A new global study carried out in 30 countries including Australia by Ipsos in collaboration with the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London for International Women’s Day shows that:
- One in five people in Australia think women who say they were abused often make up or exaggerate claims of abuse or rape – the highest of any western nation included in the survey, with three in 10 men holding this view.
- Only two in 10 deny the existence of gender inequality, but views are split on the benefits of feminism
- Concerns about online abuse remain, with one in 10 men saying it’s acceptable to send someone unrequested explicit images
- Four in 10 have experienced online abuse or seen sexist content but one in three believe many women overreact
- Victim-blaming attitudes are found in a minority across the countries asked.
Ipsos Public Affairs Director, Jess Elgood, said: “The findings from this study suggest that gender equality still has a long way to go in Australia. We lag behind many countries in terms of gender bias and our perceptions of what is considered acceptable online. These views on the acceptability of physical and online gender-based violence by some people may be partly driven by the prevalence of harmful and misogynistic content online. The prevalence of these online messages can be seen to both contribute to and reflect wider issues with sexism and misogyny in societies.”
Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia and Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, said: “Sexual violence against women has been a huge focus of our community debate thanks to the bravery of Brittany Higgins, Grace Tame and so many other courageous women.
“Now comes this research with its shocking findings about underlying male attitudes and how much worse they are in Australia compared with other countries.
“Enough is enough. Our nation should be a leader on gender equality not lagging so far behind. We need profound change.”
Men are more likely to question the existence of gender inequality and the benefits of feminism
Key Australian findings
In Australia, the key findings were as follows:
- One fifth of Australians (22%) agree that gender inequality doesn’t really exist. Men are more than twice as likely to agree (30%), than women (14%).
- A quarter of Australians (26%) believe that feminism does more harm than good, and one fifth (21%) believe that men have lost in terms of economic and political power or socially as a result of feminism. Again, men are at least twice as likely to say this than women.
Key global findings
A majority of people globally disagree that gender inequality doesn’t really exist, with a global country average of 55%. However, despite evidence that gender inequality globally has only increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, just under a fifth agree (18%).
Men are more likely to agree that gender inequality doesn’t really exist than women (21% vs 14%). In several countries, the proportion of men who agree is double the proportion of women (including Australia, 30% vs 14%; Romania, 27% vs 13%; and Russia, 30% vs 12%).
Men are also more likely to be sceptical about the benefits of feminism and to question the existence of gender inequality today:
- A third of men think feminism does more harm than good (32% global country average) and believe that traditional masculinity is under threat (33%).
- Women are less likely to agree, with a fifth (20%) agreeing feminism does more harm than good and a quarter thinking traditional masculinity is under threat today (25%).
- One fifth think that feminism has resulted in men losing out in terms of economic or political power or socially (19%), with men more likely to agree than women (23% vs 15%).
Victim-blaming attitudes toward violence against women are held by a minority, but only around half disagree outright with victim-blaming statements
Key Australian findings
- One in five people in Australia (19%) think women who say they were abused often make up or exaggerate claims of abuse or rape – the highest of any western nation included in the survey. Three in 10 (28%) men think this is the case, compared with around one in 10 (11%) women.
- In line with global averages, 14% of Australians believe violence against women is often provoked by the victim. Australian men are three times more likely than women to believe this (21% and 7%, respectively).
- Significantly above the global average (9%), 14% believe that it’s a woman’s obligation to have sex with her boyfriend or husband, even if she doesn’t feel like it. 22% of Australian men agreed with this. Of the 30 countries in this study, only men in one other country, Malaysia, were as likely to as Australian men to hold this opinion.
Key global findings
Around half disagree that violence against women is often provoked by the victim (with a global country average of 55%) and that women who say they are abused often make up or exaggerate claims of abuse or rape (53%), and a minority expressed concerning views in relation to violence against women:
- Around one in seven say violence against women is often provoked by the victim (15%), including 13% of women. The same proportion say that women who report being abused often make up or exaggerate claims (15%, with 20% of men and 10% of women agreeing).
- While three quarters disagree that it’s a woman’s obligation to have sex with her boyfriend or husband even if she doesn’t feel like it (76%), one in ten agree (9%).
- Younger people are more likely to agree with all three sentiments. For example, around one in five Gen Z and Millennials agree that violence against women is often provoked by the victim (18% and 19% respectively, compared to 14% of Gen X and 11% of Baby Boomers).
