OGH Research

Jun 22
Men’s health – worthy of investment?

A recent plan at the Leeds Becket University to close down their Centre for Men’s Health has created discussion, and even a petition, among researchers. I have joined it. What is needed is a follow up of this research, not a close down.

My own research shows that there are large, but so far not so much realized health benefits for men as well as children and women in terms of gender equality. These benefits emerge as clear macro trends, as well as in survey and interview studies. Other recent studies have strengthened this picture.

Not only are the health outcomes for men more positive in gender-equal countries, with gender equality as an independent factor across e g income level and income equality. Also, the social perception of men, according to experimental psychology, is more favorable – men are seen in a more positive light, in more gender equal countries.

See Holter, Øystein Gullvåg 2014:  “What’s in it for Men?”: Old Question, New Data. Men and Masculinities 17(5), 515-548; Krys, Kuba, Capaldi, Colin, et al 2017: Catching up with wonderful women: The women-are-wonderful effect is smaller in more gender egalitarian societies. International Journal of Psychology, 2017. DOI: 10.1002/ijop.12420

The petition is reproduced here:

Researchers Protest against Shutdown of
Leeds Centre for Men’s Health

It is with dismay and concern that we have learnt that it is planned to close the Centre for Men’s Health at Leeds Beckett University in August 2017. This is a huge setback not only for gender studies and critical research on men and masculinities, but for medical, sociological and psychological research as a whole. The Centre has a very high reputation on the European level and beyond.

We have collaborated in very fruitful ways with researchers in the Centre on the issues of men’s health and its connections to gender equality, violence prevention, and the enhancement of well-being for all genders. The Centre’s fantastic work on the Report “The State of Men’s Health in Europe” was ground-breaking: for the first time, data on men’s health in all European countries were analysed in a comprehensive and comparative way. Its results show the high costs that some forms of masculinity, men’s lifestyles and the lack of care bring to men themselves.

We gather that the reason for the closure is that the University seeks to restructure on economic grounds. Thus, the benefits of work of the Centre for Men’s Health, and indeed its overall social and economic value seem to be underrated. Indeed, even seen narrowly in these terms, its important work brings economic and cost savings for the wider society, the city, region and community, public services, businesses and civil society well beyond the University.

There are many good reasons to keep and develop the Centre for Men’s Health:  Men’s health issues are about to become not only more recognized, but also more relevant. They are not only related to health itself, but to gender and gender (in-)equality in society (also because of the impact of men’s poor health on women and children), to social innovation and to social development. Moreover, research has revealed a need for cross-disciplinary cooperation on methodological development, for example in terms of improved health variables in other research, and vice versa, in terms of improving health variables and indexes from gender and gender equality studies.

The Centre has proved to be an excellent partner in all these discussion and areas of research. We hope that there will be ways to continue its work. We ask the representatives of Leeds Beckett University to revise their decision and help to sustain the work of the Centre for Men’s Health!

June 22, 2017

Dr. Paco Abril Morales, Girona. Dr. Gary Barker, Washington DC. Mag.a Nadja Bergmann, Vienna. Dr. Marc Gärtner, Berlin & Graz. Professor Emeritus Jeff Hearn, Ph.D., Helsinki. Professor Dr. Philos. Øystein Gullvåg Holter, Oslo. Dr. Majda Hrzeniak, Ljubljana. Dr. Ralf Puchert, Berlin. Mag.a Elli Scambor, Graz. Dr. Christian Scambor, Graz. doc. PhDr. Iva Šmídová, Ph.D, Brno.







May 10
Men and masculinities – research news

Four news from the research front line…


Images Mena cover 2

The International men and gender equality survey (IMAGES) has recently been made in four Arabic countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine). The IMAGES survey model, developed from 2009 onwards, is partly based on the Norwegian model in the 2007 (Likestilling og livskvalitet – Gender Equality and Quality of Life) survey, adapted to international use especially in the south world, now further developed in an Arabic version. The Economist writes about the study:


The study can be found here:



IMAGES has developed the original Norwegian model internationally. At the same time, it has been developed in a European context.

Geq consortium logosThe first results from a Polish-Norwegian project (Gender equality and quality of life) are now published. A representative survey was made in Poland 2015, combined with qualitative research. The aim was not just to address the most pressing issues of men and masculinities (like IMAGES), but to improve the general mapping of gender in/equality in society and culture. The model was adapted to the more “gender conservative” (in some ways) context of Poland. Two books will be published from the project.  Now, the “European blueprint” and “guide” have been published. This is a proposal for a European-wide follow-up study, based on the Poland/Norway testing.


The first book has just been published, describing the the project and the new research developments.



