The IMAGES study conducted in Serbia is based on three important theoretical pillars.
The first pillar consists of the knowledge about men and masculinities accumulated for decades (Segal, 1990; Connell, 1993; Connell, 1995; Connell, 2000; Connell, 2002; Hearn, 2012; Pollack, 1998), particularly in the field of critical studies of men and masculinities (CSMM) which rely on feminist theories and feminist knowledge (Hearn, 1997; Hearn, 1998; Hearn and Pringle, 2006; Hearn, 2015; Kaufman, 1993; Kimmel, 1992; Greig, Kimmel, Lang, 2000; Aboim, 2010;). It is very important to point out that not all knowledge about men is at the same time feminist-conscious knowledge, that is, there is also knowledge about men based on rightist ideologies and a false “gender neutrality” that hides misogyny, hate speech towards women and denial of patriarchy. It is necessary to make a clear demarcation between these things to constructively address the issue of gender policies. That is why it is precisely the source of knowledge based on feminist theory and critical of patriarchy as a power structure the one that allows a departure from the pattern where men themselves are the “victims of patriarchy” in a specific way, while still enjoying, to a greater or lesser extent, the “patriarchal dividend” (Connell, 1995).
The other part consists of similar reports and research conducted by PROMUNDO in cooperation with its numerous partners around the world, which also resulted in a series of scientific texts and publications (https://promundoglobal.org/programs/international-men-and-gender-equality-survey-images/ ).
Finally, the third pillar is made up of knowledge relating to the accumulated results of research on the division of roles in micro-spheres and especially in parenting. The first such research in Serbia dates back to the late 1980s and establishes significant differences between men and women in performing domestic work and in parenting, but also among men themselves (by age, education, place of residence, see: Blagojević Hjuson, 2014a). In addition, in 2008 and 2012 two major research studies on gender relations were published under the title Gender Barometer (Blagojević, 2006; Blagojević Hjuson, 2013). These findings are to a certain extent incorporated in this questionnaire (in 20% of the questions), but even more in the interpretation of the results. In Serbia, there is also an attempt to develop a specific theoretical approach that connects the critical studies of men and masculinities with the “theory of semiperipherality” and determination of the specificities of the dominant gender regime from that perspective (Hughson, 2017). In Serbia, for many years, various authors dealing with empirical research in the field of gender studies, or in other disciplines, from the explicitly or implicitly feminist perspective, have been acquiring new insights about the position of men in the private and public sphere, most often through comparison with women (Bobić, 2000, 2010, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2012; Babović, 2007,Babović, 2009, 2010a, 2010b; Jarić, 2006; Milić, 1994, 1995, 2004a, 2004b; Milić i Tomanović, 2009; Milić et al. 2010; Mršević, 2012, 2013a, 2013b, 2014; Nikolić Ristanović, 2000, 2002, 2008, 2010; Tomanović, 2004, 2010, 2012; Stanojević, 2015; Stjepanović-Zaharijevski, 2010; Rosić, 2015; Pavićević i Simeunović Patić, 2011; Petrović, 2011). The interconnectedness of these findings creates a relatively consistent system of insights into the empirical reality of the everyday life of men in Serbia. In other words, this research does not start from the “zero point”, but enters into the already existing system of knowledge, both internationally and contextually, with the aim of improving it, developing and introducing updated knowledge as well as new concrete empirical data that will be usable in the creation of gender policies.
Such a theoretical approach also influenced the creation of a hypothetical framework, which, more implicitly than explicitly, shaped the interpretation of these data. It was rather unlikely to do it explicitly since the IMAGES study framework already existed.
The first hypothesis is that changes in the micro-sphere are directed towards establishing an egalitarian pattern of behaviour and an egalitarian division of roles in the process of constant strengthening and that they are unstoppable. These changes are gradual, more pronounced in younger than in older generations of men and more in higher educated than in lower educated men. The changes affect different areas of private life with various intensities, starting mainly from paternity where they are most present.
Another hypothesis is that attitudes towards equality of women and human rights are changing towards the steering away from gender stereotypes, which is more pronounced in younger generations of men and among higher educated men.
The third hypothesis is that there is a tension between discourses and practices, especially expressed between macro-discourses (meta-discourses on gender issues) and micro-practices. Behavioural changes in the micro-sphere and changes in attitudes about gender issues are heading towards progressive transformation, but misogynous formulations are retained in public discourses, thus showing resistance to change.
The fourth hypothesis is about violence. Violence is widespread in many forms and modalities, and while women are incomparably more often victims in intimate partner relationships, men are victims of other men in the public sphere.
The fifth hypothesis concerns health and is based on the assumption that men, precisely due to their gender role, are more susceptible to risky behaviours (drugs, alcohol, smoking, fights, etc.) than women are.
The sixth hypothesis refers to possible “points of reversal”, that is, fields of activity and life in which new patterns of behaviour are established (egalitarianism). The assumption is that these points are related to the individuals (male and female) who, in a positive sense, break out of the classic gender roles, including “happily divorced” men or men who choose atypical professions (caring, nursing professions).
The seventh hypothesis relates to the dynamics of change and to the bearers of change in the total population. It is assumed that younger men, as well as those more educated, are more prone to make a positive change in the direction of egalitarian values and non-violence, but also that the change is not simply linear due to the impact of “transition” and stopping of progressive movement toward a higher level of gender equality.