Who is a feminist in the West in 2023? That all depends on the question

Joanna MorrisData Journalist
March 08, 2023, 8:22 AM GMT+0

People from across Europe are notably more likely to agree with the principles of feminism than they are to describe themselves as feminist

To mark International Women’s Day, the global spotlight will shift to the issue of female equality and the people from all corners of the world fighting tirelessly to achieve it.

The dictionary definition of feminism defines it as the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way.

YouGov Eurotrack + US research finds that the vast majority of people agree with the concept. However, when asked directly ‘are you a feminist?’, fewer than half of the public in the seven different Western European countries and America say that they are.

Respondents in seven different countries were randomly asked one of three questions to determine whether or not they identify as feminist.

One group was directly asked if they were feminist (the ‘word-only’ group) while the another was asked if men and women should have equal rights and status in society (the ‘definition-only’ group).

A third group was told the definition of feminism is believing that men and women should have equal rights and status in society and then asked whether or not they are feminist (the ‘definition+word’ group).

Within the word-only group, between 15% and 48% of respondents are willing to say they are a feminist.

When it comes to the definition-only group, the large majority of respondents in all countries (between 74% and 91%) say they think men and women should be equal in every way.

When presented with the ‘definition+word’ question, between 45% and 77% of respondents in that group say they’re feminist.

Germans are more likely to reject the word feminism

Respondents in Germany are least likely to say they’re feminist when asked a question with the word in it – just 15% of the ‘word-only’ and 45% of the German ‘definition+word’ respondents say they’re feminist.

However, when presented with the ‘definition-only’ question, Germans are at least as likely as respondents from other countries to say they think men and women should be equal in every way – 83% believe so.

The Spanish are most likely to say directly that they’re feminist

Around half of the Spanish respondents in the ‘word-only’ group (48%) say they are feminist, significantly higher than those from other countries (between 15% and 38%).

And the French ‘definition+word’ group are most likely to say they are feminist when presented with our definition, at 77% compared to between 45% and 72% of respondents from elsewhere.

In Britain, the genders and generations differ in their willingness to describe themselves as a feminist

Here in Britain, women are clearly more likely than men to be willing to describe themselves as feminist. Among those who were asked simply “are you a feminist” the number of women saying yes is substantially higher than the number of men (42% vs 24%), and slightly higher for those given the definition before being asked (67% vs 60%).

There is also a generational divide, when it comes to the ‘word-only’ results, with 18-29 year olds significantly more likely to outright describe themselves as a feminist (48%) compared to those in the 30s, 40s and 50s age groups (32-36%) and especially the over-60s (25%).

This generational difference disappears for the ‘definition+word’ question, although younger Britons are slightly more reluctant to say they think men and women should be equal in every way for the ‘definition-only’ question.

This difference is down to young men in particular, with only 67% of 18-29 year old men saying they think men and women should be treated equally in every way, compared to 78-89% of men in older age groups, and 83% of women in the same age group. This is in part because they are more likely to answer don’t know (18%), but 15% nevertheless say men and women should not be treated equally.

Young women in Britain are particularly likely to describe themselves as a feminist outright, at 67% when asked the ‘word-only’ question. This stands in contrast to 33-44% of women in older age groups. Among men asked this question, there is virtually no age difference from age groups ranging 18-59 (26-28%), although men aged 60 and older are even less likely to say they are feminist (17%).

Picture: Getty

See full tables here