Generation Z: Men More Conservative, Women More Progressive

Generation Z: Men More Conservative, Women More Progressive

Generation Z, the cohort born in the late 1990s and early 2000s, presents a fascinating divergence in ideological perspectives within its ranks. While traditionally, generations have exhibited relatively cohesive ideological tendencies, the landscape for Gen Z appears more nuanced. This generation, particularly those under 30, showcases a blend of progressive and conservative viewpoints, leading to a notable divide along gender lines.

Implications of Ideological Polarization: The Impact on Marriage and Birth Rates

Recent analyses, spanning various newspapers from the onset of this year, have shed light on this intriguing trend. According to reports, there’s a palpable ideological schism emerging among the youth across numerous countries, with gender playing a pivotal role in shaping these perspectives.

In the United States, Gallup surveys underscore the significant variance between the ideological leanings of young men and women. Women aged 18-30 tend to embrace progressive ideals with up to a staggering 30-percentage-point lead over their male counterparts. A similar pattern is observable in Germany, where young men exhibit increasingly conservative tendencies compared to their more progressively inclined female counterparts, with a 30-percentage-point difference. The United Kingdom follows suit, albeit with a slightly narrower margin of 25 percentage points.

This disparity becomes even more pronounced in Asian nations like South Korea and China. During South Korea’s 2022 presidential election, a notable divide emerged between young male and female voters. While older demographics displayed relatively homogeneous voting patterns regardless of gender, young men veered towards conservatism, whereas young women overwhelmingly rallied behind progressive agendas, as evidenced by voting trends.

The widening ideological chasm between genders in these societies has far-reaching implications, notably contributing to a significant downturn in marriage and birth rates. With each woman now bearing an average of only 0.78 children, this marks a stark decline, positioning these nations among the lowest birth rates globally.

The genesis of this gender divergence can be traced back to movements like #MeToo, which initially centered on women’s rights and combatting pervasive workplace sexual harassment. Over time, this schism expanded beyond gender-specific issues, encompassing broader societal concerns.

For instance, in the United States, Germany, and the UK, young women exhibit more pronounced progressivism than their male counterparts, particularly regarding immigration and social justice. While men tend to maintain a static stance, women increasingly gravitate towards progressive ideologies. However, instances also arise where young men lean towards conservatism, as seen in Germany, where they oppose immigration more fervently than previous generations.

A comprehensive study by The Economist across 20 countries corroborates these trends. While two decades ago, minimal disparities existed between young men and women regarding social issues, by 2020, a notable divergence had emerged. This phenomenon of men adopting more conservative outlooks and women embracing progressivism spans across various countries, from Poland to France, Italy to South Korea.

Notably, this ideological divergence is mirrored in perceptions between genders. Surveys assessing attitudes towards women’s rights reveal a higher agreement among men that such efforts have overstepped boundaries and encroach upon men’s opportunities. Intriguingly, younger men are more likely to hold this belief, while older men tend to justify women’s rights activism.

In essence, Generation Z’s ideological landscape reflects a complex interplay of progressive and conservative viewpoints, with gender serving as a significant axis of differentiation. As societal dynamics evolve, understanding and navigating these ideological nuances become imperative for fostering cohesion and progress within these diverse communities.

Shifting Paradigms: The Role of Education and Social Movements in Gender Equality

What’s Driving This Societal Evolution? The Economist suggests it’s a dynamic interplay of various factors, chiefly fueled by advancements in education and transformative societal shifts.

Education emerges as a central protagonist in this narrative. With an increasing number of women enrolling in schools and pursuing higher education, they gain access to knowledge and skills that embolden them to challenge entrenched gender norms. This educational surge has been particularly pronounced in regions like Europe and the United States, where women have outpaced men in attaining university degrees by significant margins over the past two decades.

Simultaneously, seismic societal experiences, such as waves of feminist movements and the emergence of influential social campaigns like #MeToo, have served as catalysts for profound shifts in perspectives on gender equality. These movements have ignited crucial conversations, heightened societal awareness, and empowered women to assert their rights and demand equality across various facets of life.

