The environmental crisis and the gender divide

By: Monica Lafon

In 2012, a study conducted by Social Science Research in the United States found that it was actually women in positions of power who demonstrated extensive scientific knowledge of the issue, tended to be more environmentally aware and sought environmental advocacy, as opposed to men.

So is the cliché true? Women care more than men about the environment when it comes to doing something about it? Why is this so?

The market research firm Mintel claims this is the works of green marketing. Most “eco-friendly” products are targeted towards women, so men won’t notice this as an issue at all. They labeled this phenomenon as “the eco-friendly gap”. 

In modern society, some feminists are taking it as an insult to consider women as the sole natural caregivers of the earth.

And the funny (not-so-funny) thing is, this is the very reason why men don’t want to seem to give a damn about the environment: it’s too feminine for them to care. 

The fear of green branding seen as gay is just unacceptable, but studies confirm this seems to be the issue. 

Sustainability should be unisex. Period. Why would gender roles have anything to do with it?

Yet, when men seem to care about the environment, they cite the science behind it or the economic loss caused by it whereas women voice their concerns on the basis of environmental justice and ethical responsibility. 


A recent study undertaken in New Zealand confirms this. The researchers found that women have a smaller carbon footprint than men when it comes to using transport.

So in terms of policy making, this means we actually have to plan differently when we take a look at transportation, to create gender-friendly incentives?

This is what the researchers concluded: New Zealand needs to take a look at men and see what will get them to lower their carbon footprint when it comes to transportation.

But more than being gender sensitive, we also have to dig in deeper

When it comes to environmental degradation, this has also unequal consequences amongst men and women. 

According to a study by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), environmental degradation can lead to gender-based violence such as sexual assault, domestic violence and forced prostitution.

Let’s take a look at one example: sex-for-fish.

In parts of Eastern and Southern Africa, conflict over scarce resources has led to a practice where women are being asked by fishermen to exchange sex for fish. This is where overfishing has taken us...

Because of the impacts of climate change, women and girls have also been seen to walk further away to fetch water, food or firewood, which also exacerbates the risk of gender violence. 

This is not about men doing less or women doing more. It’s not about how our carbon footprints differ. 

It’s about shifting our cultures towards a vision of sustainability, where gender matters and where we acknowledge that environmental degradation leads to gender-based violence.

The gender divide and the environmental crisis go hand in hand. So when we think of our individual actions, let’s take gender into account. 

Sources

Hudson, John. “Men Are Basically Terrible for the Environment”. The Atlantic. 2012. https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/04/men-are-basically-terrible-environment/329784/

Hunt, Elle. “The eco gender gap: why is saving the planet seen as women’s work?” The Guardian. February 6, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/feb/06/eco-gender-gap-why-saving-planet-seen-womens-work

“Women generate lower travel-related greenhouse gas emissions”. Science Daily. June 10, 2020. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/06/200610102733.htm

“Environmental degradation driving gender-based violence – IUCN study”. January 29, 2020. https://www.iucn.org/news/gender/202001/environmental-degradation-driving-gender-based-violence-iucn-study

 

Monica Lafon is an environmental freelance journalist. She got her BA degree in Journalism and Political Science at Concordia University and her Master degree in Environmental Policy at Sciences Po Paris. 

-xxx-