The second book, with detailed Poland results, will be published soon.


Other research fields and groups are starting to pick up the results, and develop the gender equality and masculinities dimensions in their own ways. This includes an international experimental psychology study:

Krys, Kuba, Capaldi, Colin, et al 2017: Catching up with wonderful women: The women-are-wonderful effect is smaller in more gender egalitarian societies. International Journal of Psychology, 2017. DOI: 10.1002/ijop.12420

The results indicate that the perception of men is more positive in relatively gender-equal countries. In a related experimental study, the researchers find that threat and vulnerability (male role pressure) lowers men’s support for gender equality:

Natasza Kosakowska-Berezecka, Tomasz Besta, Krystyna Adamska, Michal Ja´ skiewicz, Pawel Jurek, Joseph A. Vandello 2016: If My Masculinity is Threatened I Won’t Support Gender Equality? The Role of Agentic Self-Stereotyping in Restoration of Manhood and Perception of Gender Relations. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 17, 3, 274 –284

In another new study, in the US, researchers investigated the role of the “zero sum perspective” on gender equality – the idea that men will lose what women gain, in terms of gender equality. The results show that social dominance and sexism factors are linked to the zero sum perspective, and that men endorse this perspective more than women.  Cf Joelle C. Ruthig, Andre Kehn, Bradlee W. Gamblin, Karen Vanderzanden, Kelly Jones 2017:
When Women’s Gains Equal Men’s Losses: Predicting a Zero-Sum Perspective of Gender Status. Sex Roles 76, 17-26


The internationally renowned masculinities researcher James Messerschmidt gave a presentation of “revised” hegemonic masculinity theory, at a well-visited seminar arranged by the Centre for Gender Research, University of Oslo, May 3, titled

Going into the theory development in depth, Messerschmidt described how it has led to a more nuanced, open view, which is complex, but also more precise than the sometimes “vulgarized” versions of the theory. This was followed by critical and constructive debate, with students as well as senior researchers participating. A summary and comment on the seminar, by professor Hanne Haavind, has been published at the center’s web site:




Apr 11
Gender equality – the hidden variable

For many years now, we have heard how men do this and women do that.

Men and women are different.

For example, men are more violent than women.

Only recently has research introduced gender in/equality as a control variable, regarding these proclaimed gender differences.

The results are dramatic.

Introducing the gender equality variable unsettles much of what we think we know about gender.

For example:

In the 2007 “Gender equality and quality of life” survey (in Norway), almost 2800 respondents answered questions about their childhood home. During the time of their childhood reports, the rate of violence against children generally became lower.

Violence Norway 2007Across this period,  gender equality, more than gender, influenced the chance of violence against children. “Who decided at home” (wh0 had the final say) was used as indicator of gender equality.

norway gender equality and violenc

Gender inequality, even more than gender, influenced the chance of violence against children.

Father-dominated homes had almost three times the rate of violence against children, compared to gender-equal homes, in the 1940-2000 period covered by the study. Women-dominated homes were in the middle. Gender-equal homes, where the parents decided equally, had the lowest rate of violence.

Those who decided at home were also the ones most likely to use violence.

Generally, men were more often involved in the use of violence and physical punishment of children, but this varied strongly with the state of gender equality in the home. In mother-led homes, women were slightly more involved than men.

LL07 vold vs utøver


The impact of gender equality remained strong, controlling for education and other social factors.

In most of today’s research, gender equality is not used as a variable – the evidence is at best divided by gender, or it is just presented as gender-neutral.

The above example shows the need to correct that situation. By neglecting gender in/equality, research is missing the true picture.

Recently, a Poland survey has confirmed the basic pattern found in the Norway 2007 survey.

In Poland, also, lack of gender equality among the parents approximately doubles the chance of violence against children. Even if Norway and Poland are different in many respects, including different views of gender, these basic results are much the same.

Violence against children is just one area where gender equality has an impact.

Other areas, more focused in recent research, include education, health, quality of life, social perception and social stigma.

Dec 29
Trotsky: History of the Russian revolution

I started my Christmas holiday with some new crime novels. This one, however, got the best of them. By accident I pulled it out from my book shelf, I had not read it since the early 1970s – and it got a hold on me. Much more exciting than the crime novels.

Trosky Leon History of the Russian Revolution

The excitement comes from the real-world historical drama, not a construed plot, from the detail, and from the way the author digests and analyses the detail. There is no doubt, this is a great mind at work. The world would have been a better place, if Trotsky instead of Stalin had followed Lenin, in the Soviet Union. I have critical points too, but for now, my message is just, read it.




