Why I’m Worried About The Rise Of Liberal Young Women
By Freya India
A recent survey by the American Enterprise Institute reveals that liberalism is on the rise among women within my generation, Gen Z. Now 46% of white Gen Z women identify as liberal, compared to only 28% of white Gen Z men.
This gender gap has been widening for a while. Over the past two decades, the political profiles of young men and women remained pretty stable, but in recent years women have shifted significantly to the left. In the US, 44% of young women identified as liberal in 2021 compared to 25% of young men — up from 30% of women and 27% of men a decade ago; the biggest gender gap in 24 years of polling. It’s a similar story in the UK.
This isn’t just girls becoming left-wing. What this is, increasingly, is girls and young women being drawn to this newer offshoot of liberalism—wokeness, social justice culture, whatever we want to call it—and lurching to the left around the time this ideology took hold. By which I mean an ideology obsessed with identity; convinced that everything is socially constructed; supportive of censorship, and wedded to the core belief of liberalism that we must all be liberated from cultural norms and traditions.
Why is this happening?
One explanation is that women now far outnumber men at universities, where left-leaning and liberal academics dominate. We’re also more likely to study the social sciences and humanities, where professors lean further left than STEM subjects. Young men, meanwhile, are abandoning higher education in droves.
Personality differences may also play a part. Our current social justice culture seems to me to appeal to traits more common among women than men. “Cancel culture” campaigns, for example, can be seen as indirect forms of aggression, a strategy favoured by females. Safetyism also appears to be a typically female trait, with women tending to be more risk-averse than men. Plus political correctness is best predicted by trait agreeableness, which women consistently score higher in. We are also much more conformist.
Another major part of this is social media. Take those natural tendencies of girls and women and add to them algorithms designed to track our interests and deliver targeted content to our devices. Some feeds evolve into endless reels of social justice activism and progressive politics, becoming more extreme to boost engagement. You may have started out being a bit worried about climate change but by the time the algorithm is done with you that minor concern is a deep-seated fear of an imminent apocalypse. Perhaps you started with sympathy for oppressed groups and before you know it you’re making TikTok videos agreeing with Osama Bin Laden.
Of course this can happen with right-wing content too; feeds can just as easily become a deluge of Red Pill posts that gradually become more deranged. But as psychologist Jean Twenge notes in her book Generations, it’s liberal teen girls who are by far the most likely to say they spend 5 or more hours a day on social media.
But whatever is drawing young women to liberalism, the question now is how is this affecting them? And what does the political divide mean for relationships between the sexes?
This growing political divergence is already affecting dating preferences. In another recent survey in America, some of Gen Z girls’ biggest relationship “red flags” included their partner “listening to Joe Rogan”, “identifying as a MAGA Republican”, “saying All Lives Matter” and “believing there are two genders”. Meanwhile, Gen Z men’s top dating deal-breakers included their partner “identifying as a Communist” and “saying Black Lives Matter”.
What is more, people are increasingly unwilling to date across the political divide. 86% of Americans believe that it has become more difficult to date someone who supports the opposing party, and most would refuse to date someone with different views. This is especially true for women. Which would explain why we are seeing the rise of political signalling on dating apps like “Don’t Message Me If You’re A Tory” and "No Republicans"! Plus premium features on platforms like Bumble and Hinge, where you can filter out people based on their beliefs. Polarisation has even reached the point where we’ve got a growing market for political dating apps like “Lefty” (“the Dating App for Progressives”!) or “The Right Stuff” (“view profiles without pronouns!”)
Screenshot: @leftyapp Instagram
Modern dating is already difficult enough. Now add to it a generation diverging so far in worldviews and values that sometimes it feels as if we aren’t even inhabiting the same reality. As a result, we struggle to agree on basic concepts like gender, let alone cohere around core values enough to sustain something meaningful.
What does this mean for our future?
Marriage and birth rates are already falling fast. In the UK, more than half of women aged 34 or under are now unmarried, and the majority are now childless by their 30th birthday. In the US, too, 45% of women are predicted to be childless and unmarried by 2030.
