Mother Nature and Menvironmental Politics: How Gendered Frames Affect Support for the Clean Air Act

May 4, 2020   /  

Student: Grace Montgomery
Major: Political Science
Advisor: Professor Angela Bos

My I.S. examines whether and how gendered frames shape public support for the Clean Air Act. Frames are used to highlight certain considerations over others when discussing political issues. When an individual is exposed to a frame, then that individual will draw upon a relevant schema and apply elements from that schema to understand the issue. I argue gender schemas contain attitudes about gender roles and gendered traits for each sex. I hypothesize that if a gendered frame is compatible with an individual’s gender schema, then that person will be more supportive of the Clean Air Act. On Amazon’s MTurk, I randomly assigned 240 American participants to an article about the Act that contained no gendered notions (control), traditional gender roles and personalities, or gender non-traditional roles and personalities. Although I did not confirm my hypothesis, I argue that gender notions are important to consider in discussions about environmental issues.

Grace will be online to field comments on May 8:
Noon-2pm EDT (PST 9am-11am, Africa/Europe: early evening)

57 thoughts on “Mother Nature and Menvironmental Politics: How Gendered Frames Affect Support for the Clean Air Act”

  1. If you were starting the project again what topic would you have your participants read about?

    1. Hello!

      Thank you so much for this question. I think I would still continue with air pollution and the Clean Air Act because it is such an instrumental piece of legislation. However, I think I would change how I would create my news articles. I would want to finetune my news articles that I created more, as the ones I used contained a lot of citizen commentary and conjecture. Also, I think it would be interesting to consider mimicking a case like Baltimore, which in 2019 took on the Baltimore Clean Air Act to help reduce the pollution from trash incinerators. The Baltimore Clean Air Act was actually dismissed in March 2020 due to complaints from the incinerator operators for the standards being too difficult to meet. It would be interesting to focus in on an actual situation/contested issue that happened at the state, rather than a fictional one I created in my news articles, and integrating traditional and nontraditional gender notions.

      Thank you again for your question!

  2. Grace

    I love the experiment you set up! I guess it’s heartening that it was hard to tease out results because there was such overwhelming support for the Clean Air Act.

    If you had to suggest a follow-up IS topic to someone in next year’s class based on your study, what would it be?

    1. Hi Dr. Krain!

      Thank you so much for reading about my project and for your support. I am glad, in some regard, that I had a lack of variation in my level of support. It gives me some hope for the environment and the future!

      One way to branch off of my topic would be to look into the gender gap of local environmental issues. I found in my literature review, which contained mostly sources from the 1970’s to 1990’s, that local environmental issues created a significant gender gap. The logic is that females are socialized to care about issues that can directly impact their families and their community while males are socialized to be more concerned about/ address broader issues, such as climate change. Hypothetically, it would be interesting to send out a survey to a community, such as the city of Wooster, that asked residents to rate what local and national problems concerned them the most, such as too much trash/litter in the area, runoff from farming, or air pollution levels rising. While such a survey would have to consider other factors, such as political orientation, it wouldb be interesting to update the literature with more modern research. Overall, researchers could see if there is a gender gap in local concern and what ways that gap could be amended, such as through framing.

      Thank you again for all of your support!

  3. Awesome job Grace! Your I.S. is super interesting. I look forward to see what you do in the future!

    1. Thank you, Emily! Your IS is super interesting, as well. Congratulations to you on graduate school! Best wishes!!

  4. Hi Grace, this was a really concise, well put-together presentation! Before hearing about your project, I’d never considered the “Green Feminine Stereotype,” but now it seems like I see it everywhere. I’m wondering what led you to this topic? Have any past internships or interests influenced your research?

    1. Hi Waverly,

      Thank you so much for your interest in my project. I really appreciate it!! The Green-Feminine Stereotype was like an “ah-ha” moment for me too! So I always had an interest in framing and I had read a book in my Political Psychology class last spring with my advisor, Professor Bos, about how issues that are not gendered could be framed in gendered ways to affect people’s attitudes. I thought that was super interesting and I immediately thought about how environmental issues could be framed because I had developed an interest in environmental politics. During this past summer, I was working at a mobile produce market where I was asked a man if he wanted a reusuable bag for his produce. He said no and that he did not want to appear “effeminate.” I was kind of shocked by it and wondered why a grocery bag was considered more masculine than a reusable bag? So I then read about the green-feminine steroetype in this cool article (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/men-resist-green-behavior-as-unmanly/) and I started putting together how I could frame either green behaviors or environmental policies in gendered ways. I decided to do a policy because I wanted to follow the research of the book I had read in my political psychology class and see if his theory could apply to an issue.