Women are more likely to receive online harassment and to feel affected by it
Key Australian findings
- The majority (84%) of Australians agree that women should not have to put up with online abuse.
- In line with the global average (35%), Australians believe that the best way for women to deal with online abuse is to just ignore it.
- Three in ten (29%) Australians believe it is mainly men’s fault that online abuse is a problem today, with men more likely to think this than women (34% and 23%, respectively).
Key global findings
Harmful and misogynistic content is prevalent online:
- Two in five (45% global country average) say they have experienced online abuse or seen sexist content in the past two years.
- Of the examples of harmful content surveyed, the two most commonly viewed forms are comments or images suggesting men are superior to women or suggesting that women cause many of the problems faced by men (16% each).
- Women were more likely to say they had noticed both these messages, perhaps being more likely to notice and remember these messages (19% of women vs 13% of men noticed comments suggesting men are superior, and 18% of women vs 13% of men saw comments suggesting women cause men’s problems).
- In terms of online harassment, women are more likely to have received sexual harassment. A fifth (19%) have been sent unrequested comments or compliments on their physical appearance, and one in 10 (11%) have had sexist or misogynistic language directed at them (vs 10% and 5% of men, respectively).
Women also seem to be more impacted by online abuse, as among those who have viewed comments or images online which suggest men are superior to women or that women cause many of the problems facing men are more likely to report that they have stopped saying what they think online (32% vs 26% of men), experienced lower self-esteem or self-confidence (26% vs 18% of men), and experienced panic attacks, anxiety or stress (18% vs 13% of men) as a result of online abuse.
The majority agree that women should not have to put up with online abuse (78% global country average). Agreement is lower amongst men (74% vs 82% of women) and younger generations (75% of under 50s vs 85% of over 50s). However, people are split as to whether the best way for women to deal with online abuse is to ignore it, with 35% agreeing and 39% disagreeing.
People are slightly more likely to agree than disagree that men are mainly to blame for online abuse (35% agree and 27% disagree). However, people are split on whether many women overreact to things that people send them or say to them online (33% agree and 31% disagree), and agreement is higher amongst men (36% vs 30% of women).
Most think harmful and abusive online behaviour is unacceptable, but acceptability is higher among men, frequent internet users, and younger generations
Key Australian findings:
- Australians are broadly in line with global averages when it comes to acceptable online behaviour.
- 41% think it is always or sometimes acceptable to send someone a message when they haven’t responded to previous messages, compared to a global average of 42%.
- 23% think it is always or sometimes acceptable to send someone unrequested comments or compliments on their physical appearance, compared to a global average of 25%.
- However, Australians are more likely than the global average to think it is acceptable to use generally abusive language (17%), use homophobic or transphobic comments (13%), use sexist or misogynistic language (14%), and racist language (13%).
- Australians are also more likely than the global average to think it is acceptable to post someone’s personal details online (11%), to send someone unrequested, sexually explicit images (12%), to impersonate someone online without their permission (11%), and to share intimate images of someone online without their consent (11%).
- Australian men are consistently more likely to think all of these behaviours are more acceptable than Australian women.
Key global findings
When asked about various forms of online abuse, the vast majority of people find them unacceptable. However:
- A quarter think sending unrequested comments or compliments to someone on their physical appearance is acceptable (25% global country average), with men more likely to agree than women (28% vs 22%).
- Around one in 10 think the following forms of online contact are acceptable: using generally abusive language (11%), homophobic or transphobic comments (9%), sexist or misogynistic language (8%), racist language (8%), posting personal details online (8%), and sending unrequested sexually explicit images (7%). Men are more likely to find all these forms of online contact acceptable. Six per cent find sharing someone’s intimate images without consent acceptable.
- More frequent online usage was associated with viewing forms of online harm as acceptable. For example, those who use online gaming sites at least once a month were more likely to view sharing someone’s intimate images without their consent as acceptable than those who never use social media, messaging services, or online gaming (11% vs 2%).
Younger people tend to be more likely to find harmful online behaviour acceptable than older generations. For example, 10% of Gen Z and Millennials find sending someone unrequested, sexually explicit images acceptable, compared to 6% of Gen X and 3% of Baby Boomers.