It’s easy to say that not all men are sexist. That’s surely true and also beside the point. The more difficult question is about most men. Do they have sexist attitudes and, if so, do they know it? Social scientists have found over the last few decades that even avowed male feminists often believe that women are better suited for nurturing roles or poorly cut out for leadership. Do most men expect women to make dinner or to get away with sexual harassment? No. But that doesn’t mean that sexism is dead. It means that sexism is obscured.
In an effort to understand how sexism persists and how it informs male behavior — including the behavior of dads — Fatherly ran the numbers. Here’s what we found.
Men and Women Agree That Sexual Harassment Is a Problem
There’s some good news in the data. Whether male or female, a college grad or a high school dropout, a Republican or a Democrat, Americans largely agree that sexual harassment is a pervasive societal problem. A Pew Research survey conducted in 2017 found that, across the board, more than 60 percent of Americans attribute the #MeToo allegations to widespread problems in society, as opposed to individual incidents of misconduct. While it’s true that women, Democrats, and those with a college education are slightly more likely to take the progressive stance on this issue, the difference is a matter of only about 10 percent.
Gender Attitudes Are Steadily Improving
More cautious optimism emerges when we look at general trend data. The following Gender Attitudes Scale is a composite score, based on the results of four questions that social scientists have been asking Americans as part of the General Social Survey since 1977. Is a preschool child likely to suffer if her or his mother works outside the home? Can a working mother establish as warm a relationship with her children as a full-time homemaker? Are men and women equally suited to politics? Would it be better for everyone involved if the man were to be the achiever outside the home and the woman would take care of the home and the family?
The data suggests that women are, predictably, more progressive than men. But not by much. And, significantly, men and women seem to be improving at approximately the same rates. Society, as a whole, is heading in the right direction.
But Men Are Still All Kinds of Sexist
Most men are not sexually assaulting women. Men consider harassment a societal problem, and are becoming more progressive about their gender attitudes with every passing year. But harmful attitudes persist among the majority — often in confusing ways. Take this data from a recent national survey of the gender attitudes of more than 2,000 Australian men. The study found that most men supported gender equality, but opined that women are naturally better at caring for children; they agreed that women are suited for leadership roles, but expressed frustration that women enjoy unfair advantages in the workplace. Similar studies have shown that men are less likely than women to endorse equal opportunity in the workplace, advocate shared household and parenting duties, and oppose a double standard for sex before marriage. While the following data illustrates that fewer than half of men hold particularly sexist values, it is impossible to miss the fact that far too many still do.