Dec 29
The drama of inequality

How come capitalism does not work out, or only partially, according to the textbook rules of universalist free market competition and meritocracy? How come capitalism even in relatively gender-equal countries has stabilized at a two thirds income rule for women, compared to men? Why is inequality and discrimination still so common in global working life? Starting from practical, everyday experiences, my new book project will focus on the hows and whys of social inequality, especially, what can be known, using gender inequality as a “lens” or focus element. I want to go beyond broad exclamations that gender oppression is  “closely linked to” or “intersectional” with other oppression forms like race and sexuality, or that different oppression forms tend to strengthen each other. Sometimes, they don’t. Instead, reduction of one form of oppression is bought at the cost of increase in another form. Current Western gender regimes that offer more gender equality to the upper middle class at the cost of harder ethnic oppression is a case in point. There is a substitute effect. In my book I will highlight the broader structural background of current gender issues, and how the struggle for gender equality becomes important, even if partly overlooked. My text will be critical. I think we have been seriously misguided.

Dec 04
A 1999 overview of my research

In 1999, professors R. W. Connell, Jorunn Solheim and Dag Østerberg evaluated my research. The main part of their evaluation is presented below.

Competence evaluation of Øystein Gullvåg Holter (excerpts)

“March 1999
“Øystein Gullvåg Holter applied in December 1997 for a competence evaluation as researcher I (professorial level) at the Work Research Institute. On the basis of the application an evaluation committee was appointed in February 1998, consisting of:
professor Dag Østerberg, Oslo
professor Robert Connell, University of Sydney
professor Jorun Solheim, The Work Research Institute, Oslo (WRI)
The recommendations of the committee are unanimous.”
“The evaluation has been conducted in accordance with the WRI rules for competence evaluation. These rules state that the competence level for a researcher I-position shall be comparable to that of a university professor.”
“As a scholar, Øystein Gullvåg Holter has produced an extensive amount of publications. His CV consists of 13 book titles or more extensive publications, and about 90 papers. The overall scope of the entire production is quite remarkable. The work covers a broad field of theoretical as well as empirical research”.

Evaluation of selected publications

Gender, Patriarchy and Capitalism. A Social Forms Analysis
“This is Holter’s doctoral dissertation, submitted for the dr. philos. degree at the University of Oslo, october 1997. The thesis is an extensive attempt to integrate a theory of patriarchy with an analysis of gender and economic relations.”
“It is without doubt an important work of scholarship, and probably one of the most sophisticated attempts yet to integrate a theory of patriarchy with the analysis of gender and capitalism. A particular strength is the extraordinary scope of the analysis, the inclusiveness of the theoretical argument, and the interweaving of theoretical analysis with empirical research. It is also a highly original and innovative work.” “At the same time, the dissertation presents several difficulties (..) the work presents itself as too much of an enigma to the reader (..) it is exploring rather than systematic.”.
“The overall impression of the thesis is that of a highly original and inventive contribution to social theory. The work has great potential, and should, given a further treatment in the direction of a more accessible and less all-inclusive argument, deserve wide recognition. The committee can therefore without difficulty endorse the former doctoral committee’s unanimous acceptance of Holter’s dissertation.”

Family Theory Revisited
“The paper is a fine contribution in the genre Holter is very good at – the reconfiguration of a field of ideas, based on an assembly of detailed empirical studies.”

Work, Gender and the Future
“The paper is well-formulated, reads clearly, and shows Holter’s ability to condense and translate complex issues into a clear argument, without losing sight of the intricacies of this complexity.”

Catering for the Oil
“An instructive and well written piece of industrial sociology, which describes and analyses working life and work conditions on Norwegian offshore oil platforms.” “As an integrated study on the structure of work, labour processes and community formation it has great merit, and it also testifies to Holter’s skill as an empirical researcher.”

Men’s Life Patterns (Menns livssammenheng)
“The text conveys stongly the contradictory elements of emotional relations which characterize men in contemporary family/work settings, and nicely complements the more economic focus in other works.”

Authoritarianism and Masculinity
“Strongly confirms the relevance of authoritarianism for contemporary social research, making the paper an admirable case of ’continuity in research’. The paper deserves publication for a much wider audience”.

“Taken together, these texts may be said to constitute the work of an exceptionally versatile sociologist on a high academic level. They document an unusual capacity for intellectual synthesis and mastery of a range of research methods and styles. Through these texts, Holter comes across as a very competent scholar, who combines theoretical brilliance with a deep concern with the practical relevance of social science.”
“A common requirement for awarding professorial competence, is that the candidate should have an academic production comparable to two doctoral dissertations. Even if these requirements are not always taken literally, the committee find that they should not pose any problem in this case. Taken together, the group of publications submitted apart from the dr. philos thesis, make up a body of work that combines the theoretical scope and empirical content equivalent to another ’dissertation’. Added to the doctoral thesis, these works should therefore, in the committee’s judgement, be quite sufficient to confer upon Øystein Gullvåg. Holter the required professorial competence.”
“The committee finds that Øystein G. Holter without doubt meets the specific WRI requirements for researcher I competence, and that he is very well qualified for such a position.”

