Despite the fact that sexism is an inherently intergroup phenomenon, women’s group-level responses to sexism have received relatively little empirical attention. We examine the intergroup reactions experienced by 114 female students at a U.S. university in New England who imagined being a bystander to a sexist cat-call remark or control greeting. Results indicate that women experienced greater negative intergroup emotions and motivations towards the outgroup of men after overhearing the cat-call remark. Further, the experience of group-based anger mediated the relationship between the effect of study condition on the motivation to move against, or oppose, men. Results indicate that bystanders can be affected by sexism and highlights how the collective groups of men and women can be implicated in individual instances of sexism.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Barrett, L. F., & Swim, J. K. (1996). Appraisals of prejudice and discrimination. In J. K. Swim & C. Stangor (Eds.), Prejudice: The target’s perspective (pp. 11–36). San Diego: Academic Press.
Bowman, C. G. (1993). Street harassment and the informal ghettoization of women. Harvard Law Review, 106, 517–580.
Butz, D. A., & Plant, E. A. (2006). Perceiving outgroup members as unresponsive: Implications for approach-related emotions, intentions, and behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91, 1066–1079.
Cameron, J. E. (2001). Social identity, modern sexism, and perceptions of personal and group discrimination by women and men. Sex Roles, 45, 743–766.
Cottrell, C. A., & Neuberg, S. L. (2005). Different emotional reactions to different groups: A sociofunctional threat-based approach to “prejudice”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 770–789.
Crisp, R. J., Heuston, S., Farr, M. J., & Turner, R. N. (2007). Seeing red or feeling blue: Differentiated intergroup emotions and ingroup identification in soccer fans. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 10, 9–26.
Crocker, J., Voelkl, K., Testa, M., & Major, B. (1991). Social stigma: The affective consequences of attributional ambiguity. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 218–228.
Crosby, F. (1984). The denial of personal discrimination. American Behavioral Scientist, 27, 371–386.
Fairchild, K., & Rudman, L. A. (2008). Everyday stranger harassment and women’s objectification. Social Justice Research, 21, 338–357.
Fitzgerald, L. F. (1993). Sexual harassment: Violence against women in the workplace. American Psychologist, 48, 1070–1076.
Fitzgerald, L. W., Drasgow, F., Hulin, C. L., Gelfand, M. J., & Magley, V. J. (1997). Antecedents and consequences of sexual harassment in organizations: A test of an integrated model. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82, 578–589.
Frijda, N. H. (1986). The emotions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gardner, C. B. (1980). Passing by: Street remarks, address rights, and the urban female. Sociological Inquiry, 50, 328–356.
Henley, N. (1977). Body politics: Power, sex, and nonverbal communication. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.
Hitlan, R. T., Schneider, K. T., & Walsh, B. M. (2006). Upsetting behavior: Reactions to personal and bystander sexual harassment experiences. Sex Roles, 55, 187–195.
Hitlan, R. T., Pryor, J. B., Hesson-McInnis, M. S., & Olson, M. (2009). Antecedents of gender harassment: An analysis of person and situation factors. Sex Roles, 61, 794–807.
Hyers, L. L. (2007). Resisting prejudice every day: Exploring women’s assertive responses to anti-black racism, anti-Semitism, heterosexism, and sexism. Sex Roles, 56, 1–12.
Inman, M. L., & Baron, R. S. (1996). Influence of prototypes on perceptions of prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 727–739.
Kuhn, M. H., & McPartland, T. S. (1954). An empirical investigation of self-attitudes. American Sociological Review, 19, 68–76.
Lee, I. C., Pratto, F., & Li, M. C. (2007). Social relationships and sexism in the United States and Taiwan. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 38, 595–612.
Maass, A., Cadinu, M., Guarnieri, G., & Grasselli, A. (2003). Sexual harassment under social identity threat: The computer harassment paradigm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 853–870.
Mackie, D. M., & Smith, E. R. (Eds.). (2002). From prejudice to intergroup emotions: Differentiated reactions to social groups. New York: Psychology Press.
Mackie, D. M., Devos, T., & Smith, E. R. (2000). Intergroup emotions: Explaining offensive action tendencies in an intergroup context. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 602–616.
Maitner, A. T., Mackie, D. M., & Smith, E. R. (2006). Evidence for the regulatory function of intergroup emotion: Emotional consequences of implemented or impeded intergroup action tendencies. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42, 720–728.
Major, B., Quinton, W. J., & Schmader, T. (2003). Attributions to discrimination and self-esteem: Impact of group identification and situational ambiguity. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 220–231.
McCoy, S. K., & Major, B. (2003). Group identification moderates emotional responses to perceived prejudice. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29, 1005–1017.
