London - Most young women strongly object to being called a feminist – and say that they like men, say state-funded researchers.
In fact, they believe that the aims of the feminist movement have all but been achieved in the Western world.
Rather than supporting a movement for new rights and equality, they admire the notion of femininity.
The study, funded by the taxpayer-supported Economic and Social Research Council, was based on in-depth interviews with groups of young women in both Britain and Germany. It said that women who disliked feminism were reacting against the notion of man-hating and un-feminine campaigners.
Researcher Dr Christina Scharff of King’s College, London, said: “The term feminism provokes unease and even hostility.
“Young women want to be treated equally and are aware of gender inequalities. Yet, even in countries that see themselves as being progressive on gender and sexuality, the term is often met with suspicion.”
Dr Scharff said the young women she spoke to were from varied and different backgrounds, but were united in rejecting feminism.
“They thought there was no need for it any more. Instead, they thought individual freedom of action was much more important and that they could deal with any discrimination they came across on their own.”
The report is the latest in a number of studies which have found that feminism – which remains a major influence on politicians and on broadcast media – is unpopular among a large proportion of women.
Two years ago a consortium of pressure groups including the feminist Fawcett Society and political freedom campaigners Amnesty International found that fewer than four out of ten women had ever experienced derogatory treatment because of their sex.
It is more than a decade since Tony Blair’s government launched a research project into bias against women at work that admitted it could find no evidence of any discrimination.
The Scharff report said: “Increased opportunities to work and to decide when to have children allowed contemporary women to see themselves as empowered individuals who have benefited from social changes.”
Those women who think women in poorer countries are passive victims of oppression take it as evidence that they are not oppressed themselves, the study added.
It said: “In rejecting feminism, women are often seeking to position themselves within conventional norms of femininity and heterosexuality.
“Although none of the participants could point to specific individuals, most still viewed pioneers of gender equality as lesbian, man-hating feminists.”
Despite Dr Scharff’s findings, a separate study found that women in the UK are less likely to be in work, experience lower job security and greater pay inequality than their counterparts in other developed countries.
The UK was ranked 18th out of 27 OECD countries in 2011 on five indicators of female economic empowerment, in a report by PwC. Progress has stalled since the beginning of the credit crunch in 2007. - Daily Mail