Confronting Prejudice Press Coverage

Check out the press release for our paper recently published in Sex Roles on relationship orientation, gender, and confronting sexism.

In this study, we found that when a sexist statement was directed at a woman that women felt more competent, more self-esteem, and more empowered when they confronted than when they did not confront. There were no differences for men. Do you think we would find similar effects if a man was the target of the sexism?

Happy Thanksgiving!

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14 thoughts on “Confronting Prejudice Press Coverage

  1. Ryann McGough November 29, 2010 at 3:59 pm Reply

    This finding is so interesting! Because of the current political climate and increased awareness on sexual harassment directed toward women in the workplace, it does not surprise me that women felt empowered after confronting the sexist remark. However, little attention (culturally) has been dedicated to sexism directed toward men, so I would argue that while men might be empowered after confronting a remark, I do not believe many men would even identify a sexist remark as so. Therefore- the data may not find significant results for men as they are not even aware of sexist remarks, generally speaking.

    • Sarah Jean November 29, 2010 at 5:59 pm Reply

      It seems like we would have to do a 2-part study. First, figure out what men identify as sexist. Second, see if they actually confront behaviors that they do perceive as sexist. Nice job, Ryann!

    • Justin E November 30, 2010 at 12:30 am Reply

      I’m going to go ahead and confront this sexist remark about men being ignorant of sexist remarks…just kidding. I think if 1. Males recognized a remark they deemed sexist against males and 2. They confronted the remark, they would definitely have similar results. Defending a group we belong to seems like such a basic, rewarding instinct. I think a possible caveat to this could be whether they would see the sexist remark as actually threatening to the male image. Overall, the problem might be as Ryann alluded to. It’s possible men do not recognize sexist remarks as well as females in the first place. After all, males have historically been the oppressing gender perpetuating stereotypes about women to “keep them in their place”, not vice versa.

  2. Karina Pedroza November 29, 2010 at 4:36 pm Reply

    I think that this finding is great! Sometimes I think women do not really see the benefits of confronting a sexist remark, preferring to ignore it or thinking there is no use and it wouldn’t change anything. If the sexist remark was directed at men, I don’t think there would be similar results, or any at all. First, I don’t think men have been seen as potential targets of sexism, so they might not be able to identify the remark as sexist. Also, men are seen as tough, so accepting that a sexist remark had a negative effect on them wouldn’t necessarily be desirable. It would be interesting to see if women would interfere and confront the remark if it was directed at a man, and what effects that would have on women.

    • Sarah Jean November 29, 2010 at 5:57 pm Reply

      Interesting thoughts! Very nice!

  3. Michael Ioerger November 29, 2010 at 8:35 pm Reply

    I think that the communal orientation is the most interesting component of this study. Reviewing the publication it states that 90% of the participants in the population were European American, which is to be expected when sampling students at a Midwest University, but I think that this poses an issue when evaluating communalism. European American culture is not a traditionally communal culture; therefore, the European American students that do have a communal orientation may hold that orientation because that is their natural orientation, or it could be because they are better informed on social issues. It is likely then that people who work to be better informed on social issues are also likely to be the ones to take a stand against social injustice. (Many of my friends that are social activists and out spoken advocates would likely be considered to have a communal orientation, but, like myself, they have grown and matured into that orientation as they have become more educated and had more and more experience with prejudice.)

    I would be interested to see if these results hold for populations other than European Americans that are traditionally more communal (i.e. Asian, Latino, etc.). I think that a follow-up like this would be especially interesting because traditional Asian and Latino culture is also very sexist in nature.

  4. Malcolm McGruder November 29, 2010 at 10:23 pm Reply

    The findings and the variables are very interesting. I would expect that women would feel more empowered and competent after confrontation, but what about women who feel powerful and competent before the confrontation? Is that a possible confound? Is power and competence a precursor to confrontation or is it a result of confrontation of sexism. Also, I would not think that men would be bothered by sexist comments due to differences in societal gender beliefs. I would also think that men would be in the exchange orientation because of gender differences in networking tendencies.

  5. Arianne Holland November 29, 2010 at 10:28 pm Reply

    I believe that the most interesting finding from this study is that confronting prejudice promotes a more positive self-image in and outside of the workplace. I find this interesting because it is directly at odds with the majority of the rules and regulations regarding harassment in most workplaces. In some workplaces you can be sanctioned or fired for confronting a harasser as this behavior is not tolerated
    These results also may be a sign of the times so to speak. As the wage gap is gradually becoming smaller I believe that women are becoming more empowered and thus are more willing to be “communal” and to confront prejudice. I believe that as women’s presence in the workplace grows so will men’s reaction to remarks about status but perhaps not sexism (yet). I say yet because the once female dominated domain of objectification (in the media, etc.) is now also increasingly being occupied by men. It would be interesting to place men in situations where they were subordinate in pay and status (perhaps include male objectifying primers) to that of a woman and to test their reactions to sexist comments or perhaps comments about male status.

