The conundrum of a generation of conservative young men

We knew that members of Generation Z, that is to say people born at the very end of the 1990s, were distinguished from their elders by their more progressive political opinions. What articles like “A new global gender divide is emerging” reveal1published in the Financial Times in January 2024, is that this generation is in fact deeply divided on these subjects, and along a dividing line that some had perhaps not imagined: gender.

If young people of previous generations tended to converge ideologically, it seems that today, young men stand out with more conservative ideas. In the UK, all age groups have become more “liberal” on average in the last 20 years – with the exception of young men. In Poland, in the 2023 elections, 16% of young women voted for the far-right party, compared to 46% of young men.

Far from being a phenomenon specific to Western societies, this gap also seems to be observed in countries known as the Global South. So how can we explain this historical anomaly, after decades of progression of egalitarian ideas?

THE backlash post-#metoo

In the wake of the #metoo movement, which began in 2018, more young women have been exposed to feminist ideas. They have become more “progressive”, while investing more on social networks and public spaces to express their point of view. Faced with this, many young men perceived this movement as directed against them. Some felt threatened and reacted by taking the opposite position.

Drawing an equivalence between feminist ideas and the fact of being wokesome of these young men concluded that they were unwoke on other social issues.

This could explain why the divide on gender issues infiltrates other spaces: debates on immigration and the place of immigrants, sexual identity, the redistribution of wealth, etc.

“Filter bubbles”

But how could this reaction to a liberation movement be perpetuated and turn into a real counter-movement? The answer lies, in our opinion, in the virtual practices of young men and young women. They lead largely separate lives on social networks and consume different content. The now well-known effect of “filter bubbles” only reinforces this division, locking individuals into algorithms which offer them ever more homogeneous content, ever less “outside the box”. “.

This means that different, even diametrically opposed, cultures and ideologies can develop – with the result that each half of the generation finds the other’s views incomprehensible or even intolerable.

If the figures demonstrate a growing gap between young people on a global scale, the situation in certain societies reaches an extreme level of gender division: in South Korea, for example, we are observing a wave of cyberharassment, driven by masculinist forums where Very violent misogynistic ideas circulate.

And now ?

We have therefore underestimated the risk of polarization between men and women of the same generation. This political and ideological divide deserves our full attention, because it is dangerous, and represents a step backwards, where we sometimes tend to think that progress is assured.

Which leaves us with the crucial question: what to do about it? It is up to men to inform themselves and awaken to feminist issues. But young men need better role models, and it’s not their fault they don’t have them.

Going silent on the difficulties they face is also counterproductive: among other figures, the article by The Economist “Why young men and women are drifting apart” recalls that in rich countries, 28% of boys do not reach the basic level in reading defined by the PISA assessment program, compared to 18% of girls.

One way would be to think about how to make schools work for low-performing boys. Furthermore, given that the desegregation of the labor market occurred in one direction only (women moved into male environments), the State could put in place measures to encourage men to move into fields that they are currently fleeing, such as health, education or administrative tasks.

Everything must be done to bring this generation together around pressing issues, and not divide it further – unlike the exploitation that is made, by certain politicians, of the resentment of young men towards women and wokism.

1. Read “A new global gender divide is emerging”

Read “Why are young Quebec women more progressive than guys? »

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