Political polarisation will likely make this worse. Researchers warn that as finding a politically compatible partner becomes more difficult, it will push those who do marry to cross ideological lines. Which is worrying, since studies show that politically aligned couples experience greater relationship satisfaction and lower divorce rates. Stable marriages not only contribute to societal cohesion and are crucial for children’s well-being, but are a significant predictor of happiness for both men and women. In fact, research reveals falling marriage rates to be a major reason for declining national happiness in America.
What’s more, the modern liberal narrative portrays marriage and families as threats to personal freedom. It casts any form of commitment or responsibility as a constraint. And I can tell you: young women are deeply immersed in this ideology. From Instagram feminists insisting we completely ignore men, to classic fairytales being rewritten without them, to TikToks putting us off marriage, to a therapeutic culture convincing us to cut out anyone in the way of our self-actualisation, the message is the same: dump him; stay single; don’t catch feelings!
Just look at the outrage when The Washington Post recently raised concerns about political polarisation and marriage rates. Accusations included the publication being in the “pocket of the far right” for daring to promote marriage—an institution that “should not be saved” and is “antiquated bullshit.” Perhaps these attitudes partly explain why only 37% of liberals in the US are married, compared to 56% of conservatives—and why the marriage gap between liberals and conservatives is widest among young women.
But it isn’t just the gender divide that should worry us. It’s also how this liberal ideology makes girls feel. Gen Z girls are in a major mental health crisis, and as Jonathan Haidt has found, it is young liberal women who are suffering the most. In fact, 56% of liberal white women aged 18-29 have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.
One explanation for this is locus of control. Liberals tend to have a more external locus of control, meaning they feel as if their lives are governed by external forces like patriarchy or white supremacy—a perspective linked with poorer mental health outcomes. Conservatives, however, tend to think they have more control over their destinies.
As Gen Z women have become more progressive and politically active, Haidt observes that they’ve shifted psychologically. Not only have they adopted a more external locus of control (as have all of Gen Z), but embraced an ideology that encourages cognitive distortions like catastrophising and emotional reasoning. This has then caused them to become more anxious and depressed.
Which makes sense to me. Feminism today spins self-pity as empowerment. Progressives talk more about powerlessness than personal responsibility. It’s not your fault; it’s the patriarchy! It’s not your diet or lack of exercise; it’s society! Remember, it’s “literally impossible” to be a woman! Ironically, I find few things more disempowering than the modern feminist insistence that I am a badass and a girlboss while also treating me like a fragile child, reminding me to ruminate about micro-aggressions and stupid jokes and how much men hate me. No wonder girls feel out of control. No wonder they feel more negatively about their future than boys, or that over half in the US feel persistently hopeless.
What do we do about this?
What we desperately need to do is to offer young women more compelling counter-narratives. We must create spaces outside of academia and algorithms where they can explore diverse ideas. Zoomers today are simply having far fewer experiences: we are less likely to have gone on a date; to have had a job; to even spend time outside than previous generations. Teenage girls are averaging 8 hours of screen time a day. So their understanding of the world is increasingly gleaned from educational institutions, mainstream media, pop culture and their phones, where they hear the same narratives over and over.
Parents must also actively oppose ideologies that instill in girls these disempowering beliefs. That valorise victimhood; that vilify men; that present meaningful commitment as a patriarchal trap; that take detached individualism and dress it up as liberation. No more indulging this. Our priority now has to be protecting adolescent girls—who are increasingly anxious, depressed and lonely—from a demoralising and atomising ideology to which they are uniquely vulnerable.
Lastly, then: get girls off of social media. If you are a parent, delay your daughter’s entry until at least 16. These platforms not only expose her to extreme ideologies but rip her away from real life, real relationships, real resilience, and learning about the world from what she experiences, rather than what a pre-packaged ideology presents her with. Parents must work together on this, and shut it off.
Our social fabric is fraying. Girls and young women are falling apart. If we continue to immerse them in this disempowering and divisive liberal ideology, and the divergence between young men and women deepens, we can expect all this to worsen.
That’s why I’m worried. Not because girls are becoming left-wing. But because girls suffer when we sell them self-pity wrapped up as empowerment. They suffer when we bombard them with a bleak, fatalistic view of the world and of themselves. And both sexes will suffer if we pull any further apart.
We have to bridge the divide because if we don’t the future for women and for men will not be a good one. And many of us will be facing it anxious, and alone.
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