      Thank you so much, Waverly, for the question.

  5. Hello Grace! Amazing work on the project. The gender bias that you read about in your literature review is a fascinating, yet troubling one, as one would hope a policy area as important to human survival as the environment is one that would spark a sense of urgency no matter the gender of any individual. My question is, have you seen or read any research that would suggest any possible increase in salience regarding environmental issues within the American psyche, particularly one that similarly affects all genders? Thank you for researching the topic, I am happy to have been in classes with you! Have an amazing summer and post-undergraduate life!

    1. Hi Brandon! Thank you for your comment! It honestly is super troubling, but like you said, fascinating to research and learn more about.

      Also, thank you for this question. I do not know if I have necessarily read any research that would suggest an increased salience in American minds. From my own perspective, I feel like when the climate strikes occurred this fall, people started to consider more of the long-term effects of climate change, particuarly on already vulnerable communities. The same could be said about Flint, Michigan when the water was polluted. But in both of these cases, life tends to go on and people focus on what they are doing in the present, rather than what happened in the past or the effects on the future. It would be interesting to understand more about the strength of environmental attitudes at this point in time, since people are not burning as much fossil fuels amidst the pandemic and are focusing more on the future.

      Thank you again Brandon. It was great to be in classes with you too! Best of luck of to you!

  6. After having you in the Environmental Communication class, it was especially nice to hear about your study. Gender framing definitely is an important issue. Do you think the homogeneity of your responses might also reflect a weakness of MTurk as a source for participants? It can be so helpful in many ways, but I wonder if the folks who are most likely to participate there might also skew young which could, in turn, influence their perceptions of both gender equity and the environment. Thanks for sharing your research, Grace, and congratulations.

    1. Hi Dr. Bostdorff!

      Thank you so much for reading about my project. I am so appreciative of what I learned in my Environmental Communication class, particularly as I was writing my news articles for my study!

      As for your question, I do think that the homogeneity of responses could be a reflection of MTurk. In terms of my participants, the average age was about 36, which younger people are usually more concerned about the environment. 44% were Democrats, who tend to prioritize environmental policies, while 30.7% of participants were Republicans (23.9% were Independents and 1.4% were “other”). Most of my participants were also from urban and suburban areas (66%), which is said to have an increased affect on environmental concern. While I did ensure random assignment of factors ( age, political affiliation, and location) that could affect level of support across my three treatment groups, I do think that a lack of a diverse sample along with social desirability bias contributed to my lack of variation in level of support for the Clean Air Act. MTurk is a great way to get a large sample at an inexpensive and quick rate, but I think more work could look at the environmental attitudes of MTurkers to inform future survey research.

      Thank you so much for your interest in my research and your support.

  7. Great work, Grace! This seems like such an interesting project, and I’m glad that you were able to draw together your various interests. Best wishes, and keep us posted on your accomplishments in the future!

    1. Hi Dr. Lantis!

      Thank you so much for reading about my project and for your support. I hope you are well and congratulations on your new book! Thank you again!

  8. Hi Grace,

    Excellent job! If you had to add another variable to look at within the gendered frames, what would you want to consider?
    One thing that crossed my mind when listening to your presentation was how location and age might impact gendered-frames.

    Way to go!

    1. Hi Anna,

      Thank you so much for your interest in my IS. I enjoyed working on it!

      Thank you for your question too! You must have read my literature review because those are two important factors that affect environmental concern. Location is interesting because those who live in more urban and suburban areas tend to be more concerned about the environment. However, rural residents are more concerned about local environmental issues. So location can give different types of attitudes. Age is also an interesting factor, especially with the global climate strikes and young adults leading the strikes. Usually younger people are more concerned about the environment, but there have been studies that have complicated that factor as older people become more vulnerable and worried to changes in the environment.

      I asked participants to answer questions about their location (urban, rural, or suburban), their age, sex, political orientation, ethnicity, and race. While I made sure these factors were distributed across my survey groups, I think my population being generally younger, and more liberal, for example, could have had an influence the level of support. Interestingly, while males are said to have less concern for the environment, more in my survey were more supportive of the Clean Air Act. So there are some unexpected factors that play into the end results too!

      I think other factors that would be interesting to consider, that I did not include in my survey questions, would be level of education and socioeconic status. Does more formal education actually affect support, awareness, and concern for the environment? The same for socioeconomic status, in that do people with higher status support environmental policies when they have the means to help make changes?

