When it comes to supporting feminism, there are men who support the movement and its values. Some men are even quite outspoken in their support. But it seems a larger contingent does not hold such views and are opposed to feminism.
Studies in the last ten to fifteen years are quite revealing concerning men’s views of feminism. In 2001, a Gallup poll found that only twenty percent (20%) of American men considered themselves feminist, with seventy-five percent (75%) saying they are not (1). A 2009 CBS Poll found that twenty-four (24%) of American men think the term “feminist” is an insult (2). It was also discovered that four out of five men refused to identify as feminist, but when a specific definition was given the number fell to two in five. A YouGov Poll of Britain in 2010 found that only sixteen percent (16%) of men described themselves as feminist. Fifty-four (54%) stated that they were not and eight percent (8%) specifically claimed to be anti-feminist (3).
What explains the resistance to feminism from many men? We offer several reasons.
First, because misogyny exists. There are men who do not want equal rights for women (4). Some men view women as inferior to them and have no qualms about the fact that they do not have equal rights (5).
Further, feminism can be perceived as threatening. Feminism is sometimes associated with strong, forceful, and angry women. Such women can feel threatening to many men, so why expect those men to support a space in which forceful and angry women can promote their views? Importantly, this is no wholly without basis. Some feminists have used their spaces to spread misandrist vitriol and hatred of men (6). Many feminists have not helped to cultivate a popular image of feminism among men. Some feminists openly declare their hatred for men, which leads to it being perceived by men as a man-hating movement. Other feminists try not to feed this negative image, but their work is often undermined by those feminists who do. Finally, many men fear that feminism will result in them losing opportunities, such as economic opportunities and more. No one should expect men to support a movement they believe hates them and is plotting their downfall.
Third, sometimes men reject feminism because they do not understand what it is. As the above-mentioned 2009 CBS poll suggests, many men are unclear of what feminism is and what it stands for. When a clear definition is given (for example, feminism being the movement that seeks equal rights for men and women, and hopes to challenge patriarchy), the number of men identifying with it increases.
Some men who reject feminism are motivated by their religious beliefs. They feel that the values feminists hold to are in conflict with the way they believe God created man and woman and the roles God gave to them.
For many men, feminism can be difficult to adopt due to personal and social factors (7). Regarding the former, embracing feminism requires a large change to happen in one’s life. A man needs to change the way he thinks about women and how he treats them. This can be difficult socially as one will likely need to show some resistance to his male peers, especially when they perpetuate sexism and the sexual objectification of women through jokes and humor. Given social pressure, this is difficult for many men.
1. Gallup, G. 2002. The Gallup poll. p. 152.
2. Aaron, B. 2014. To All Men: Feminism is Vital Work and YOU are a Part of it. Available.
3. YouGov. YouGov Survey Results. Available.
4. Caprino, K. 2017. What Is Feminism, And Why Do So Many Women And Men Hate It? Available.
5. USA Today. 2017. One in five say women are inferior to men, global study reports. Available.
6. Young, C. 2016. Feminists treat men badly. It’s bad for feminism. Available.
7. Rankin, L. 2013. Feminism Needs Men, Too. Available.