Being green is, apparently, a feminine thing. How then do we engage men to think about the meat on their plates? Eating Better is setting a challenge for this year's Do It Day to hash some fresh ideas with help from the marketing world.
You might have seen it reported in the news lately, new research provides evidence that it's not easy being green if you are a man. Through a series of studies, the researchers set out to explore barriers to the take up of sustainable consumption behaviours, and their findings are eye-opening. Green products, and pro-environment messages and branding, are generally perceived as more feminine. And what is more, men and women who buy these products and engage in eco-friendly behaviours are also seen as more feminine. The authors suggest that men may therefore be more likely to avoid green behaviour in order to preserve a masculine image. This could help explain why men, in general, have been found to recycle less, litter more and care less about sustainability.
Men also tend to eat more meat and be less willing to consider eating less. The cultural associations between meat and manliness are strong and run deep, and this is reinforced through food advertisements and promotions that pander meat to men: often the more meat a product has, the more manly it seems - think for example of the meat-feasts typically on offer for Father's Day. Yet, diets with lots of meat are bad news for the climate, the planet and our health, and urgent action is needed to curb excessive meat consumption. At Eating Better we aim to contribute to driving this positive change, for example our #MeatFreeLunch campaign seeks to support a shift to eating less meat. For many people, one of the easiest and most straightforward ways to cut down is to go meat-free at lunchtime.
We think the time is right to explore how we can encourage more men to take part in this shift. In the UK, we know that, on average, men eat more red and processed meat than is recommended for good health, and whilst overall consumption appears to be falling this is due to women cutting back – not men. The reasons to cut down on meat are all there, but we need creative and men-friendly new ways to put the message across. For this reason, we have set a challenge for this year's Do It Day in November, an initiative that brings together marketing experts to work on thorny challenges and bring about creative solutions that stimulate change. We have joined forces with our partners Hubbub and the World Resources Institute to set this challenge, and together we will explore how to disrupt or subvert the green-feminine stereotype to present eating less meat in ways that affirm masculinity.
This is a meaty problem to get stuck into, so we are looking forward to getting some bright marketing minds excited about stepping-up to our challenge. Hands-on experience in how to effectively utilise environmental concerns in marketing campaigns and how to play with masculinity in branding could be instrumental in helping us develop innovative and practical ways to engage young men, to raise awareness and encourage behaviour change towards eating less meat. We'll keep you posted.
Elena Salazar is Campaigns Associate at Eating Better: for a fair, green, healthy future.