are less likely to prioritize sustainable consumption, which has negative societal implications, and may disincentivize brands from investing in sustainability. This research focuses on what some refer to as the eco-gender gap (Hunt 2020) or findings showing that men, compared to women, are less likely to consume sustainably (e.g., Bloodhart and Swim 2020;Medina and Toledo 2016;Zelezny et al. 2000). We seek to better understand this phenomenon and to provide actionable solutions on how to address it. ...
... Our work also has implications for the researchers who study sustainability. Given the hesitation shown by men to adopt sustainable consumption practices, there has been a call by researchers to better understand sustainable consumption through a gendered lens and to develop interventions with gender in mind (Bloodhart and Swim 2020). Given the vast literature on sustainability, there is surprisingly limited research on the factors impacting male consumers to adopt sustainable consumption practices. ...
... Unfortunately, men are less likely to consume sustainably than are women (e.g., Bloodhart and Swim 2020;Medina and Toledo 2016;Zelezny et al. 2000). This may be, in part, due to the tendency of men to view sustainability issues through the lens of stereotypical masculine social norms and identities (Anshelm and Hultman 2014), which potentially conflicts with the perception of sustainable consumption practices that are typically associated with feminine characteristics (Bloodhart and Swim 2020;Brough et al. 2016;Swim et al. 2018). ...
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... This can be explained by the observed difference between women and men in terms of attitudes toward sustainability; women tend to have relatively more positive attitudes toward sustainability [48,49]. Women are more likely to nurse private-realm aspects of living with more sustainable behaviors [82,83]. Moreover, family care-taking behaviors and practices are stereotypically done by women, which also extend to sustainable forms of these behaviors being done more often by women. ...
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... To conclude, we would like to highlight that in some conceptions of gender equality, the goal is for women to achieve parity with men's levels of economic, educational and employment opportunities. However, from the point of view of sustainability, society should instead emphasise female environmental standards, values and behaviours (Bloodhart & Swim, 2020) which would result in more people who care about the environment and take steps to reduce their environmental footprint. In this vein, ecofeminism seeks to realise far-reaching transformations about how productive and reproductive work is conceptualised (Lorenzini, 2022;Mies & Shiva, 1993). ...
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... In a review of previous studies, Bloodhart and Swim (2020) investigated differences between women as a group and men as a group with regard to sustainable consumption, and how gender stereotypes and norms shape how women and men think about these issues, respond to their seriousness, and choose to act. The results indicate that both men and women who engage in sustainable consumption are perceived as more feminine rather than more masculine. ...
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Women's sustainable entrepreneurship has increased significantly due to all parties’ demands and the positive contributions to sustainable development (SDG). Entrepreneurs are motivated to carry out their sustainable enterprises by benefiting society, the planet, and the economy. However, women entrepreneurs face various barriers imposed by a patriarchal power system. The main barriers are gender discrepancy, little government support, lack of financing, and individual capacities. Additionally, the family, especially the husband, promotes or limits the creation and execution of women’s businesses. For this reason, this research investigates female leadership, business legitimacy, motivations, and barriers when creating female enterprises. The information was compiled from a vast number of articles related to sustainable female entrepreneurship found in the Scopus database.KeywordsEntrepreneursEntrepreneurshipWomanWomenSustainable development goalsSDGFamilySustainabilityCircularity
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Although pro-environmental behaviors (PEBs) have been characterized as feminine, some PEBs are masculine suggesting that gender bending (e.g., engaging in pro-environmental behaviors inconsistent with one’s own gender) and gender conformity (e.g., engaging in pro-environmental behaviors consistent with one’s own gender) are possible for both women and men. Social consequences for gender bending versus conformity with PEBs were assessed in three studies. Gender bending created uncertainty about an actor’s heterosexual identity (Studies 1 and 2). Consistent with stigma-by-association, actors’ gender bending influenced judgments about an actor’s friend’s sexual identity (Study 2). However, gender bending had limited effects on ascription of gendered traits: More feminine than masculine traits were ascribed to PEB actors, even actors of masculine PEBs (Studies 1 and 2). Consistent with social ostracism, Study 3 illustrated that men were most likely to socially distance themselves from female gender benders, likely as a result of prejudice against gender-bending women. In contrast, women preferred to socially interact with gender-conforming women, likely resulting from a combination of their greater interest in feminine than masculine PEBs and preferring to interact with women more so than with men. Social repercussions are discussed in terms of stigmatizing engagement in PEBs.
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Men in the United States have higher rates of life-threatening diseases than do women, in part due to behavioral differences in health practices. We argue that men’s enactment of masculinity in their daily lives contributes to health behavior differences. We focus on meat consumption, a masculine-stereotyped dietary practice that epidemiological studies have linked to negative health outcomes. In study 1, nationally representative survey data indicate men report less healthy lifestyle preferences than do women, including less willingness to reduce meat consumption. In study 2, an internet-based experiment shows that experiencing a masculinity threat leads men to express more attachment to meat consumption. In study 3, lab experiment data with a different experimental manipulation and study population again indicate that threats to masculinity influence men’s meat preferences. These results support the claim that men’s masculinity maintenance may be one factor contributing to gender differences in meat consumption and health disparities related to overconsumption of meat.
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We document the gendered nature and valence of stereotypes about each of the Six Americas climate change opinion groups that represent a continuum of climate change opinions from Dismissive to Alarmed. Results primarily supported predictions. First, the more groups were associated with strong concern about climate change, the more feminine they were perceived to be. Second, groups with strong concern or strong lack of concern were seen the most negatively. However, contrary to expectations, greater concern was also associated with more positive masculine traits. Combining effects, most perceived the Dismissive to have negative masculine traits and not to have positive feminine traits, those with intermediate opinions (especially, those who were Cautious and Concerned) most favorably, and the Alarmed to have both positive masculine and negative feminine traits. Ratings suggest that (a) the Dismissive may be seen as being “bad but bold”, (b) the Cautious and Concerned may be seen as liked but not respected, and (c) the Alarmed may be seen as respected but not liked. Thus, ratings indicate the importance of attending to gendered and ambivalent impressions of group. Third, valence of impressions was moderated by perceivers’ personal concern about climate change in a manner consistent with intergroup biases. Findings lay the groundwork for understanding the influence of impressions of opinion groups on, for example, willingness to endorse opinions, associate with opinion groups, and support or oppose climate change action.
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Extending theory and research on gender roles and masculinity, this work predicts and finds that common ways of talking about climate change are gendered. Climate change policy arguments that focus on science and business are attributed to men more than to women. By contrast, policy arguments that focus on ethics and environmental justice are attributed to women more than men (Study 1). Men show gender matching tendencies, being more likely to select (Study 2) and positively evaluate (Study 3) arguments related to science and business than ethics and environmental justice. Men also tend to attribute negative feminine traits to other men who use ethics and environmental justice arguments, which mediates the relation between type of argument and men’s evaluation of the argument (Study 3). The gendered nature of public discourse about climate change and the need to represent ethical and environmental justice topics in this discourse are discussed.