Current Psychology

, Volume 37, Issue 1, pp 334–342 | Cite as

The Association between Feminist Self-Labeling and Gender Equality Activism: Exploring the Effects of Scale Language and Identity Priming

  • Sarah E. Conlin
  • Martin Heesacker


Feminists report engaging in more activism for gender equality than non-feminists, yet the label “feminist” is widely perceived as stigmatizing. This study assessed whether the stigmatizing effect of the term “feminist” suppressed self-reported activism among women who may not identify as feminist. An online (Amazon’s Mechanical Turk) sample of 302 women reported activism on the original or one of two modified versions of Foster and Matheson’s Measure of Collective Action. Modified versions either minimized stigmatizing scale language by characterizing activist behaviors as broadly related to “gender equality,” not “feminism,” or maximized stigmatizing language by characterizing behaviors as explicitly for “feminism.” Replicating past studies, there was a strong correlation between feminist identification and activism (β = .56) and a main effect of sexual minority status on reported activism, such that sexual minority women reported significantly higher rates of activism. Extending past research, our results clarify these effects in suggesting that they are not artifacts of either priming feminist identity or using stigmatizing scale language. Specifically, at the highest level of feminist identification, there was no significant difference in reported activism as a function of timing of reporting identification (before versus after activism reporting) and no significant difference in activism rates between the two modified scale versions (minimized versus maximized stigma). Practically, these results highlight the importance of promoting women’s feminist self-identification as a route toward increased activist participation.


Feminism Feminist identification Identity Social activism Labeling Measurement Stigma 


Compliance with Ethical Standards



Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval & Informed Consent

The University of Florida’s Institutional Review Board approved this project. All participants were required to complete an Informed Consent document prior to accessing the research survey. All procedures performed in the present study were in accordance with ethical standards.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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