Oslo/Sydney 8.3. 1999

Dag Østerberg Robert W. Connell Jorun Solheim
(sign.) (sign.) (sign.)

Nov 29
They laughed at me

It is only recently that I have found a 2006 publication of the Radical economy network (RØST) in Norway. This is an anthology with excellent contributions from economists like Charlotte Koren, Hilde Bojer and Erling Barth. In my view, it mainly shows the relative negligence of material and economic approaches, even in the Norway welfare state development.

The welfare state proponents tend to argue that gender inequality is not their doing. It only came along due to tradition. Realities were different.

“When the results of the first time use study came in the middle of the 1970s and showed that the work input was of a similar size as the industrial work input, my male colleagues in Statistics Norway laughed at me in a rejecting way. Everyone knew that women who were at home did nothing, so this had to be wrong” (Koren 2007: 27, my trans).


Charlotte Koren, Husholdsarbeid [Household work]. In: Clarhall, Jenny; Stensbak, Helle, eds 2006: RØST: Kvinner og cash 2006-01 [Women and cash], Radikalt økonominettverk (Network of radical economists), c/o For velferdsstaten, Oslo, www.okonominettverket.no


Nov 17
Economic change needed for gender equality – new reports

Evidence is building up in support of a critical materialist view of gender inequality. Already in 2008, a Norwegian parliamentary report concluded that the wage gap between the genders had scarcely changed, over the last three decades – despite a lot of other change, regarding gender (NOU 2008:6 Kjønn og lønn).

Kjonn og lonn NOU 2008 small

(Norwegian 2008 report cover  – illustrating the gender gap in wages)

In 2010 a Nordic region comparison of gender equality in politics and the economy found much greater change in politics. The more private the economy, the lower the degree of gender equality (Niskanen etc 2010).

Now, international reports confirm the picture.

The new Global Gender Gap Index report 2014 shows changes over the nine years since the index was first made in 2006. While politics shows a rapid pace of change (although starting from a lower level of gender equality), the economy shows almost a standstill. Women’s share of earnings, for example, has not increased (WEF 2014).

A new OECD report concludes that “despite political statements about the importance of women’s economic empowerment, donor investments in women’s economic empowerment have remained flat and unchanged since 2007. Out of a total of USD 5.5 billion on average per year to women’s economic empowerment in 2011 and 2012, only USD 469 million targeted gender equality as a principal objective. This represented a low 2% of the bilateral aid going to women’s economic empowerment. There is a gap between what donors say they do and what they are actually doing” (OECD 2014:2).


NOU 2008:6 Kjønn og lønn. Fakta, analyser og virkemidler for likelønn [Gender and wages. Facts, analyses and methods for gender-equal wages] NOU 2008:6 [parliamentary report]. Departementenes servicesenter, Oslo

Niskanen, Kirsti; Nyberg, Anita eds: Køn och makt i Norden [Gender and power in the Nordic region]. Del 2: Sammanfattande diskussion och analys. Nordisk Ministerråd, København 2010.

WEF 2014: The global gender gap report 2014, cf. http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2014/report-highlights/

OECD 2014: Financing the unfinished business of gender equality and women’s rights: priorities for the post-2015 framework. OECD DAC Network on Gender Equality, OECD (internet publication, March 2014)


Nov 16
Getting ill from divorce?

In Norway, now, there is a debate on sick leave – why is it so much higher for women, than for men.

A new report finds that divorce has a big effect on sick leave, especially at the time of the divorce, but later also. The long term higher sick leave effect of breakup or divorce is largest among women with children (Bakken, Jonas Blich; Haug, Anne Kari: Blir syke av skilsmisser. Dagens Næringsliv 15.11.14).

Much of this new empirical picture was shown already in a 2006 survey (Foreningen 2 Foreldre – Synovate MMI: Sorg uten blomster. En undersøkelse av omfanget av sykefravær og annet fravær ved samlivsbrudd [Sorrow without flowers. A survey of the extent of sickness leave and other leave in couple relationship break-ups]).

The 2006 survey showed that breakups and divorces are costly, in psychosocial terms, and also in economic terms, for employers. It was also found that many of the target respondents had trouble responding; they felt so bad about the breakup.

