Gender stereotypes shape the future of young people in political participation
The study was carried out among adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 30 in Italy, as part of the Horizon 2020 project: “CATCH-EyoU. Process in the construction by young people of an active European citizenship ”.
In their research article, published in the open-access, peer-reviewed scientific journal Social Psychological Bulletin, the research team reported that it is young men who are most likely to become directly involved in politics, as they say. register with a political party, acting to influence the government. politics, contacting a politician or participating in a demonstration. On the other hand, young women prefer to opt for civic activities, such as volunteering, charities, religious initiatives, boycott, etc.
Interestingly, previous research has attributed the higher level of political participation among men to women with generally lower incomes and access to education and to the fact that they are generally more busy with household chores and in the care of the family. However, taking educational and socio-economic backgrounds into account, the new study concludes that the reason for the gender gaps is rather the role that society has instilled in survey participants from an early age.
The researchers explain that, from a cultural point of view, traits like autonomy, leadership, assertiveness and domination are considered to be men and that as such they are taught to boys by all possible channels, including family, school, peers and media. Therefore, later on, these boys are likely to feel more comfortable expressing their political views and taking action to defend them. “The results suggest that closing the gender gap in political participation requires empowering girls from an early age to exercise leadership, experience a sense of action and acquire critical awareness of the constraints and obstacles they face as women in order to overcome them. gender equality programs, participatory youth action research and girls’ empowerment projects can be used in this context, ”commented the study’s authors.
Nonetheless, gender gaps in voter turnout are effectively nonexistent, according to the study. This was true for the last European legislative elections, national legislative elections and local elections. In fact, in Italy, gender gaps in voter turnout have been negligible since women were allowed to vote. However, the reasons why women and men vote could be very different, the researchers speculate. While men may have the desire to vote simply because it is a logical part of their political behavior, in women it might instead be about exercising the stereotypical role of a woman, associated with more feelings. strong for civic duty, conscience and the propensity to obey the rules.
“The study of youth engagement is very informative, as participation at a young age is conducive to future engagement in the life course,” the team concludes. “Future research should further examine the evolution of gender differences over time, their causes and effects in younger generations, as well as their impact on political equality.” The researchers added: “While the current era of the #metoo movement suggests that gender dynamics may undergo new and promising social shifts towards greater involvement of women, existing data on the persistence of gender gaps in Youth participation – also confirmed by our results – poses important questions about the factors that determine differential preferences for specific typologies of actions by men and women. “