Gen Z thinks feminism has gone too far, but how about students?

Eleana Davidson on 1 December 2020

Earlier this year, the Hope Not Hate Charitable Trust found that half of Gen Z men think that “feminism has gone too far”. Here at Student Hut, we wanted to find out whether students felt the same on issues of feminism and gender, so we asked our student panel to give us their thoughts. And the key takeaway? There are major misunderstandings over what feminism is and what the movement means. This is what our student panel had to say.

How do students perceive feminism?

Defining feminism can be complex, and the waves and types of feminism even more so. The majority of students define feminism correctly as ‘a movement that promotes equality of the sexes’, with 54% of males and 73% of females thinking this way. But worryingly, a significant number (four in 10 male students and two in 10 female students) wrongly believe that feminism promotes women’s issues over men’s issues, and one in 10 men even described it as an ‘anti-male movement’.

We are making progress towards equality, but we’re not there yet

The overwhelming majority of men and women students believe both genders should be valued equally, in terms of human rights, legal rights and opportunities. However, there is still some uncertainty over whether students feel they should attach themselves to the ‘feminist’ label. 

This is what a feminist looks like

Interestingly, even when looking at those who strongly agreed with all equality statements we still see a large proportion of both men and women who would not call themselves feminists. There seems to be some uncertainty, and perhaps conditioned negativity, surrounding attitudes to feminism which institutions can help to address. 

So, how can institutions promote gender equality?

1. Start with societies

If universities really want to promote equality, then they need to make sure they express it through a variety of ways. Think outside the box, and begin by supporting and funding societies equally, whether they be more typically ‘male’ or ‘female’ societies. Not only will this promote gender equality, but equality on all levels. Also put funding into societies that promote gender equality; if a feminist society doesn’t already exist, why not help start one up? Show your students you care about equality, and empower them to show others the feminist way. 

2. Ensure your students are heard

Offer students support services so they can voice their concerns freely. This could be in the form of counselling services, virtual talks and events where people can share their experiences, or setting up a student-led podcast on feminism. You should also talk to your students, whether via sending out surveys or informally gathering feedback, so you can better understand them and find out what they need you to do to best support equality. 

3. Break down stigma and stereotypes by showing your support on socials

To reach your students, you need to be on the platforms they’re on. That means getting to grips with TikTok and staying up to date with Instagram. Show your institution to be forward-thinking and engaged with your students’ concerns through posting feminist content that will help avoid ambiguity and foster a better understanding of what it means to be a feminist. You can also use your platforms to start conversations around days that celebrate gender equality, such as Women in STEM, International Women’s Day and Men’s Mental Health Month.

4. Embed feminism in your courses

If you truly want to support your students and achieve greater gender equality in your institution, you need to live your values. Ensure that female academics, writers and scientists all play their rightful part in your course offerings and make sure you’re teaching feminist history and theory, to help educate students on what has gone before, and what is still to achieve. 

Our full report on students, feminism and gender stereotypes will be coming out early next year so sign up to our newsletter for even more insights into the student mindset and to make sure you don’t miss a thing. 

Eleana Davidson
Eleana Davidson on 1 December 2020