Are Millennial Men Really More Feminist Than Previous Generations? The Answer Is More Complicated Than You Think

Nowadays, with the fight for gender equality further along than ever and with feminism becoming a more and more mainstream force, it's easy to think that Millennials are just more enlightened when it comes to gender than our predecessors. However, research suggests that Millennial men aren't as feminist as we'd like to think they are. Progress, it seems, does not leap forward in quite the ways we've been hoping it would.

In an analysis of recent research in the Harvard Business Review, Andrea S. Kramer and Alton B. Harris point out that despite the fact that many Millennial men, when asked directly about their views on gender, seem to be very feminist-minded, many are actually a good deal less forward-thinking when it comes to their behavior and their less overtly stated views on women.

For instance, one study found that male biology students consistently overestimate the ability of their male classmates and underestimate their female classmates. Another found that young men might actually be less open to the idea of a female leader than their fathers are. More than half of all Millennial men don't think we need more gender equality in the workplace. Maybe most damningly, one study even found that half of all Millennial men assume their careers will take priority over their wives'.

And that's not the end of the damning studies. In addition to the ones Kramer and Harris cite, I dug up one that suggests that although Millennial men are somewhat more willing to do housework, Millennial women still pick up the majority of the generation's housework and childcare responsibilities — even when they are also the primary breadwinner for the household. Additionally, I also found a UK study found that 35 percent of Millennial men still think that men should be primarily responsible for earning the money and women primarily responsible for taking care of the home.

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And then there's this: Although it's hard to find age-specific data on perpetrators, the rate of things like sexual assault or street harassment or domestic violence — all things which in which women are disproportionately victims and men are disproprtionately perpetrators — haven't declined much, if at all, over the past decade as Millennials have come of age. This suggests that Millennial men are no less likely to disrespect or commit crimes against women than men of previous generations, which is rather telling. After all, if the majority of Millennial men were feminists that actively fought against sexist and misogynistic attitudes and fostered a culture of respect for women, one would expect these crimes would no longer be at epidemic levels among young women.

So what do we take away from all this?

Well, the short answer seems to be that many men like the idea of gender equality; however, they don't seem as willing to let go of the sexist behaviors and assumptions they have internalized. It's a good deal easier to recognize that gender equality is fair and ought to be a thing than it is to let go of the privileges and prejudices that you take for granted — indeed, it's easiest of all to simply pretend they aren't there.

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Of course, there are a lot of Millennial men who really do embrace feminism, who respect women, and whose actions and underlying attitudes match their words. It's impossible to generalize an entire generation, on this or any other issue. However, it's also worth noting that we can't just sit back and expect gender equality to magically materialize now that most men think it's a good thing. The reality is far more complicated than that.

Ultimately, feminism is more than some nice ideas about fairness and equality. Feminism is about making and sustaining positive change. So while it's great that millennial men are largely willing to call themselves feminist and proclaim feminist ideas, it would be even more appreciated if they would be the change they profess to want.

Images: Oliver Astrologo/Unsplash; Giphy (2)