Inequality between women and men ‘doesn’t really exist’, say one in seven Britons

One in seven (15%) Britons think gender inequality doesn’t really exist, with men (19%) more likely than women (11%) to hold this view, according to a major survey conducted ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March.

The author(s)

  • Kelly Beaver MBE Chief Executive, UK and Ireland
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  • One in five Britons also think feminism does more harm than good, while three in 10 feel traditional masculinity is under threat today – the highest among eight western European nations surveyed.
  • One in five men think sending unrequested online comments or compliments on someone’s physical appearance is acceptable.
  • Three in 10 people think it’s mainly men’s fault that online abuse is a problem today – with men themselves actually most likely to agree.

One in seven (15%) Britons think gender inequality doesn’t really exist, with men (19%) more likely than women (11%) to hold this view, according to a major survey conducted ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March.

While most Britons (57%) do believe gender inequality exists, the new global research, by Ipsos and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, reveals that notable minorities of the British public are not only failing to accept the reality of inequality between women and men, but are even seeing efforts to address it as causing harm, as well as feeling that traditional masculinity is under threat.

The findings – which are based on a survey of over 20,000 people in 30 countries – also highlight British and international attitudes to online harassment and violence or abuse of women, with some considerable differences in how women and men see these issues.

One in five Britons – higher among men – question the benefits of feminism

In Great Britain

  • One in five (21%) Britons think feminism does more harm than good, rising to three in 10 among men (29%) – compared with around one in eight women (13%).
  • And one in six (16%) think men have lost out in terms of economic and political power or socially as a result of feminism, with men (24%) three times as likely as women (8%) to feel this way.
  • Three in 10 (29%) think traditional masculinity is under threat today – the highest of the eight western European countries included in the survey. Four in 10 men in Britain (40%) hold this view, while two in 10 women (19%) feel the same.

Internationally

A global country average of 55% disagree with the idea that gender inequality doesn’t really exist. Men (21%) are more likely to agree that this is the case than women (14%), and in several countries, the proportion of men who agree is double that for women – including Australia (30% vs 14%), Romania (27% vs 13%) and Russia (30% vs 12%).

Across the countries surveyed, a third of men think feminism does more harm than good (32%) and that traditional masculinity is under threat (33%), while a fifth of men (23%) think that feminism has resulted in men losing out in terms of economic or political power or socially – similar to the proportions of British men holding these views.

Most Britons think online harassment and abuse are unacceptable and agree that women should not have to put up with it, but one in 10 have encountered misogynistic statements online

In Great Britain

  • Three in 10 Britons (29%) have experienced online harm or abuse. One in 10 have experienced generally abusive language directed at them (11%), viewed comments or images suggesting men are superior to women (10%), or viewed comments or images which suggest that women cause many of men’s problems (9%).
  • One in six (17%) Britons think sending someone unrequested comments or compliments on their physical appearance is acceptable, with men (21%) more likely than women (14%) to feel this way.

And there are notable gender differences in views on online abuse and how to deal with it:

  • Three in 10 Britons (30%) think it’s mainly men’s fault that online abuse is a problem today – and men themselves (35%) are actually more likely than women (26%) to hold this view.
  • One in five (22%) think many women overreact to the things people send them or say to them online, with 28% of men thinking this is the case, compared with 16% of women.
  • A quarter (26%) think the best way for women to deal with online abuse is to just ignore it. Men (31%) are more likely than women (21%) to agree with this.

Overall, however, despite these minority views, 84% of Britons agree women should not have to put up with online abuse – not far behind Sweden (89%), which comes top for this belief.

Internationally

Nearly half – a global country average of 45% – say they have experienced online abuse or seen sexist content in the past two years, with one in six having viewed comments or images suggesting men are superior to women (16%) or suggesting that women cause many of the problems faced by men (16%).  

The majority agree that women should not have to put up with online abuse (78% global country average). Agreement is lower among men (74%) than women (82%), and younger generations (75% of under 50s) than older ones (85% of over 50s).

A minority of Britons hold victim-blaming attitudes when it comes to violence against women 

In Great Britain

Britons are far more likely to disagree than agree with statements that attempt to justify or downplay violence or coercion against women, but there are some small minorities who say they hold these views:

  • The majority of Britons – 58% – disagree that women who say they were abused often make up or exaggerate claims of abuse or rape, but one in 10 (10%) agree with this statement, with men (13%) nearly twice as likely as women (7%) to feel this way.
  • Just 7% say they believe violence against women is often provoked by victim, with 72% disagreeing with this view.
  • And while 6% think it’s a woman’s obligation to have sex with her boyfriend or husband even if she doesn’t feel like it, 83% disagree.

Internationally

Around one in six (15%) agree that women who say they were abused often make up or exaggerate these claims, with men (20%) twice as likely as women (10%) to hold this view.

Concerningly, younger people are more likely to agree with victim-blaming statements. For example, around one in five Gen Z (18%) and Millennials (19%) agree that violence against women is often provoked by the victim, compared with 14% of Gen X and 11% of Baby Boomers. A global country average of 15% agree with this statement.

Kelly Beaver, chief executive of Ipsos UK, said:

We often hear about online abuse, and the disproportionate impact of that abuse on women in particular is well known and understood. It’s encouraging therefore that the vast majority of Britons reject this sort of abuse. But it is deeply worrying that a minority continue to believe it’s acceptable to act in abusive or harassing ways towards women, as well as the minority that blame women for the abuse they face.

Professor Rosie Campbell, director of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, said:

An overwhelming majority of the population share feminist values but there is also a persistent minority who believe gender equality has gone too far or caused more harm than good. A vocal minority can have a disproportionate impact and we have a lot of work to do to guarantee gender equality and ensure women’s safety both on and offline.

 

Survey details

These are the results of a 30-country survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor online platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 20,524 adults aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, and Turkey, aged 21-74 in Singapore, and 16-74 in 24 other countries between Friday, January 21 and Friday, February 4, 2022.

The sample consists of approximately 1,000 interviews in each of Australia, Brazil, Canada, mainland China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Spain, and the U.S., and 500 individuals in each of Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Hungary, India, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, and Turkey.

The samples in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and the U.S. can be taken as representative of their general adult population under the age of 75.

The samples in Brazil, Chile, mainland China, Colombia, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, and Turkey are more urban, more educated, and/or more affluent than the general population. The survey results for these countries should be viewed as reflecting the views of the more “connected” segment of their population.

The data is weighted so that each country’s sample composition best reflects the demographic profile of the adult population according to the most recent census data.

“The Global Country Average” reflects the average results for all the countries where the survey was conducted. It has not been adjusted to the population size of each country and is not intended to suggest a total result.

Where results do not sum to 100 or the “difference” appears to be +/-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses, or the exclusion of “don’t know” or not stated responses.

The precision of Ipsos online polls is calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 accurate to +/-3.5 percentage points and of 500 accurate to +/- 5.0 percentage points. For more information on Ipsos’ use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website.

The publication of these findings abides by local rules and regulations.

The author(s)

  • Kelly Beaver MBE Chief Executive, UK and Ireland

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