Two in five Britons think championing women’s equality discriminates against men

Exclusive: The recent rise of misogynistic views pushed by the likes of influencer Andrew Tate demonstrate the battle to achieve gender equality is far from over, campaigners say

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Wednesday 08 March 2023 15:05 GMT

Related: International Women’s Day: New campaign shines light on female firefighters

Two in five Britons think efforts to champion women’s equality are so robust that men are being discriminated against, a major new study has suggested.

The research, carried out by King’s College London and Ipsos, found that 53 per cent of men back that view while a third of women take the viewpoint.

The study, shared exclusively with The Independent to mark International Women’s Day, discovered 38 per cent of respondents think there has been enough progress in giving women equal rights to their male counterparts. This marks a substantial jump of 13 percentage points since 2018 - with a quarter of people holding this view then.

Researchers who polled over 22,000 adults in 32 countries, also found that 38 per cent think men are being asked to do too much to champion equality, a substantial rise from the 29 per cent who held this view in 2019.

Julia Gillard, chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, said: “Despite the progress, we’ve made in recent decades, high-profile examples of misogyny are still rife, particularly online, and there are worrying signs from this research that such views are not only gaining ground among the public, but also deterring people from advocating for women’s rights.”

The study discovered the proportion of Britons who say they are frightened to champion the equal rights of women in case they face reprisals has doubled since 2017 - up from 14 per cent to 29 per cent.

Similar trends were identified around the world - with a global average of 37 per cent saying they are scared to speak out.

Ms Gillard, who was Australia’s prime minister between 2010 and 2013, noted the researchers discovered that younger generations in the UK were the most likely to believe a man who “stays home” to do childcare is “less of a man”. This is a “disturbing reminder there is still much more to do, and that future progress is not guaranteed”, she warned.

She added: “We can’t be sure if these trends are the direct result of certain individuals gaining greater attention for their extreme and misogynistic views, but with reports of teachers and parents fearing that young people – and particularly young boys – are buying into a sexist ideology because of what they hear and read online, it’s a question that urgently requires more research.”

“And it’s something that tallies with our findings, with the youngest surveyed sometimes the most likely to hold sexist views. Also worthy of more investigation is whether we’re seeing a broader backlash to gender equality post-#MeToo, which could be contributing to these shifts in attitudes.”

Ms Gillard, Australia’s only female PM, warned there were indications this is occurring given the extent of “vitriol” directed at women in the spotlight such as Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon and former New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, who both cited abuse and intimidation as factors behind their resignations.

It’s up to all of us to protect the rights we have won and to keep the fire of progress burning.

Mandu Reid

“It’s this feature of our life online that risks jeopardising progress on gender equality, and one we must guard against,” she said.

Mandu Reid, leader of the Women's Equality Party, said the research findings were “alarming” and demonstrated the battle to achieve gender equality is “far from over”.

She added: “The rise of the far right has made misogynistic views more mainstream. You see the likes of Andrew Tate. They become a magnet for people who are unsettled by the progress women and marginalised groups have made.

“Our opposition have spokespeople like Jair Bolsonaro who are charismatic who can inspire those who feel afraid and undermined. These statistics show they are having an impact on people.”

Mr Tate is a former kickboxing world champion-turned-influencer now famed for his misogynistic views. The Independent previously reported on research by the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) which unearthed 47 videos of Mr Tate pushing what it describes as “extreme misogyny”.

While Mr Bolsonaro is Brazil’s former far-right, populist president who publicly abused a female lawmaker, shoving her and telling her she was “too ugly to deserve rape”.

However, Ms Reid said that the “movement for equality is powerful” and was paving the way for change “slowly but surely”.

“This resistance proves it. It’s up to all of us to protect the rights we have won and to keep the fire of progress burning,” she added.

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