Moreover, the omnipresent influence of social media has emerged as a formidable force reshaping attitudes and behaviors on a global scale. The digital landscape has facilitated the formation of echo chambers, where individuals gravitate toward like-minded peers, thereby reinforcing their beliefs and ideologies. This phenomenon has contributed to the polarization of perspectives between genders, with men and women increasingly embracing divergent worldviews.

Consider a hypothetical scenario: a young woman, armed with a university education and progressive ideals, enters the workforce imbued with a newfound sense of independence. No longer confined by traditional gender roles, she navigates the intricacies of the dating scene with a fervent desire to find a partner who shares her values and aspirations. However, she finds herself grappling with a dearth of men who have attained similar levels of education and espouse compatible beliefs, leading to a palpable disconnect in romantic pursuits.

Conversely, modern men find themselves grappling with the evolving landscape of masculinity and shifting societal expectations. As traditional notions of manhood are being challenged, men navigate uncharted territories, endeavoring to reconcile antiquated expectations with the realities of contemporary relationships. Instances abound of men grappling with feelings of emasculation or insecurity in the face of women’s burgeoning status and assertiveness.

Undoubtedly, being a man in today’s world presents a distinct set of challenges. In legal proceedings such as divorces, men often find themselves at a disadvantage, with courts predisposed toward favoring women. Furthermore, societal norms dictate that men shoulder the responsibility of providing for their families, often resulting in prolonged work hours and delayed retirement.

This dichotomy manifests across various cultural contexts, spanning from the United States to Finland and China. In the US, young men contend with disproportionately high rates of incarceration and job insecurity, while in Finland, many men shun fatherhood due to reluctance in sharing childcare responsibilities. Similarly, in China, entrenched gender biases persist, with parents prioritizing their sons’ achievements over their daughters’ in matchmaking endeavors.

Despite these formidable challenges, women have made remarkable strides toward independence and self-actualization. Liberated from the constraints that fettered previous generations, today’s women are empowered to pursue their aspirations, challenge entrenched societal norms, and carve out paths toward progress and equality. As they continue to assert their agency and amplify their voices, the trajectory toward a more equitable society becomes increasingly tangible.

What about Gen Z in Vietnam?

Lê Thùy Linh, a 20-year-old currently in her second year at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City), sees herself as progressive, willing to experiment with new ideas, and ready to adapt to change.

Since her student days, Linh has always believed in financial independence, not wanting to rely on allowances or her future spouse’s income. Even if she were to marry someone financially well-off, Linh still prefers working rather than staying at home as a homemaker, believing that homemaking isn’t solely a woman’s responsibility but should be fairly divided.

“When I get married, I don’t want to have children. I enjoy being able to go wherever I want without being tied down by anything. For me, having children would be a burden, not because I dislike kids, but simply because I don’t want to be constrained,” says Linh. She feels fortunate that her family instilled in her the belief in gender equality from a young age, believing that whatever boys can do, girls can do too.

Phạm Đình Tuyên, a 26-year-old IT worker in District 3, Ho Chi Minh City, believes that whether someone is conservative or progressive depends on the situation, but if he were to weigh it, it might be a ratio of 6 to 4 in favor of conservatism. As a tech person, he’s always open to new technologies, being one of the first in his company to use ChatGPT. However, Tuyên acknowledges that he’s somewhat conservative in certain aspects.

For instance, Tuyên feels uncomfortable when faced with a girl smoking heavily in front of him. Once, while out drinking, Tuyên’s friend brought along a female colleague who was around 24 or 25 years old and kept smoking throughout the gathering. Moreover, she engaged in conversations about love and sex that made Tuyên blush several times.

Nguyễn Ngọc Lân, a 20-year-old student at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City), identifies himself as progressive. Faced with new trends and perspectives, Lân says he always tries to understand them rather than prematurely judging or criticizing.

Regarding movements like #MeToo, Lân sees significant value in them, aiding many women and children worldwide in combating harassment. Similarly, when it comes to leadership capabilities between genders, faced with various opinions suggesting men are more capable, Lân believes both genders are equally capable; it’s about demonstrating those abilities to others.

Observing his Gen Z peers, Lân senses that there are seemingly more progressive individuals, both male and female. However, some of Lân’s friends seem unable to adapt promptly to societal changes, as Lân puts it, “imposing century-old beliefs onto modern times.”

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