Pink for girls, blue for boys: New survey shows traditional views on gender persist

Building is a man’s job, boys shouldn’t play with dolls and women should clean the bathroom: the second Gender Attitudes Survey shows Kiwis’ perspective on gender hasn’t shifted much in two years – with a few notable exceptions.

Since the first Gender Attitudes Survey was carried out by the National Council of Women in 2017, the #Me Too and #Time’s Up movements have taken off globally.

Gender equality became a mainstay of newspaper front pages, Netflix documentaries and dinner-table conversations.

It was enough to make president of the National Council of Women, Lisa Lawrence, hopeful that attitudes about gender would have started to progress.

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So she was surprised to see from the results of the second Gender Attitudes Survey, published on Tuesday, that that hadn’t really been the case.

One-fifth of New Zealanders do not agree that gender equality is a fundamental right: no change from 2017.

But at the same time, significantly more Kiwis think gender equality has been achieved – 42 per cent in 2019 compared to 30 per cent in 2017.

High-profile women’s rights movements have had little impact on Kiwi perceptions of gender, a new survey says.

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High-profile women’s rights movements have had little impact on Kiwi perceptions of gender, a new survey says.

Lawrence said a lot of that likely had to do with Kiwi pride at having Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern do one of the most normal and extraordinary things as a woman – have a baby – while running the country.

“We’ve fallen into a level of inspiration that perhaps has brought comfort, so we’re getting a bit complacent that the job is done,” she said.

But complacency is risky, she said: “When you unpack the information underneath we still have a fair way to go”.

“New Zealanders need to be “mindful of ‘Don’t believe everything you think’,” she cautioned.

“Just because you have a thought, doesn’t mean it is real true and accurate for all New Zealanders.”

Jacinda Ardern arrives back in Wellington after six weeks maternity leave, with baby Neve and husband Clarke Gayford.

Ross Giblin/Stuff

Jacinda Ardern arrives back in Wellington after six weeks maternity leave, with baby Neve and husband Clarke Gayford.

The Gender Attitudes Survey, undertaken by Research NZ, asked 1276 Kiwis questions ranging from what jobs are suitable for women to whether girls should play rugby. It also explored ideas around consent, rape, and gender identity.

When it comes to household chores, mowing the lawn and taking the rubbish out were seen as more “masculine” chores, while cooking, grocery shopping and cleaning the bathroom were seen as women’s work.

Forty-two per cent of people said boys shouldn’t play with dolls. And while 84 per cent agreed girls are as smart as boys, 10 per cent said boys make better leaders.

In the workplace, building, farming and military roles were considered the preserve of men while women were seen as better suited to nursing and hairdressing.

President of the National Council of Women, Lisa Lawrence, speaking at a 2018 event.

Martin De Ruyter/Stuff

President of the National Council of Women, Lisa Lawrence, speaking at a 2018 event.

These results were similar to the 2017 findings. But there have been some changes in the past two years.

More people in the latest survey agreed false rape accusations are common – 35 per cent up on 29 per cent.

Lawrence called that “concerning”: “It shows that the ‘false accusation’ myth is not only persistent, but growing – despite the reality being very different.

“The reality is that under-reporting of rape is statistically a far larger problem than false accusations.”

But she also said she “takes heart” from the result, because with the attitude out in the open there was the opportunity to unpack it and educate people about the statistics.

There was also an increase in the number of people agreeing that women should have the right to choose an abortion – 72 per cent up on 66 per cent.

The survey also asked people about their attitudes towards the rainbow community. Between 76 and 82 per cent of people said they would be comfortable with gay and bisexual men and lesbian and bisexual women being part of their immediate sphere, but fewer respondents – less than 70 per cent – said they would be comfortable with transgender people in these situations.

“I think that’s really sad,” Lawrence said.

“We’re better than that. We can do better than that as a country.”

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