In early October, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani suggested on ABC’s “This Week ” that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was “better for the US” than Hillary Clinton because he was a man.
A belief in traditional norms is not a new phenomenon for the Republican Party, which draws much of its support from religious and social conservatives, according to data taken from the American National Election Studies.
But according to a recent report from the Harvard Business Review, Trump’s candidacy may have brought about a new phenomenon: a sharp increase in the number of men saying they face gender discrimination.
A major factor driving perceptions of discrimination among white men – the majority of whom lean Republican– is the idea that rights and privilege are “zero-sum,” meaning that when one group gains rights or privileges, another must lose them.
At least 41% of Republican men report feeling a “moderate” or “great deal” of gender discrimination this election cycle, compared to 27% of Democratic men who feel the same, according to the report, which drew data from the American National Election Studies. Comparatively, 33% of men overall say they feel the same.
The percentage of Republican men who reported feeling significant gender discrimination has increased in between election cycles. In 2012, 9% of Republican men reported substantial gender discrimination; in 2016 it’s 18%.
The number of Democratic men reporting gender discrimination dropped, from 11% to 10%, while the number of independent men rose, from 10% to 14%.
The rise in Republican men feeling discriminated against can be attributed to two factors, according to Dan Cassino, an associate professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the author of the report.
Statistically, lower-income, less-educated white men skew Republican, Cassino told Business Insider. That demographic, he says, has historically enjoyed the most privilege economically and in society, often in the form of high-wage, low-skill jobs, like those in mining and manufacturing, industries that have seen significant job losses in recent years.
While attitudes about gender discrimination likely took root before this year, Trump’s rhetoric has “activated” this key demographic’s grievances, Cassino said. There is a strong correlation between the belief that men are being discriminated against and support for Trump, the report said. Hillary Clinton’s presence at the top of the ticket is also “likely raising hackles among men concerned that women are taking over society,” it added.
A zero-sum game?
A 2011 Harvard Business School study found that whites linked increases in racial equality with subsequent increases in antiwhite bias. A 2006 study found that whites were likely to see actions taken to improve the welfare of minorities as coming at their expense.
This year, a similar phenomenon appears to be playing out among men across a number of issues – notably North Carolina’s Republican-backed “bathroom law.” A poll conducted by Elon University in North Carolina found that men and whites supported HB2 more than women and blacks in the state.
“There’s no reason to believe that transgender people’s bathroom use is hurting people who are not transgender. But the over-generalization of zero-sum discrimination leads people – particularly heterosexual white men – to believe that it’s hurting them in some way even when it’s not,” Cassino said.
Other affected issues include mandatory employer coverage of contraception and parental-leave laws, according to the HBR report, which found that men who perceive gender discrimination were more likely to oppose such measures.
The concept of zero-sum discrimination is far more pronounced when discussing things such as parental-leave policies or contraception access, where men lose nothing but, because of their traditional view of gender roles, they are more likely to oppose those policies anyway, Cassino said.
The “logic of the zero-sum approach is unforgiving: Anything that helps women must also be hurting men,” the report says.
What constitutes discrimination
When Cassino and other researchers asked male respondents why they felt discriminated against, many said they were more likely to get speeding tickets or expected to hold doors open for women.
Typical gender-discrimination issues often brought up by women include fears of rape and sexual assault, or the difference in pay between men and women.
Cassino says that the “trivial examples” brought up by male respondents highlight the variable definition of discrimination and how a privileged group such as white men can equate two things that are obviously unequal – like speeding tickets and fear of rape.
“In many areas, men have been so privileged for so long that fair treatment feels like a loss,” Cassino said. “In cases like this, men are losing out, but only relative to the extremely privileged position that they held before.”
The idea that what men perceive to be discrimination is not discrimination but others reaching more equal status is backed by numerous studies.
In one study conducted by Australian researchers Dale Spender and Elizabeth Sarah and outlined in their book “Learning to Lose: Sexism and Education,” a male science teacher created a classroom environment in which girls and boys contributed equally to class discussions. Even though both girls and boys spoke for equal or nearly equal amounts of time, the teacher felt that he had devoted 90% of his attention to the girls, and male students said they felt like the girls had gotten “too much” talking time.
In the book “Gender and Conversational Interaction,” Canadian researchers Deborah James and Janice Drakich reviewed 63 studies to examine the amount that American women and men talk in multiple contexts and found that women spoke more than men in only two of those studies.
In other scenarios as well, like debates and seminars, men often report that women are hogging all the speaking time, even though both men and women spoke equally.
This perception was exemplified during the second presidential debate, in October, when Trump repeatedly interrupted Clinton and the moderators, claiming that she was getting more speaking time than he was. At one point he described the debate as “one on three.” After the debate, it was found that Trump spoke for slightly longer than Clinton, despite his saying that she was allowed more time.
Because of their perception of gender discrimination as zero sum, the more that men feel they are being discriminated against on the basis of gender, the less likely they are to acknowledge discrimination against women, the report concluded.