We would have thought that the vociferous GenZ would be the trailblazer for change. But, according to research, one in four UK males aged 16 to 29 believe it is harder to be a man than a woman and a fifth of those who have heard of him now look favourably on the social media influencer Andrew Tate.
Tate, the former kickboxer from British America with 8.7 million followers on the social media platform X, is currently confronting accusations of human trafficking, rape, and orchestrating a criminal gang for the sexual exploitation of women in Romania.
On feminism, 16% of GenZ males felt it had done more harm than good. Among over 60s the figure was 13%.
Ipsos polling for King’s College London’s Policy Institute and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership led the research that also found: that 37% of men aged 16 to 29 consider “toxic masculinity” an unhelpful phrase.
To this startling revelation, Prof Bobby Duffy, Director of the Policy Institute says, “This is a new and unusual generational pattern. 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.”
GenZ men and women: A fractious division
With the amount of social exposure and the chaos of the generation gap, it isn’t a dumbfounded expectation to believe that GenZ men would be the last group that feminists would have to wage war against. This mentality has the propensity to create a fractious division among the coming generation a huge setback to the activists.
So, is this really what the world looks like? Full of ungrateful, misogynistic young men with a favourable view of people like Tate? Is this the group that is going to vote in the upcoming elections?
The Survey Center on American Life found a nearly 20-point gender gap between Gen Z men and women in identifying as feminists. Only 43 percent of Gen Z men say they generally think of themselves as “feminists,” compared to 61 percent of Gen Z women. The gender gap is more pronounced among Generation Z than any other generation.
What is particularly fascinating is the generational gap between GenZ men and Millennial men. Those in the latter were, and are, eager to fight the culture of toxic masculinity and are more and more choosing to shed the patriarchal conditioning. Unabashedly, they pronounce themselves as feminists.
Fear. Fear. Fear: Fragile Masculinity
The rising rejection of feminism, as an ideology with hesitancy among the GenZ men to be part of the movement probably stems from the very conditioning that millennials are trying to shed i.e. feminism is meninism (if that’s a word). With growing acceptance of gender rights, open conversations around sexuality, and free expression, it seems that men once again feel threatened, especially cis-heterosexuals. Feminism is once again misunderstood as an ideology aimed at punishing and castrating men. Men are unable to be men, so they are hating on feminism.
Or, the world is finally responding to seeing the battle feminists waged against patriarchy. Finally, women are getting their due, and gays are embracing themselves, trans women exploring opportunities. Finally, we have taken a step forward. This seems to have threatened the men who were, up until now seen a world dominated by men. The sight of women in important positions has become a menace, a sore sight, one of discomfort.
Does 'Cancel Culture' have anything to do with this paradigm shift?
Nearly one in four Gen Z men say they have experienced discrimination or were subject to mistreatment simply because they were men, a rate far greater than older men. Exploring other possibilities for such adverse conclusions would entail us to look into the ‘cancel culture’ trend, popularised by GenZ and millennials.
Cancel culture is at its peak, with social media being the new court where everybody has to walk the judgment aisle. There is no room for error. You say one wrong thing, you are cancelled, trolled. In a bedlam of staunch criticisms, people find their voices lost. In a sea of perfectionists, imperfection is just a story to be narrated, not a reality to be accepted. Feeling often misunderstood, men are facing social isolation and feelings of alienation from the kind, in particular, and society, in general. This has sown seeds for the creation of the ‘manosphere’, where men find resonance in their collective misery.
It’s somewhere our fault that young men are feeling dejected because we aren’t ready to accept infallibility on their part. We need to be compassionate, accepting, and understanding because men are going through a cathartic process of unlearning the conditioning they were exposed to. For them to find value in feminism is to fight a battle with themselves.
I have a couple of beautiful men in my life, who are fighting traditional masculinity and embracing feminism. A larger proportion of GenZ men do feel that it’s tough to be a woman in this world and men like Tate are misogynistic. This view of feminism being harmful is held by a consistent minority, who feel threatened and find feminism unjust. These men are finding it hard to unlearn the stereotypes and embrace the future, which is female.
This view of GenZ men being anti-feminist can also be seen from the paradigm shift in political space. With right-wing extremism on the rise, young men who are being swayed by the ideology often find resonating with archaic notions of masculinity. More women in the public space is being seen as an attack on scarce resources and job opportunities. Now they have to compete not just against men, but also against women- which wasn’t the case earlier.
It’s a sad, disheartening development to witness because if it’s not us, then who? Who is ready to bear the torch and be the light amidst the darkness of patriarchy? Will these young men continue to see women as a threatening force or potential allies in addressing the challenges that await the world? Where does feminism as a movement stand if the effects of it are having a reverse psychological change in the minds of young men?
We all just need to remember that in the tapestry of patriarchy's grasp, not only do women bear the weight of its oppressive threads, but men too emerge, bruised and painted in hues of purple melancholy.
If not us, then who?
Views expressed by the author are their own