How have housewives made an impact on the environmental movement, and where is their role now? In fact, housewives have led the environmental movement, and their role is now more dominant than ever. Women control consumerism and pave the way for products embracing environmentalism.
Although gender roles have been changing in recent times, women still do a majority of the shopping for the household. Many products are marketed based on their tastes and preferences. A study by Susan Dobscha from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Applying Ecofeminism to Environmentally-Related Consumption, found that 80% of household shopping is done by women. Therefore, women control the supply of environmentally friendly products.
Although these are lesser quality products that cost more, women are willing to pay for them. Dobscha contends that environmentally conscious decision-making is often an emotional choice, which is why suppliers target women. She explains that ecofeminism is the theory “that the domination of women…parallels the domination of nature and that this mutual domination has led to environmental destruction by the controlling [male-controlled] society.” Ecofeminism allows women control over the environment, especially compared to men, so they are leading the way for environmentally friendly consumption. The theory has been tied to consumer research that shows female consumers to be environmentally conscious. A male dominated society might not allow environmentally friendly products to be at the forefront of stores, but women are choosing to buy these products due to their connection with protecting their surroundings. If consumers demand, the supply will be provided.
Perhaps this demand is due to the role that women have played in the environmental movement, with women as foot soldiers for recycling co-ops and grassroots organizations. According to an article in The Journal of American History by Adam Rome, “Give Earth a Chance”: The Environmental Movement and the Sixties, women were the strongest force behind the environmental movement. Women originally were handed environmental concept pamphlets on their walks through parks with their children, and motivated women were behind early activism.
Anything that threatens peace at the home is something women want to fight against. Evidence of selling environmental products to women is everywhere. Advertisements show families using environmentally friendly household products and technology. Domesticity is to be preserved, and women come in to help with this in their choice of goods. Even car commercials that promote their environmental features, such as Toyota’s latest advertisement for the Prius family, often show a message about family consumption.
Rome argues in the article that housewives see environmental activism as an outlet and as a way to join the public sphere. Crusading allows women to step outside of the home while still protecting the interests that has kept them close to their family. Often, concern for their children leads housewives and mothers to stand against things such as pollution, nuclear weapons, and hazardous chemicals.
This is what motivates women today: their children and the future. For decades, the future has been an impending idea, allowing people to fight for more regulation, conservation, and preservation. Especially now, the future is upon us and women are behind important decisions. When housewives go to the grocery store while their husbands are at work, they make choices that determine which products are made, advertised, and sold.
Housewives are not simply a feature of the 1950s. They are working today towards gaining momentum for the environmental movement through their consumer choices. Companies take into account the decision-making process of women, and they largely dictate the environmental impact of products.
Adam Rome (September 2003), “Give Earth a Chance”: The Environmental Movement and the Sixties, The Journal of American History,Pages: 525-554.