How different are young men & women?

Ariadne Vromen

In research I've done on young people I found that, in general, adversarial, party-based politics has little appeal. But this is the same for all Australians, not just young people. However, group-based, both community-oriented and activist groups, attract more young people - and now significantly more young women than young men choose these types of political involvement (Vromen 2003).

This progressive potential has also been found in Clive Bean's study of research on voting patterns in the last federal election, where 18-30 year old women were significantly more likely to vote for ALP and/or The Greens, and young men significantly more likely to vote Liberal (ABC News online 2005).

Young women are being found more socially progressive than young men on a range of social issues, including supporting gay marriage, and opposing the War in Iraq.

Some youth studies researchers, though, have argued that gender doesn't shape our lives in the same way anymore, as young people have reached a point of androgyny, traditional gender roles are out of date and thus young men and women now think the same about their roles in both paid and caring work.

There is some evidence that attitudes towards gendered parenting roles have become more gender neutral, though actual parenting practice clearly has not. This androgyny emphasis has also been contradicted recently by Chilla Bulbeck's (2004) study with Australian young people that found young women expect future equality with men in the distribution of paid work and caring work but young men expect traditional gender roles to prevail, where they go to work and have a wife and kids at home.

In my own research, I asked young people how often they spoke about a broad range of political issues including federal and local politics, environmental issues, workplaces and unions.