‘F— You, Pay Me’: American Women on Fear, Freedom, and Feminism

 A recent poll from Change Research, released two years after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision leaked to the press, shows that women feel less valued than men and feel that their rights are slipping away. But the differences in how men and women see women in the U.S.—the challenges that women face—are enormous.

Paradoxically, some women, including nearly one in three women under 35, are eschewing feminism and instead want to see a return to more traditional gender and domestic roles. 

What can pop culture, and specifically social media, tell us about women’s realities? It turns out: a lot. We dive deep into these dynamics and offer guidance to Democrats and pro-choice advocates on connecting with a broader swath of women (and men!) on a more expansive list of women’s fears and frustrations, to help elect leaders who support women’s freedom and fairness. 

Change Research polled 2,745 likely voters (1,240 men, 1,457 women) nationwide from April 17-22, 2024. 

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Unheard and Undervalued: The Reality for Black, Latina, and AAPI Women

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Key Findings

Women feel undervalued, both generally and at a personal level. 70% of women think women are valued less than men, while just 37% of men believe women are valued less. Four in five women (81%) say that they, personally, are valued less than men. Women under 35 and women of color are especially likely to feel undervalued.

The problem is getting worse. Two-thirds of women (65%) are pessimistic about the state of women’s rights and opportunities relative to men’s. The plurality of women (37%) says the gap between women’s and men’s rights was closing, but now  it’s widening again, and more than a quarter (28%) say that women have always had fewer rights than men. The majority view among men, on the other hand, is optimistic about the state of women’s rights relative to men’s. The plurality of men (37%) believes there is no difference between the rights and opportunities that men and women have today, and an additional 17% says the gap is small and closing.

Women see their slipping rights as a national problem. 60% of women (versus just 43% of men) say that women losing rights is a problem facing the U.S. today. A key concern is women losing bodily autonomy, with 56% of women (42% of men) identifying this as a problem.

Women believe that the outcome of the presidential election will impact their future wellbeing. Women are divided on what their future wellbeing will look like if Biden is re-elected: 41% say they’ll be better off, 42% say they’ll be worse off, with only 7% saying it won’t make a difference. If Trump is elected, 54% of women think they will be worse off than they are today; 48% say they will be much worse off. The 36% of women who say they’ll be better off if Trump wins frequently cite economic reasons–that the economy will fare better under Trump, and that in turn will help women. 

Many young women eschew feminism and would like to see a societal return to traditional gender and domestic roles. Two-thirds (64%) of women under 35 identify as feminists (64%), yet a quarter see feminism as extreme (25%) and believe it hurts women (23%). 

A majority (61%) of young women have seen or heard some or a lot about the trad wife movement: women who advocate online for a return to traditional gender roles in which wives are responsible for domestic tasks like homemaking and raising children. And a surprising proportion (30%) of young women embrace this societal return to traditional roles.

These young women tend to be employed (75%) and are either a parent already or considering raising children someday (73%). Nearly half (45%) are women of color, and the overwhelming majority (78%) say they personally feel valued less than men. Why, then, would these women want to go back to traditional roles? 

Some hold beliefs, often rooted in religious faith, that traditional roles reflect natural order and God’s will. But this is the exception, not the norm. When asked to describe their ideal gender or domestic role in their own life or relationships, they frequently cite caregiving as desirable, fulfilling work. I would absolutely love to be a homemaker. I do not want to give up my profession, but being a wife and mother is one of my biggest dreams. Older women who support a societal return to traditional gender roles describe the pressure and exhaustion that accompany “having it all.” It would have been better if I had been able to stay at home full time when my children were young. Instead I’ve had to juggle all of the roles, tasks, etc., and everything suffered as a result.

The trad wife trend on social media may fade, but it’s tapping into young women’s very real sentiments about the challenges of simultaneously raising a family and having a career, particularly in an economic environment that requires both partners in a couple to earn an income.

Polling was conducted online from April 17 – 22, 2024. Using Dynamic Online Sampling to attain a representative sample, Change Research polled 2,745 registered voters nationwide. Post-stratification was performed on age, gender, race/ethnicity, education, region, and 2020 presidential vote. You can see a full methodology statement here, which complies with the requirements of AAPOR’s Transparency Initiative. Members of the Transparency Initiative disclose all relevant details about our research, with the principle that the public should be able to evaluate and understand research-based findings, in order to instill and restore public confidence in survey results.

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