Sex Roles

, Volume 56, Issue 1–2, pp 1–12 | Cite as

Resisting Prejudice Every Day: Exploring Women’s Assertive Responses to Anti-Black Racism, Anti-Semitism, Heterosexism, and Sexism

  • Lauri L. HyersEmail author
Original Article


Past lab and scenario research on sexism suggests that women are more likely to contemplate than to engage in assertive confrontation of prejudice. The present study was designed to explore how the competing cultural forces of activist norms and gender role prescriptions for women to be passive and accommodating may contribute to women’s response strategies. Women were asked to keep diaries of incidents of anti-Black racism, anti-Semitism, heterosexism, and sexism, including why they responded, how they responded, and the consequences of their responses. Participants were about as likely to report they were motivated by activist goals as they were to report being motivated by gender role consistent goals to avoid conflict. Those with gender role-consistent goals were less likely to respond assertively. Participants were more likely to consider assertive responses (for 75% of incidents) than to actually make them (for 40% of incidents). Assertive responders did, however, report better outcomes on a variety of indicators of satisfaction and closure, at the expense of heightened interpersonal conflict. Results are discussed with respect to the personal and social implications of responding to interpersonal prejudice.


Target’s perspective Everyday prejudice Gender roles Activism Intergroup relations 



Major support for this research was received from the Florence Geis Memorial Award through Division 35 (Psychology of Women) of the American Psychological Association. Additional support was provided from the Pennsylvania Psychological Foundation and the Research and Graduate Studies Office of the Pennsylvania State University. I would like to thank all of the participants and the prejudice research labs at Penn State University and at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, who kindly volunteered their time to make this study possible. I would like to thank my kind mentors, Janet Swim, Marylee Taylor, and Bill Cross. Special thanks to Israel Roling for his invaluable assistance in coordinating data collection and thanks to Susan Ritz for her helpful editorial comments.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentWest Chester UniversityWest ChesterUSA

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