      Thank you again for your support and interest!

  9. Grace,
    Thanks for sharing your research with us! Really well done and very interesting!
    Congratulations. 🙂
    Sharon

    1. Hi Sharon!

      Thank you so much for your support. I am so happy I had the opportunity to work for you.
      I hope you are well and thank you again!

  10. Hi Grace!

    I don’t have a question I just wanted to say GOOD JOB AND I MISS YOU AND IM SO PROUD OF YOU!!!

    1. Hi Kira!
      Thank you so much for being so supportive and kind. I really appreciate it. I miss you too and I hope you have a great summer! Also, hope to see you on campus again sometime. I am excited to see what you accomplish at Wooster!

  11. Great job, Grace!

    Your project was framed from the start as wanting to explore gender frames and public support for environmental issues, but you do a nice job framing the study on gender schemas more generally. Does the literature suggest that gender schemas might impact differently according to policy area? If so, how might we extend your research in a comparative manner to a different policy area? i.e. you conclude suggesting looking at gendered framing of other environmental issues – but what about comparing environmental issues vs. a different issue area?

    1. Hi Dr. Kille!
      Thank you for your comment and your questions.

      In my literature review, I did look at framing of some different policy issue areas to see how the gender schema interacted. Gender framing and schemas can be applied to all issues, but the gender schema can only be really effective when the the framing is implicit.

      For example, in the book that I was inspired by for my Independent Study (Dangerous Frames by Nicholas Winter) he looked at the implicit gendered framing of the issue of Social Security privitization. Winter framed the discussion of privitization around statements like, “I’ve provided for my family since I got married as a young man,” to show how privatizing Social Security can allow for males to take the fate of their families into their own hands (a traditional gender role). Winter found that people with more traditional gender schemas were more supportive of the privitization while those with more nontraditional schemas were less supportive. Another article did gendered framing of government involvement in the economy, but talked more explicitly about getting more women in the workforce. Participants did not draw on their schemas and rejected what was being framed all together.

      I think it would be interesting to look at the gendered framing of environmental issues in comparison to other inherently non-gendered issues to see if people are accessing their gender schemas and affecting their understanding of the issues in significant ways. It really is important how we discuss issues, particuarly if we want to discuss those issues at a level where people can draw on their schemas at a subconcious level.

      I hope this answered your question. Thank you for this thoughtful comment.

  12. Congratulations, Grace! What an interesting topic. I thought you did a great job of explaining the interaction of frames and schemas in our understanding of policy issues.

    Now that your thesis is finished, who would you hope to share your main take-aways/recommendations with? Some stakeholders that came to mind for me were reporters, non-profits, policymakers, but I’m curious who you think would benefit from reading your research.

    1. Hi Susannah 🙂

      Thank you for being a sounding board and inspiration during IS!

      Thank you for this question. I think reporters and nonprofits would be my first instincts. In analyzing news messages from the news media as well as crafting messages for nonprofits, I have been able to recogonize how important strategic communication and framing are in getting people to consider an issue in a certain way. The same as well as for policymakers in trying to communicate to their constituents and their fellow policymakers about the ways to look at an issue or policy.

      I think another audience that would benefit from my research could be educators. The primary goal of this Independent Study was to learn about ways I could get more people interested in the environment. I think educators can do that at a young age as it becomes more necessary for people to engage in sustainable behaviors and ways of thinking. I also think educators can think about the ways they frame information to their students and what ways they tackle gendered notions implictly in the classroom, such as introducing both female and male leaders doing work to help the environment.

      Thank you, Susannah ! 🙂

  13. Hi Grace!
    Your project is very well thought out and I’m so proud of you and your work!
    I was wondering if you thought it would make a difference to your findings if your participants had previously heard or learned about the Clean Air Act. Were you also able to ask your participants in a preliminary questionnaire if they were active in climate change politics and dialogues?
    Great job again and congratulations!

    1. Hi Carina!!

      Thank you for support! These are awesome questions! To be honest, I had not considered that aspect of my survey about seeing if participants knew about the Clean Air Act. It has been around for over 50 years, so it would be interesting to understand what people know about it and if that affected their support for the Act after reading my article.

      I also did not ask participants in a preliminary questionaire about their involvement with environmental dialogues. With activities like the Climate Strike happening and more people becoming interested in the environment, asking a preliminary questionairre could have given me more of an assessment about why my dependent variable lacked variation.

      These are great aspects to consider that could have helped me learn more about my participants and their responses.

