Research by CRRC-Georgia suggests people are less likely to understand what feminism is and have a less positive view of it than the other similar terms about gender equality.
The terms ‘gender equality’ and ‘feminism’ are increasingly used in public discourse in Georgia. In 2010, Georgia passed a law on gender equality. Popular TV shows often discuss the topic, and Georgia’s Public Defender reports on the issue. Yet, survey data shows that Georgians often appear not to understand what gender equality means.
In October 2014, the CRRC/NDI survey asked the population whether they thought that there was gender equality in Georgia or not. Only a fifth of respondents said there was, though twice as many people reported that women and men in Georgia have equal opportunities to succeed in any field.
Even though they touch on the same subject, the difference between the answers to these questions is significant, suggesting a misunderstanding in what the population understands by the term ‘gender equality’.
The CRRC/NDI December 2017 survey asked whether people had positive or negative associations towards gender equality, equality between men and women, and feminism, two terms that basically mean the same thing and another that means advocating for the other two.
The data shows that the majority of Georgia’s population has positive associations towards ‘equality between men and women’ and ‘gender equality’. However, they have more negative than positive associations with the term ‘feminism’. An even larger share is uncertain about what types of associations they have with the term feminism.
People of different genders, age, and levels of education report similar associations towards equality between men and women, with a majority indicating positive associations towards the expression. A slightly smaller share of the population of the capital reports positive associations compared to those living in other urban and rural settlements. In ethnic minority settlements, even smaller shares hold positive attitudes and more say they don’t know whether their associations are negative or positive.
A similar situation is observed with the term ‘gender equality’. While there are no differences by gender, age, and education level, a smaller share of the population of the capital report positive attitudes, compared to those living in other urban and rural settlements. Moreover, an even smaller proportion of people from ethnic minority settlements say they have positive attitudes and more than 40% say they don’t know if their associations are positive or negative.
As for the term feminism, there is more variance in people’s attitudes across various demographic groups. People over 55 indicate more frequently that they don’t know if their associations are positive or negative compared to younger people. People from rural areas and minority settlements are much more likely to say they don’t know if they have positive or negative associations.
The difference is especially visible when comparing people with different levels of education. Forty-seven per cent of people with secondary or lower education indicate they don’t know if their associations are negative or positive, while 40% of people with secondary technical education and only 25% of people with tertiary education state the same. People with tertiary education are more capable of providing a response compared to those with lower levels of education.
People have more positive associations with the expression ‘equality between men and women’ and less positive associations with ‘feminism’. In all demographic groups, people have the least clear attitudes towards feminism, frequently responding they don’t know what associations they have with the term.
Why this might be a case?
One albeit speculative explanation hints to the relative novelty of the idea of feminism in Georgia’s public discourse. Even though feminism implies equal rights for men and women, the explicit accent on one gender might trigger negative attitudes.
At the same time, heated verbal exchanges which often accompany televised discussions on gender equality are unlikely to help create positive associations with feminism. Nevertheless, this is only speculation and further research could clarify why people are less likely to have an opinion about feminism or be positive about it.
Tsisana Khundadze is a Senior Researcher at CRRC-Georgia. The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not reflect the views of the National Democratic Institute, CRRC-Georgia, or any related entity.
The data used in this article is available here.