Interestingly, this exploratory survey – 8 years before the more “mainstream” research now reported in the media – was created through the initiative of what had in many ways been a father’s right group (Foreningen 2 foreldre [The two parents association]), now turning the critical flashlight from bad mothers to the costs of divorce.

This came about through the intervention of the Gender equality center, at my proposal, to get the children’s rights associated NGO organisations to talk together, regardless of their differences.

At the meeting at the Gender equality center, the mother’s organization (Aleneforeldreforeningen [The single parent association]) and the two parent association were present. I argued that if mother organizations and father organizations just quarrel, we will never get further, so instead we should focus on what is common for all – a concern for the child. This strategy paid off. Instead of just attacking unreasonable mothers, the fathers’ association created an innovative agency: let us look at what divorces actually imply.

This approach got support from the employer’s union. Thereby a survey was made in 2006 that in many ways predicts the new 2014 study results. I was part of the advisory group of the 2006 study, along with other experts like the psychologist Frode Thuen.

Nov 13
Gender equality and gay rights

A new study of attitudes to gay rights has been published, with more coverage than before, combining data from several international surveys and country statistics. The report shows that generally, gay rights have gained some more acceptance over the last decades, but the main picture is one of strong global variation.

Testing for predictors of attitudes to gay rights, the researchers found that attitudes are more positive in richer countries and less conservative religious countries (but more negative in post-socialist than other European states). Generally, higher education, lower age, and female gender predicted more positive attitudes to gay rights.

The study included testing for income, education, religion and other variables – but strangely enough, no social equality variable was included. Income equality (like the Gini index) and gender equality (like the Gender gap index) are missing in action, so to speak.

I checked this for Europe, using the Gender Equality Statistics database (see Holter, Ø 2015), including a gay acceptance measure from the Gallup world poll: Is the city or area where you live a good place or not a good place to live for gays and lesbians?



Good place to live for gays lesbians (Gallup 2013) Gender gap index inc US states
Good place to live for gays lesbians (Gallup 2013) Pearson Correlation 1 ,603
Sig. (2-tailed) ,001
N 28 28
Gender gap index inc US states Pearson Correlation ,603 1
Sig. (2-tailed) ,001
N 28 116


Among 28 European countries, there is a .60 correlation between gender equality and that the area is a good place to live for gays and lesbians. This is very strong.

Of course these numbers by themselves say nothing about what causes what, but historically, there is little doubt that gender equality has helped pave the way for gay/lesbian acceptance and rights.

Therefore, gender equality and other forms of equality should be included, in models trying to explain gay, lesbian and trans acceptance. Other variables that probably would help develop these models include quality of life, and social trust and cohesion.

This is also a theory issue. Is gay acceptance and rights explained mainly by tradition, culture and religion? Or are there also more “sociological” forces at hand, causing changes in acceptance? Many theories to this effect exists, especially, theories of how gays and other “outgroups” can become scapegoats for wider system problems.

If we look at historical developments over the last hundred years, it is not religion per se that creates the well-known tendency of authoritarian regimes to deny gay rights. Rather it is part of the working of the authoritarian system. In tendency, gay rights and gender equality disapper – across very different regimes like Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany, communist China, non-democratic Moslem states, etc. Gays (and to some degree, lesbians) become scapegoats, embodying a kind of freedom that the regime does not want, their rights declining in societies with rising authortarianism, inequality and conflict. If social inequality becomes large, others will have to suffer, as a system tendency – and this will hit on gays and other outcasts.

Besides income, education, less fundamentalist religion etc there are probably two main factors contributing to gay rights – class equality and gender equality. Ethnic equality is probably important too – racism and homophobia are well-known twins in social science. Possibly, gender equality is the most important of these factors, at least in a direct sense, since gender equality is the type of social equality that is most closely connected to sexuality.

This is a very important research area and hopefully, new research will be funded, to tell us more.

Even if gender equality historically has paved the way for gay rights, at some stages, the cause and effect may be different. In a superficial view, gay rights only concern a small minority. Yet it concerns very important majority freedoms too. In some contexts, gay lesbian and trans rights may be crucial gender equality issues, even more than the “traditional” majority issues.


Further reading

New gay acceptance study:


Gender equality statistics data base:

Holter, Øystein Gullvåg 2015: “What’s in it for men” – old question, new data. Journal of men and masculinities (in print)

Gallup world poll:


Authoritarian regimes, aggression and gender related discrimination:

Holter, Øystein Gullvåg 2004: A Theory of Gendercide. In Jones, Adam, ed.: Gendercide and genocide. Vanderbilt University Press, Norman, p 62-97