      Thank you, Carina!! Excited for IS for you 🙂

  14. Hi, Grace, (from the Mom of a COW alum), You introduced me to a new term “menvironmental.”

    Your topic caught my attention because my daughter, Lauren, the COW alum, has been living in New Zealand for four years and researching the impact of climate change on New Zealand glaciers.

    How do you see your research being applied to the larger framework of support for climate change?

    Congratulations on a job well done!

    1. Hi!
      Thank you so much for your comment and for learning about my project. It is a fun word to say “menvironmental” and pretty catchy! Also, that is so cool what Lauren is doing in New Zealand!

      I orginally had wanted to look at the issue of climate change, but realized that it was such a complex issue issue/an issue where people have such strong beliefs, that I decided to focus on air pollution. However, I think my research could be applied to how organizations, the news media, and policymakers dicuss different facets of contributors to climate change, like population control for example. While population control is a more gendered issue, as it deals with reproductive health, it would be interesting to see if the theory I use in my IS, the group implication theory, would hold up. Another interesting issue area, related to climate change, would be the discussion of renweable energy policies and if males see such policies as less masculine than buring fossil fuels (see if toxic masculinity truly is toxic!)

      Thank you so much for your comment and consideration.

  15. Congratulations on finishing a fascinating and beautifully written IS! It was truly a pleasure to learn from your research this year. I enjoyed watching your symposium presentation; it encapsulates your project very well. You focused on the gender schema for IS, but do you think there are any other schemas that likely influence how people view environmental protection? Also, do you think there could be value in conducting a study like yours cross-culturally?

    1. Hi Lynette! Thank you so much for your support throughout this process. I am truly grateful for the opportunities to work with you and to learn how to improve my writing.

      Thank you so much for your question. For your first one, I honestly had not looked as much into the variety of schemas that people have that could also affect environmental attitudes. I think a general, broad schema that interesects with a gender schema is the social schema. For example, social schemas dictate how we act in social situations, which can be informed by how we were taught or socialized to act . I guess I imagine a scenario like I saw this past summer when I was working at a local produce market. I had males who did not want to carry the reusuable bags, but instead, carry the plastic bags because they were more comfortable bagging their produce with plastic bags and because they did not want their bags to look too effiminate. I hope that kind of answered your question, in that other schemas can affect our environmental attitudes.

      As for your second question, I intended to do my study cross-culturally. I wanted to visit my sister’s classroom in the Netherlands to study more about how gendered framing would work in a culture that is more gender equal and more environmentally concious. However, I think I would have found the same problem with my study I did, in that with a lack of variation in environmental support (everyone probably supports the environment) and with gender ideas not being as all over the place, I decided to focus on the US. However, focusing maybe finding a country that has more variation in environmental concern and gender attitudes could make an interesting comparison. Also, maybe looking at different cultures in the US (like compare regionally with the Midwest versus the East Coast?)

      Thank you again for your support and guidance in this process. I really enjoyed working with you. I hope you are well!

  16. Grace, your I.S. is so cool! Thanks for sharing about it. I knew you were exploring this topic but I had no idea gender roles could have influence over environmental action.

    1. Hi Claire,

      Thank you for being so supportive. Your IS is amazing and I am so happy you shared it.
      I am honestly interested, but a little scared, that gender roles and gendered traits could influence how we think about environmental issues.
      Thank you again and congratulations to you!

  17. Grace –

    So proud of all your hard work! Way to go! Really well done!

    Mom

  18. Super interesting topic! I’ve often wondered if the feminization of environmentalism discourages men from taking as active a role in the movement.

    1. Hi Maya! It was great to talk with you in Women, Power, and Politics about environmental politics. I read some background information about the eco-feminist movement because I was interested in how males see “Mother Nature” as an impeding factor into participating in environmentalism. It is difficult because when you are making the comparison between the degredation of the environment with how females are exploited, it should be bringing about positive changes for the treatment of females and the environment. I am glad more females are empowered to engage in political action, but ideally males should feel the same too! I truly do think that green-feminine stereotype is something that will still need to be addressed.

      Thank you so much for commenting, Maya and best wishes to you!

