*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on MediaPost.
As the conversation about Gen Z — aged 20 and younger — grows, it is clear that while in some ways they deepen Millennial trends, in others they are quite different. This is particularly the case with the guys who have completely turned what we thought we knew about young men on its head.
While Millennial guys don’t tend to differentiate themselves from their female counterparts, Gen Z guys portend a return to “old school” masculinity. Millennial guys, who grew up in a “girls rule” ethos, were taught to let the girls take the lead.
Guys’ expectations were set at a low bar as to leadership and trendsetting; they were happy to follow girls’ lead on trends, attitudes, and even behaviors.
Gen Z guys are not so easily pushed out of the spotlight. They don’t think they’re better than girls (in fact they look forward to long-term relationships with strong, independent women), but they don’t think girls are better than they are. They want to be taken seriously, and they tend to look to more traditional male role models, such as grandfathers.
Across the country, college and high school guys, as part of their masculine identity, feel a responsibility to provide for a family in the future. Again, they do not want to push girls aside, but imagine a power couple dynamic where they are happy to help around the house, but also want to bring home a big paycheck.
As a whole Gen Zers are driven by success (trying to make a sharp turn from the stereotypical unemployed Millennial in their parents’ basement), but they don’t all define success similarly. According to MediaPost’s Youth IQ tracker, close to 8 in 10 guys believe a successful career is among the most important things in life; one-third strongly believes making lots of money is crucial, while less than a quarter of girls feel the same way. This monetary focus is a total reversal from Millennial guys who are on par with Gen Z girls in believing in the importance of money.
When it comes to politics, Millennial men and women are more in alignment — and are more likely to identify as moderate with a slight liberal leaning. Gen Zers are more polarized in their political opinions, driven by a conservative uptick among guys. Though few are yet old enough to vote, they are very opinionated and the middle, more neutral, voice is dropping.
This return to traditional conservatism is somewhat surprising in a time when gender fluidity and acceptance of multiple gender identities is reaching an all-time high. However, as society changes, there is often a backlash, as we are beginning to see among Gen Z guys. While more than half of Z girls agree that there are more than two gender identities, fewer than one in three guys concur. They are also significantly less likely than girls to identify as bisexual. Even those who are accepting of gender fluidity want to show that they, as individuals, still have their “man card.”