New Analysis Reveals That Progress on Gender Equality is Slow

New analysis  based on attitudes to sexual assault revealed worryingly high levels of hostility towards women. These findings help to explain why why violence against women and girls remains commonplace, and why the gender pay gap remains so hard to close.


The survey asked: “If a woman goes out late at night, wearing a short skirt, gets drunk and is then the victim of a sexual assault, is she totally or partly to blame?” Fawcett’s analysis reveals:

  • 38% of all men and 34% of all women said that she is totally or partly to blame
  • 41% of men aged 18-24 and 30% of women the same age agree
  • 14% of men aged 18-34 say she is “totally to blame”
  • Women aged over 65 were more likely to blame her, with 55% saying she is totally (5%) or partly (50%) to blame compared to 48% of men the same age.

The findings are published in the Fawcett Society’s new report, Sounds FamiliarSounds Familiar brings together qualitative data from interviews and focus groups with young women and includes a new analysis of major national survey data of over 8,000 people carried out by Survation.


Fawcett Society Chief Executive, Sam Smethers, said:

“I can think of no other crime where we are so ready to blame the victim but here women are being held responsible for the behaviour of their attacker. It is quite extraordinary and reveals just how deep-seated our readiness to blame women runs within our culture.

“This resonated with the young women we spoke to who told us about the lad culture they experience on a daily basis and the way they have to manage the situation if they are approached in a bar for example. Just saying the word ‘no’ can escalate to violence.

“But what these women called for was education not blame.  They just want things to change which is why we must have statutory age appropriate sex and relationships education across all our schools.”


The survey also finds:

A stubborn minority of men don’t want the women in their lives to have equality. Almost 1 in 5 (18%) men aged 25-34 and 14% of men aged 18-24 say that they “do not want the women in my life to have equality of opportunity with men”.

They think that they will be worse off as a result. 17% of men aged 25-34 say they would be disadvantaged if women and men were more equal and 20% of men aged 25-34 say women’s equality has “gone too far”.

While others think women are equal already. 42% of men and 25% of women aged 18-24 think women and men are equal now. This falls to 25% for men over 65 (17% for women aged over 65).

And some men are particularly hostile to feminism itself with 24% of men aged 18-24 and 33% of men aged 25-34 saying they oppose feminism, feel excluded by feminism, or think feminism is irrelevant.


The Fawcett Society also points to evidence to suggest that younger men in particular are also more likely to describe themselves as feminist. The survey suggests this generation in particular holds polarised views about women’s equality and feminism.

Sam Smethers concludes:

“Far from being an entirely negative picture, we also see that the majority of young men are allies for women and for feminism.

“Young men are also as likely as young women to be looking for flexibility and thinking about how they combine work and family life. They can see that addressing these inequalities will help them too. We have to make common cause with them and isolate those who would hold us all back.”


The report includes findings from qualitative work which identified three main issues that are important to young women: gender norms and stereotypes are holding them back; sexual harassment and lad culture are an everyday occurrence; and identity matters.


Data tables can be found here and here.




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