  19. Hi Grace: It’s so great to see your fantastic project communicated so well in this virtual format – well done! I love how your topic is so interdisciplinary, drawing on PSCI/psychology/environmental/gender studies – and it builds SO well out of our prior coursework and particularly my Women, Power and Politics and Political Psychology courses. It is a tribute to you that you were able to synthesize complex ideas and theories to create an original theory to test. I loved talking with you about the project every week – and was so impressed with your strong work ethic and enthusiasm for the topic. Congrats on completing this very interesting and impressive IS project. Can’t wait to see where you go next and the impact you will have! Sending you all my best, Prof. Bos

    1. Hi Professor Bos,

      Thank you so much for your support. I could not have done any of this without you. I am so grateful to have learned from you in Women, Power, and Politics and Political Psychology. I am also grateful that I was able to apply that knowledge into a wonederful opportunity to work with you this year! I loved our weekly meetings and loved the chances to learn from you. Thank you for an amazing Wooster experience and thank you for all that you do to help your students!

  20. Hello! Great work Grace! I remember you telling me about your project and it truly is a cool topic. It reminds me how on YouTube, I’ve been getting ads for “men’s soap” that apparently smell like campfire and gunpowder in an attempt to get men to buy more beauty products… But I was wondering how you got interested in this subject in the first place?

    1. Hi Izzy!

      Thank you so much for commenting! It is kind of crazy that we have to target with men and womens products in order to appeal to gender notions.

      As for your question, I got interested in the topic my junior year after taking a political psychology course, where I learned about framing non-gendered issues in gendered ways. Then, I read an article about the green-feminine stereotype and using masculine branding (like gendered framing) to get more males more interested in helping the environment. I am interested in getting more people to develop concern about the environment, so I thought about using gendered framing as one mechanism to increase concern.

      Thank you again Izzy! Congrats to you on your presentation!

  21. Great work, Grace!! It is super interesting to think about the environment as a gendered issue. I found myself making a lot of connections to our Women, Power, and Politics class as I listened!

  22. Great study, Grace. I think you’re onto something, and it would be interesting to see the results in the context of other specific issues/topics, and also other polling frameworks.
    I will certainly watch for this now when following support of public issues. Well done!

    1. Hi Dad! Thank you so much for your support. I would love to work on research with you too and share our findings! I would love to expand to other issues and try other ways to survey participants.

  23. Grace,
    Good job!! I know nothing about political science but you explained everything super well so I could follow along. This was really interesting! My mom was curious about your process for coming up with the title.

    1. Hi Kayla! Thank you reading about my project. I appreciate your support 🙂 As for the title, I was interested in the eco-feminist movement and a lot of the literature talked about how the name, Mother Nature, could be a reason why males see helping the environment as being too feminine (too concerned about the needs of others). I thought it would be interesting to use that name to introduce thegender coneptions I consider in my project along with menvironmental, which is a fun play on words that syncs gender notions into environmental politics. Overall, I wanted to keep my title interesting but also reflective of the nature of the project!

      Thank you so much, Kayla!

  24. Grace, fascinating project! You might be interested in Greta Gaard’s article “Towards a Queer Ecofeminism,” which takes on the green-feminine stereotype via a broader cultural-criticism take on what you might call the traditional gender role schema and the linking of femininity with the “natural” as opposed to the “civilized.” Gaard’s article is a bit outdated now, but the concepts are still interesting and useful. Thanks so much for presenting on your important project!

    1. Hello!

      Thank you so much for introducing me to this article. It sounds extremely interesting and I look forward to learning from it. Sounds like it could be expanded on in a more modern context! Thank you for your comment!

  25. Grace-
    This is a really fascinating project! I love Nick Winters Dangerous Frames and it is interesting to see I applied to other issues. You mentioned that the project was started when you read an article that suggested environmental issues were gendered. Do you remember the name of the article?

    Best of luck with whatever your future holds.

  26. Great job, Grace! It’s fun to see the final project after talking about it with you a bit over the last year. Stay in touch!

    1. Hi Wayne!

      Thank you for all of your help and for being so supportive. I hope to stay in touch too!

  27. Great job, Grace! I especially liked your concluding point about noting the need to tease out the difference between people who say they support the environment and those who actively engage in climate strikes. That’s something that can definitely be applied to all kinds of issues and movements!

    1. Hi Daphne!
      Thank you so much for reading about my project. I think it is hard because there can be a gap between our attitudes and behaviors. Hopefully we can find more ways to address this issue!

  28. Congrats Grace!! I am so proud of all of your hard work and dedication. I am forever grateful to have had you as a friend at Wooster and will cherish those memories forever. You have such a bright future ahead of you and I can’t wait to see where life takes you!

    1. Hi Sam!

      Thank you so much for your kindness and friendship. I am so happy to have gotten to know you at Wooster. I am so excited about what the future has in store for you! I wish you all of the best 🙂

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