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Evolving Men: Initial Results from the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES)

Publisher: International Center for Research on Women, USA 2011
Author: G. Barker

The international community is increasingly viewing the engagement of men as a crucial component of achieving gender equality. Yet the question remains as to whether and to what extent the need for gender equality is understood and accepted by men themselves. In order to shed light on this question, the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES), coordinated by the International Center for Research on Women and Instituto Promundo, offers the most comprehensive analyses to date of what men think and do in relation to gender equality. This report summarises the initial results of the three-year, multi-country household survey, and offers analyses of men’s attitudes and practices on a variety of topics related to gender equality. It also includes women’s opinions of men’s behavior.

The results in this report focus on the six countries in which the survey was first carried out: Brazil, Croatia, Chile, Mexico, India, and Rwanda. It provides an initial, comparative analysis of men’s attitudes and practices across a number of aspects of their daily lives, from relationships to parenthood to the use and experience of violence. The data were obtained through random household surveys mainly based in urban settings, with the exception of Rwanda which also included rural settings. Included in the report are detailed and descriptive statistics on both methodology and results, while detailed individual country reports and more in-depth analysis will be released at future dates.

Some of the specific findings from the survey are presented toward the beginning of the report. These include that: many men report high self-esteem (with the exception of Croatia and India), yet also relatively high levels of depression and suicidal tendencies; national policies to change behaviours can work, as seen in Chile’s efforts in ‘humanising’ births and the positive impact of more men being present at delivery; there is a correlation between alcohol abuse, and attitudes favouring inequalities; and Indian men have the highest level of men who would be ashamed to have a gay son (92%), and the lowest in terms of men playing an equal or greater role in the household (16%).

The main body of the report discusses the results of the survey, beginning with information on the demographics of respondents. Results ae then discussed by theme, starting with men’s work-related stress and gender attitudes, and continuing with various aspects of men’s practices and lives: relationship dynamics; domestic duties; parenting; involvement in childborth; health practices; vulnerabilities; violence; criminal practices; transactional sex; and knowledge and attitudes about gender equality policies and laws. The final section of the report outlines the broad conclusions that can be drawn from the data:

  • Work related stress is a major factor and a common occurrence in men’s lives, predominantly through not working and/or earning enough. This is a key factor associated with use of violence, drug-use (including alcohol), and suicidal thoughts. Overcoming the all-encompassing stereotype of men acting as sole or primary provider for families is key.
  • Gender attitudes matter. The behaviour of men correlated consistently with their culturally-derived beliefs. Thus, changing beliefs through structural interventions can have a direct positive effect on individual behaviour.
  • With the possible exception of India, most men did not see gains for women as losses for men, but rather as being to the benefit of all (usually between 87-90% of respondents). This is a concept that should be promoted strongly in public education campaigns.
  • Educated men are more likely to practice gender equality behaviours in their daily lives. Generational change and cohabitation were also identified as key indicators of changing views on gender equality.
  • Childhood experiences and influences matter greatly in determining gender-equitable practices in later life. This affirms the need to focus on parenting and primary education as key areas for developing gender-equitable attitudes.
  • A sizable portion of men globally have experienced and used violence in multiple ways. The results show the need for violence prevention interventions and policies that include spaces for men to openly discuss and overcome violence they have experienced, as well as the resulting consequences such as perpetuation of violence, alcohol-abuse, and social exclusion.
  • Address the structural factors of gender equality: this requires incorporating and empathising with the structural pressures on men and boys, in ways that do not seek to justify negative behaviours but rather moves beyond superficial understandings of gender equality.