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Apparently Men Are Less Likely to Recycle Because They Worry It’ll Make Them Seem Gay

Apparently Men Are Less Likely to Recycle Because They Worry It’ll Make Them Seem Gay

I’m telling you… it’s a weird world out there research-wise. I feature a wide array of topics in this article series. And I’ve read a lot of research at this point in my life (even spent some time as a researcher myself). But I still managed to be surprised by research studies. Surprised at what the researchers are looking at, yes. But also surprised at what a study finds.

Today’s article surprised me on both accounts.

I’m fairly ensconced in social circles that are well versed in gender theory. Ones that find pesky evidence of far-ranging results of gender socialization into areas that wouldn’t be top of mind.

I’m used to the idea of gender being a powerful (if ill-defined, ambiguous) force. And I’m used to people conflating gender roles with sexual identity (even though it’s sloppy, at best, to do that).

And yet I would never have guessed that men might be afraid to recycle because they worry they might look like sissies for doing it.

Recycling Is Seen as a Feminine Behavior

Yeah, seriously. A 2019 study found that a chief reason that men recycle less than women do (a finding found in many previous studies, some of which are cited in this current one) is because they worry that recycling will make them seem more feminine. And in addition to worrying that recycling would make them seem more feminine, they worried that recycling would make them seem gay.

Apparently recycling is socially considered a feminine behavior.

I guess I gotta add that one to the vault of Nothing-to-See-Here hypermasculine stereotypes. Wearing a cowboy hat, chewing and spitting tobacco, blasting country music, driving their big truck… while a huge pile of trash flies out the back?

Ai yai yai.

Wild to me, the behaviors that get gendered. (Like, seriously, recycling is a pretty straightforward activity.)

And a bit disconcerting that homophobia, misogyny, and precarious manhood could be contributing to the ecological burden on a planet that’s already struggling to cope with so much.

Like… the idea that some men are so worried about other people thinking that they’re gay, they’d be unwilling to try to recycle is… yeah…


This post is part of an ongoing Poly Land feature called Psyched for the Weekend, in which I geek out with brief takes about some of my favorite psychological studies and concepts. For the entire series, please see this link.

Featured Image: CC BY – Kevin Gill