Gen Z are all leaning to the right. Well, boys and young men are, anyway. New research has found that boys and young men have more conservative views on gender than baby boomers. Over 3,600 people were polled by Ipsos for King’s College London’s Policy Institute and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, in which 16% of young men agreed with the statement “feminism has done more harm than good”, while just 13% of over-60s felt the same.
The figures show that one in four UK males aged 16 to 29 also believe it is harder to be a man than a woman. This is in spite of a quarter of women experiencing some form of sexual violence and the UK gender pay gap standing at 7.7%. The survey also found that 68% the same age believe it is harder to be a woman than a man.
The report also revealed that a fifth of young men have a “favourable” view of self-proclaimed misogynist Andrew Tate. Tate is currently facing charges in Romania, which he denies, of human trafficking, rape and forming a criminal gang to sexually exploit women. He has openly used his social media platforms to speak about women in degrading and dehumanising ways, describing women who aren’t virgins as “used goods” and suggesting that rape victims must bear “some responsibility” for being raped.
Jordan Peterson is also seen favourably by 32% of 16 to 29-year-old boys and men, compared with just 12% of women the same age. Peterson has suggested that “enforced monogamy” could help stop male violence and implied that the patriarchy was in place because men are inherently more competent.
The report follows recent research that revealed a stark ideological divide is emerging between young men and women across the world. While men and women in the same generation have historically been mostly ideologically aligned, young people globally are now showing signs of bucking this trend. In the US, women aged between 18 to 30 are now 30 percentage points more liberal than their male contemporaries, with the divide rapidly accelerating in the last decade. German Gen Z women are also 30 percentage points more liberal than German Gen Z men, while in the UK the gap is 25 points. In the Polish elections last year, almost half of men aged 18-21 backed the hard-right Confederation party, while just sixth of young women did.
According to the Financial Times, this divergence could be as a result of the #MeToo movement, which empowered young women to speak out against sexism and misogyny. But the data shows women are not merely becoming more liberal in regards to gender-related issues. “The clear progressive-vs-conservative divide on sexual harassment appears to have caused – or at least is part of – a broader realignment of young men and women into liberal and conservative camps respectively on other issues,” says the publication. “In the US, UK and Germany, young women now take far more liberal positions on immigration and racial justice than young men, while older age groups remain evenly matched.”
“This is a new and unusual generational pattern,” Professor Bobby Duffy, director of the KCL Policy Institute, told The Guardian. “Normally, it tends to be the case that younger generations are consistently more comfortable with emerging social norms, as they grew up with these as a natural part of their lives.”
Professor Rosie Campbell, director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at KCL, told The Guardian that she believes social media may have fostered the spread of misogynistic and conservative beliefs among young men. “The fact that this group is the first to derive most of their information from social media is likely to be at least part of the explanation,” she says.
While it is encouraging that men subscribing to these sexist beliefs appear to be firmly in the minority, Duffy stresses that the numbers of young men taking an unfavourable view of feminism are by no means insignificant. “There is a consistent minority of between one-fifth and one-third who hold the opposite view. This points to a real risk of fractious division among this coming generation,” he said.
It would be easy to say this is all a phase that will pass, but data shows that people’s formative political experiences are hard to shake off. Too often young people’s views are overlooked owing to their low rates of political participation, but this shift to more conservative beliefs around gender could leave ripples for generations to come, impacting far more than vote counts.