Environmentally toxic masculinity

By: Nicholas Koski

What do a big slab of red meat, a gas-guzzling muscle car and a lumberjack hacking down a tree all have in common? They’re all typical images of manliness that contribute to environmental destruction.

Despite a rise in the discussion of toxic masculinity in the wake of Gillette’s recent controversial ad, the harmful effects of toxic masculinity on the planet as a whole have often been left out of the conversation.

Climate scientists have pointed to fossil fuels, livestock farming and farming-related deforestation as leading causes of climate change. But for men, taking action against these activities is often seen as “unmanly.”

When I was a boy scout, I was told by my troop leader that I couldn’t be a man if I remained a vegetarian. Men from my hometown also looked down upon other means of transportation more eco-friendly than driving a big truck.

Research conducted by Scientific American found similar aversion among men toward things as simple as using reusable grocery bags. Additionally, they found that when men felt their masculinity was threatened, they tended to act more anti-eco-friendly to reassert their manhood.

These toxic ideas about masculinity are reproduced through popular media, as Gillette has rightfully recognized. It’s not too difficult to come across a cheeseburger commercial that includes big trucks and attractive women clearly targeting “macho men.”

In response to Gillette’s change of image, a lot of men have made calls to boycott the razor company for endangering their identity. Meanwhile, we have not been as ready to boycott the fossil fuel and farming industries for endangering our lives.

If we intend to build a sustainable future, part of what we are going to have to change is our understanding of what it means to be a man so that men do not have to choose between protecting their identity and protecting the planet.

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