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12M Brits do not believe toxic masculinity is a problem that exists in present day society

FutureLearn and the University of Glasgow is launching a free online course to educate people on gender history as study shows that Brits feel they lack the right knowledge on gender issues


Social Learning platform FutureLearn has partnered with The University of Glasgow to launch a free online course to educate people in the UK, and across the world, on the history of gender, inequality between men and women and discrimination on the basis of sexuality. It couldn’t come at a better time as new research reveals over 8.9 million Brits say they lack knowledge on toxic masculinity along with over 7.8 million saying the same about LGBTQ+ rights.


The new course, A Global History of Sex and Gender, is live from 26th October on FutureLearn and launches after a year of policy and social change, including the news misogyny is set to be considered a hate crime by law in the UK. Other topics in the course include the #MeToo movement, abortion laws, gay and trans rights and toxic masculinity.



Across the UK, while 12 million Brits don’t believe toxic masculinity is a problem that exists in today’s society, 37 per cent of men and 52 per cent of women do believe that toxic masculinity is a big issue within present day society.


When asked about the causes of toxic masculinity, 38 per cent said a stereotypical image of what it means to be ‘masculine’ and an environment that allows for misogyny (10 per cent) are enabling toxic masculinity to keep growing.


The research also showed that almost one in five men don’t believe gender inequality is a reality that exists in society. This highlights the need for further education on gender issues in today’s world.


Dr Tanya Cheadle, Lecturer in Gender History at The University of Glasgow, that houses the UK’s largest Center for Gender History commented, “It’s fascinating that 38% of those surveyed highlighted masculine stereotypes to be a cause of ‘toxic masculinity’. History shows us that comparable ideas around masculinity and ‘manliness’ have existed throughout the past and have often had a close relationship with perpetuating inequalities – of gender, but also of sex, race and class. As learners on this course will discover, exploring how masculinity and power have worked in different historical periods and cultures provides invaluable insights on how to effect change in the present.”



More than one in five (22 per cent percent) of under 35’s believe gender inequality doesn’t exist today, compared to nearly one in three (30 per cent) of over 35’s. 23 per cent of under 35’s don’t believe toxic masculinity has ever existed while 27 per cent of over 35’s also agree that toxic masculinity doesn’t exist.



The research, commissioned by FutureLearn, also found that when asked how the issue of gender and sexual inequality should be tackled, over 1 in 4 (26 per cent) said education is the most effective method. This was closely followed by holding corporate leaders and decision-makers accountable (17 per cent), and enacting new laws (14 per cent).


Dr Tanya Cheadle is leading the charge and has developed the free course with FutureLearn to help educate learners around the world on the history of gender societal issues. It comes at a time when efforts to balance the scales have been set back due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, domestic violence rates have risen1, a right-wing US government edges closer to a second term, and lockdown has taken its toll with more women picking up housework and home-schooling2.


The course and its lecturers are aiming to highlight the history of gender and sexual inequalities across the world in the hope of educating a generation with the potential to impact change. The course will cover topics from the 1600s right up to 2020 including subjects such as reproductive justice, queer and trans history, the gender pay gap, masculinity and power, and race, sex and colonialism.


Dr Tanya Cheadle, further commented, “Gender and sexual inequality is a central issue in today’s global culture wars – from the Weinstein scandal and #MeToo, to reproductive justice and trans rights. This course provides the vital historical perspective necessary to enact meaningful social change. Reaching a wide audience through this accessible online platform allows us a real opportunity to inform and progress the conversation, sharing with a broad, international audience the very latest research on the rich and sometimes surprising history of past attitudes and activism on sex and gender.”


Along with #MeToo and reproductive justice, the four-week course covers other key topics throughout history, including the links between gender and sexual history and imperial conquest and colonization.


In four weeks, learners will be educated on the following topics;

  • Week 1: Gender and Power
  • Week 2: Sex and Intimacy
  • Week 3: Work and Care
  • Week 4: Histories of Feminism


FutureLearn, Chief Operating Officer, Dr Susannah Belcher commented,The history of gender is an incredibly important subject and we’re proud to be working with the University of Glasgow to bring topics like gender inequality, reproductive justice and toxic masculinity to our global audience. It’s only when people are educated about topics like this that they can effect positive change.”


Launching on the 26th October, the online course is available via the social learning platform and will take around four hours of weekly study over a four week period to complete, with learners able to sign up and learn at any time.


Top issues Brits don’t understand:

  • Toxic masculinity
  • LGBTQ rights
  • Employment opportunities
  • Gender based violence
  • Reproductive rights and justice
  • Sexism
  • Feminism


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2080 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th – 16th October 2020.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).


About FutureLearn

Here at FutureLearn, our purpose is to transform access to education. We do that by partnering with over a quarter of the world’s top universities to support over 14 million learners across the globe to develop skills and achieve their personal and professional goals. We’re a leading social learning platform founded in December 2012 by The Open University and are now jointly owned by The Open University in the UK and The SEEK Group. We use design, technology and partnerships to create enjoyable, credible and flexible short online courses and microcredentials, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. In addition to top universities, we also partner with leading organisations such as Accenture, the British Council, CIPD, Raspberry Pi and Health Education England (HEE), as well as being involved in government-backed initiatives to address skills gaps such as The Institute of Coding and the National Centre for Computing Education


About The University of Glasgow

The University of Glasgow has been changing the world since 1451.  It is a world top 100 university (THE, QS) with one of the largest research bases in the UK.

We are a member of the prestigious Russell Group of leading UK Universities with annual research income of more than £179m.

The University’s #TeamUofG community is truly international with over 8000 staff and 28,0000 students from more than 140 countries.

A 2019 Time Out survey placed Glasgow in the top ten cities in the world. Ranked between Berlin and Paris, Glasgow was voted number one for both friendliness and affordability.

Right now our dedicated community of staff, students and alumni is working to address the challenges of Covid-19 and understand how we can make life safer for everyone.

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