  6. angie dunn November 29, 2010 at 10:50 pm Reply

    I do not think we would find similar effects when a man is the target of sexism for a couple reasons. First, I think men would identify as more “exchange oriented” and not as concerned with acting in socially responsible, or identifying with “communal oriented” ways, in the workplace because of the competitiveness associated with men in the workplace. Also, I agree with Karina- I don’t think men would be as inclined to confront because of being unfamiliar with actually receiving the sexist remarks and possibly trying to avoid the negativity associated with receiving sexist remarks.
    I think the findings from this study are great! Women should feel empowered when standing up to someone who has been targeting them. And hopefully the more research and information that is out there promoting this type of confronting, the more common it will become and hopefully the less likely these sexist remarks will be said.

  7. Stacy Gravning November 30, 2010 at 1:38 am Reply

    I think this study is great for a number of reasons. First of all, the findings really lend to the ‘applied’ side of psychology, because they show women how they can go out and confront sexism and not just feel empowered and great about themselves, but actually be effective while doing it. The fact that there were no differences found for men helps us to understand how sexism and confronting sexism function on a social level. If the study were repeated, but with sexist statements directed at men, I think that the results would be less than those seen for women, if any at all. I think the reason women feel more empowered and better about themselves after confronting sexism is because we live in a society where women are assumed, to at least some extent, to be less powerful than men. Historically, women have been an oppressed group in relation to men, and even today women are still bombarded with sexist images that could be considered ‘unempowering’ in the media, pop culture, as well as from many less obvious sources. When women confront sexism, I think that much of the feelings of empowerment they gain come from a sense of ‘fighting back’ against this natural state of unempowerment of women. Men, on the other hand, have historically been at the top of the social hierarchy; feeling empowered may very well be their natural state of being. I think an interesting way to test this would be to use a social hierarchy different from male/female differences. For example, white males have historically been less oppressed than other ethnic minority males. Perhaps a study could be set up that examines these sort of feelings after confrontation of racist statements.

  8. Kristen Dinneen November 30, 2010 at 1:48 am Reply

    Similar to everyone else, I find the results of this study to be great. As Arianne stated, I also think that one of the best parts of the findings is that women are likely to experience a more positive self-image both in and outside of the workplace. This is a great example, of how something as small as a statement against the sexism could have tremendous positive effects. One question I had when reading this article is whether or not it mattered who the person was making the sexist comment. Is there a difference if it is a boss or someone in a superior position versus someone in an inferior position? I would guess that women are less likely to confront a boss, however it may potentially have even greater positive effects on their self-image if they did because they are standing up for themselves against someone with greater authority then they have. I do not think we would find the same effect for men if they were a target of sexism because in general I don’t think that men have as much to prove as women do in the workplace, especially if they are in a predominately female career such as teacher because because they are automatically considered superior. Therefore I think that negative comments may not have as much of an effect on them as it would for women.

  9. Jordan Grubaugh November 30, 2010 at 5:51 am Reply

    Even though women tend to have a more positive self-image when they choose to confront someone on a form of harassment, I don’t believe that men will have the same reaction. Men have long had the perceived stigma of being viewed as weak if they let someone else’s comments affect them, especially if it has something to do with sexual orientation. Thus, I presume that men may even have the opposite effect in that they may feel less competent and lower self-esteem if they choose to say something because then they may view themselves as confirming that weakness.

  10. Mitchell Laski November 30, 2010 at 7:07 pm Reply

    The results from this study are pretty cool. I’ve never thought about it, but it does make sense that women feel more empowered after confronting a sexist comment. I agree with Malcolm, in that it could be a potential confound that women who perceive themselves as more powerful may be more likely to confront sexist remarks.

    As far as males are concerned, I think it’s pretty hard to predict how they would react to sexist comments. Males are not used to having these types of insults directed at them, so they would be placed in an unfamiliar situation. From my experiences with running Amy’s Power, Threat, and Objectification study, it seemed like most males either laughed it off or didn’t know how to respond when their masculinity was called into question. I think this would also apply to other threats presented in real-world situations. I believe that most men have this internal self-picture of themselves as the ideal man, so when someone makes fun of them, they just brush it off, because deep down, they know what they’re made of.

  11. Joe Toscano December 6, 2010 at 7:19 pm Reply

    Sorry it took me so long to get to this, I haven’t had internet in my new house until just the other day.

    I think this is a really interesting study.

    I really don’t think there would be a difference even if men were the target of sexism, just because I think men are probably a little more indifferent, in general, than women and may not feel as many emotions.

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