As some of you may know, I frequent local Farmer’s Markets and hop around to some different fairs and events selling our products we’ve made and collected. One question I frequently get from men that stop and take a look at our wares is variations of “Nothing for men, huh?” or “So you don’t get a lot of guys buying this stuff then, do you?” already sure of the answer and turning to walk away.
We do, of course, have many male customers and have a few products that are more popular among men, which just goes on to make these questions even more frustrating. I never understand them. If I’m feeling a bit sassy I might even playfully ask “Well do you ever eat or drink? Wash dishes or laundry? How about bathe or shave?” and point to all of the corresponding sustainable products we have on hand to meet those needs. Unsurprisingly, that rarely changes their minds.
Sometimes I think it is the colorful quality of some of our displays, yet sometimes I do think it stems from ingrained sexism that relates a lot of our products to “women’s work” or what society deems “feminine” such as using lotions or even simply caring for the environment.
But why is that the case? Since when must only women be the ones allowed to live sustainable lifestyles and work to protect our home? If we are talking about historical gender roles, aren’t men supposed to be the protectors anyways? I’m not suggesting that women stop caring for the planet, but when did men?
When I was in college, not only did my environmentally-minded school already have more women graduating than men, but my environmental classes had significantly more female attendants. Even though the class sizes were quite small, I could even see that trend change depending on if my classes were more environmental science-based (more men) or environmental sociology-based (few to no men at all). Yet this rule didn’t seem to apply to the professors or the older generation as much, as I had multiple male sociology professors and female science professors.
These trends are in no means a formal study and only come from my own personal observation, but I do think our customer list is long enough that we can see and trust in a significant increase in attractiveness of a sustainable lifestyle to woman compared to men. We get lots of comments of “Oh, this would be great for my daughter!” but very few in reference to sons. What is it about sustainability that is so appealing to women? Or conversely, what scares men away? What can we do to fix it and get everyone involved in sustainable living and conservation, and maybe even break down some stereotypical gender roles along the way?
Of course there isn’t one single clear answer, and the waves of time will surely continue to erode perceived gender and societal norms. Maybe short shorts and long wavy hair for guys will even come back into fashion, who knows!
For now, I’ll continue in my efforts to add more men’s items to our shop and point out to all those who stop by the vast array of sustainable swaps that can lead to a more environmentally-friendly way of living for all genders and identities. And to all of those men out there who have embraced sustainable living; thank you, and share your journey with the rest of us! Fellow men sharing their simple living journey will surely have a greater influence, and sharing the ease and importance of sustainability is one of the best things any of us can do to help the cause.
For those interested, here are some of the most popular sustainable products from our store among men:
- Organic Lip Balms
- Zero-Waste Soaps
- Safety Razor
- Shaving Soap
- Toothpaste Bits (these or these)
- Heal-All Balm
- Laundry Detergent Sheets
- Dish Soap
- Sisal Soap Bag