real life

We need to talk about Gen Z men.

A decent amount of young guys are wary of feminism. In fact, more Gen Z men than Baby Boomers believe feminism has done more harm than good. 

It's a scary reality. So how did we get to this point? 

New research from the King's College London's Policy Institute and Global Institute for Women's Leadership in partnership with Ipsos has been released, and it tells a sobering story.

Gen Z men are notably less positive about the impact of feminism, one in six young men say it's done more harm than good, versus the 13 per cent of Baby Boomers who feel this same way.

Plus, 37 per cent of men aged 16 to 29 also say the term "toxic masculinity" is an unhelpful phrase.

Professor Bobby Duffy is the director of the Policy Institute at King's College London. He notes: "This is a new and unusual generational pattern – normally, it tends to be the case that younger generations are consistently more comfortable with emerging social norms. The lessons are that polarisation can increase if we don't take steps to understand these divisions."

Watch: A man living like a woman for a day. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia. 

Feminism at its core is about equality between the sexes. It's the advocacy of women's rights on the basis for equality and equity – sounds nice right? We think so.


How then have we reached a point in modern-day society when a portion of our male youth don't feel positive towards feminist ideas, but instead are wary of their growing influence?

Carly Dober is a psychologist and the Director at the Australian Association of Psychologists Incorporated, as well as someone who has done much research into feminism across her three degrees.

She says that there is a cohort – but not all – of young men who feel "left behind", not understanding where they sit in society.

"We still have high pressure in society for young boys and men about what it actually means to be a man in 2024, compounded with low mental health literacy. A lot of policies don't support the flourishing of young people, which can lead to youth not feeling like they have control or agency. Then a lot of this male group are seeing perhaps older brothers, cousins or fathers struggle to meet changing expectations," she explains.

"Add on feelings of shame, and it leaves a vacuum for external influencers to radicalise some young men or boys into thinking that the traditional ideas of gender were the good old days. Figures like Andrew Tate."

There is also low literacy among the younger generations understanding what feminism actually is.

If you ask some young men currently for a definition, they assume it's along the lines of, 'Women to the top, men to the bottom'. That's not to say different sects of feminist thinking like this don't exist. But overall, feminism isn't a harm. At its core, it's pushing for equality.

The threat of polarisation unfortunately, is that it can push people harder in the opposite direction. 

Richie Hardcore is a speaker, activist and educator on masculinity and gendered violence. Having worked with thousands and thousands of young boys, Richie says his biggest hope is to teach these boys that it's okay to be vulnerable.  


He has seen firsthand though that educators and activists need to be very mindful about how they have these conversations. 

Speaking with Mamamia, Richie notes that the danger with 'being quick to cancel' young men in this day and age is the potential to push them further offside. With disenfranchisement can come a lack of trust and interest – and shame won't get us any closer to the end goal.

"Our broader culture framing has meant that there's not a lot of public space where we can explore ideas without fear of getting cancelled, and a lot of people, including men, fear this," he explains. 

"Some people in activist spaces use this notion of tone policing to defend aggression online. And yes perhaps you shouldn't tell a historically oppressed group how to express themselves. Theoretically, I entirely understand this and where it comes from. But we have to be pragmatic – if we want to change misogyny, violence against women, masculine stereotypes, and hegemonic ideals of what masculinity is then you have to speak to these young men rather than at them."

This is something Caitlin Moran agrees with. She is one of the UK's most acclaimed and successful writers, as well as being a columnist, novelist and world famous feminist icon.

"There's isolation, mental illness, a huge risk of suicide among young men. The men of my generation have perspective on 10,000 years of the patriarchy. But our 15-year-old kids, the boys, don't have the perspective. They've only grown up in an era where we're saying 'the future is female'. The problem with Andrew Tate is that he's telling this group 'every problem that you have as a boy can be fixed with power,'" she told Mamamia's No Filter 


"The solution to feeling like a depressed, anxious teenage boy who doesn't know his place in the world isn't power, or power over women. What they need is what women have or what they're pushing for, which is empowerment. Men need to learn to self-soothe. They need to learn to communicate. They need to confess their tenderness and weakness and vulnerability, and feel safe in that. Look what feminism has done for women. It's definitely improved our lives."

Where does this leave us?

It's a frustrating reality, where we feel it's one step forward and two steps backwards.

It might sound too simple of a solution, but from Carly's psychologist perspective, it comes down to conversations.

But we're not talking a one-and-done situation. Instead, it's repeated messaging, conversations that allow for nuance, that are open and welcoming.

"If you've got years of social, cultural or religious messaging, one conversation isn't going to fix or solve the world. For young boys specifically, it's allowing them to approach it with curiosity without fear of judgement, conversations that are facilitated by all genders," she notes.

"I think with a lot of discussion around feminism, there's the mistaken belief that men have something to lose. While men do hold a lot of structural power, men don't actually lose anything in women finding equity. No one loses their rights or power with feminism – it just means we're all on a more even-level playing field."

Feature Image: Canva/Mamamia.