UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson has launched HeForShe with an appeal to the world to reclaim feminism and to “galvanize as many men and boys as possible to be advocates for gender equality.” Since then, more than 130,000 men, including almost 9,000 from Canada, have signed the program’s online commitment to champion women’s rights.
But how many men feel comfortable calling themselves feminist? A number of recent surveys suggest it’s more than you might think, though only after the term is defined.
The number of men and women who identified as feminist more than doubled in a 2014 YouGov/Economist survey after respondents were provided with the definition. But 37 per cent of respondents to a 2013 YouGov poll felt the word “feminist” had negative overtones, compared to 26 per cent who felt it was more positive.
A similar question was asked in the 2014 survey: Is calling someone a feminist a compliment, an insult or a neutral description? A majority considered it was a neutral description, though 26 per cent believed it an insult. Fourteen per cent who took it to be a compliment. In Canada, 15 per cent of men very strongly consider themselves feminist. (That number was found to be 25 per cent in Argentina and Italy, by way of comparison. Three per cent in Japan and German identified with the label.)
Canada is not particularly high on the list when it comes to strong female feminists either (17 per cent), but this may be because on the same survey of 15 countries Canadians were mostly likely to agree women have equality.