Women’s Internalization of Sexism: Predictors and Antidotes
Not only men, but also many women take an active part in maintaining the current gender system by “doing gender” and by endorsing sexist beliefs. Recent research has identified several psychological factors as predictors of women’s acceptance of sexist attitudes, but a coherent parsimonious theoreti...
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|Not only men, but also many women take an active part in maintaining the current gender system by “doing gender” and by endorsing sexist beliefs. Recent research has identified several psychological factors as predictors of women’s acceptance of sexist attitudes, but a coherent parsimonious theoretical model was still missing. Accordingly, the first purpose of the present research (Manuscript #1) was to shed light on the seemingly paradoxical phenomenon that, even though women belong to the target group of gender discrimination, many of them support the gender hegemony. Based on Social Identity Theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979) and Social Role Theory (Eagly & Wood, 1999), the Gender Identity Model was developed to explain this phenomenon. Results of a correlational study and two experiments provided clear evidence for the usefulness of the Gender Identity Model to explain differences in women’s endorsement of subtle sexist beliefs and engagement in collective action: Women reject Benevolent, Hostile and Modern Sexism and participate in collective action in particular when they are highly identified with the category women and have, at the same time, internalized progressive identity contents. In contrast, gender role preference has weaker or no effects on sexist beliefs and willingness to engage in collective action when women are low identified with their gender in-group.
As a direct consequence of advancing knowledge about predictors to explain endorsement of sexist beliefs, the second part of the present research focused on ways to reduce endorsement of these beliefs (Manuscript #2). So far, no research work has yet investigated a method to reduce subtle sexist beliefs, and only little research has so far analyzed changes in other gender-related concepts which were caused by long-term teaching projects. The second part of the present dissertation (Manuscript #2) therefore aimed at identifying factors which help to reduce subtle sexist beliefs. It was posited that many individuals lack awareness of the prevalence of sexism and the harm experienced by the targets of gender discrimination. A heightened knowledge about the prevalence of sexism was predicted to reduce endorsement of modern sexist beliefs, whereas a heightened sensitivity for the harm of sexism was predicted to result in decreased endorsement of benevolent sexist beliefs. These effects were predicted to be moderated by gender identification. Results of three experimental studies provided strong support for the reduction of prejudice through heightened knowledge about the prevalence and harm of sexism and partial evidence for the moderating role of gender identification: In the first experiment using a daily diary-method, we demonstrated that attending to sexism in everyday life leads to rejection of modern, neo-, and benevolent sexist beliefs in women. In the second experiment, we showed that a heightened sensitivity towards the prevalence of sexism resulted in rejection of modern sexist beliefs, whereas a heightened sensitivity towards harm experienced by the targets of discrimination resulted in rejection of benevolent sexist beliefs. Findings of the third experiment demonstrated that the prejudice reducing effects of the information were consistently stronger for women who are more identified and men who are less identified with their gender in-group. Across all studies, we found that rejection of sexist beliefs generalized to rejection of system justification beliefs.