Pennekamp, S. F., Doosje, B., Zebel, S., & Fischer, A. H. (2007). The past and the pending: The antecedents and consequences of group-based anger in historically and currently disadvantaged groups. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 10, 41–55.
Preacher, K. J., & Hayes, A. F. (2008). Asymptotic and resampling strategies for assessing and comparing indirect effects in multiple mediator models. Behavior Research Methods, 40, 879–891.
Pryor, J. B., & Whalen, N. J. (1997). A typology of sexual harassment: Characteristics of harassers and the social circumstances under which sexual harassment occurs. In W. O’Donohue (Ed.), Sexual harassment: Theory, research, and treatment (pp. 129–151). Needham Heights: Allyn & Bacon.
Rudman, L. A. (1999). Feminized management and backlash toward agentic women: The hidden costs to women of a kinder, gentler image of middle managers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 1004–1010.
Samoluk, S. B., & Pretty, G. M. H. (1994). The impact of sexual harassment simulations on women’s thoughts and feelings. Sex Roles, 30, 679–699.
Schmitt, M. T., Branscombe, N. R., & Postmes, T. (2003). Women’s emotional responses to the pervasiveness of gender discrimination. European Journal of Social Psychology, 33, 297–312.
Schneider, K. T., Swann, S., & Fitzgerald, L. F. (1997). Job-related and psychological effects of sexual harassment in the workplace: Empirical evidence from two organizations. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82, 401–415.
Schneider, K. T., Tomaka, J., & Palacios, R. (2001). Women’s cognitive, affective, and physiological reactions to a male coworker’s sexist behavior. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 31, 1995–2018.
Sechrist, G. B., & Delmar, C. (2009). When do men and women make attributions to gender discrimination? The role of discrimination source. Sex Roles, 61, 607–620.
Seger, C. R., Smith, E. R., & Mackie, D. M. (2009). Subtle activation of a social categorization triggers group-level emotions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 460–467.
Shelton, J. N., & Stewart, R. E. (2004). Confronting perpetrators of prejudice: The inhibitory effects of social costs. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 28, 215–223.
Shrout, P. E., & Bolger, N. (2002). Mediation in experimental and nonexperimental studies: New procedures and recommendations. Psychological Methods, 7, 422–445.
Sidanius, J., & Pratto, F. (1999). Social dominance: An intergroup theory of social hierarchy and oppression. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Smith, E. R. (1993). Social identity and social emotions: Toward new conceptualizations of prejudice. In D. M. Mackie & D. L. Hamilton (Eds.), Affect, cognition, and stereotyping: Interactive processes in group perception (pp. 297–315). San Diego: Academic.
Smith, E. R. (1999). Affective and cognitive implications of a group becoming part of the self: New models of prejudice and of the self-concept. In D. Abrams & M. A. Hogg (Eds.), Social identity and social cognition (pp. 183–196). Oxford: Blackwell.
Smith, E. R., Seger, C. R., & Mackie, D. M. (2007). Can emotions be truly group level? Evidence regarding four conceptual criteria. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 431–446.
Swim, J. K., & Hyers, L. L. (1999). Excuse me—What did you say?!: Women’s public and private responses to sexist remarks. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 68–88.
Swim, J. K., Cohen, L. L., & Hyers, L. L. (1998). Experiencing everyday prejudice and discrimination. In J. K. Swim & C. Stangor (Eds.), Prejudice: The target’s perspective (pp. 37–60). San Diego: Academic.
Swim, J. K., Hyers, L. L., Cohen, L. L., & Ferguson, M. J. (2001). Everyday sexism: Evidence for its incidence, nature, and psychological impact from three diary studies. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 31–53.
Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of inter-group behavior. In S. Worchel & L. W. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of Intergroup Relations. Chigago: Nelson-Hall.
Terpstra, D. E., & Baker, D. D. (1986). A framework for the study of sexual harassment. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 7, 17–34.
Turner, J. C., Hogg, M. A., Oakes, P. J., Reicher, S. D., & Wetherell, M. S. (1987). Rediscovering the social group: A self-categorization theory. New York: Blackwell.
Walsh, B. M., & Hitlan, R. T. (2007). Organizational stress: Investigating the impact of dual harassment experiences on appraisal and outcomes. North American Journal of Psychology, 9, 331–346.
Woodzicka, J. A., & LaFrance, M. (2001). Real versus imagined gender harassment. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 15–30.
Wright, S. C., Taylor, D. M., & Moghaddam, F. M. (1990). Responding to membership in a disadvantaged group: From acceptance to collective protest. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 58, 994–1003.
Yzerbyt, V., Dumont, M., Wigboldus, D., & Gordijn, E. (2003). I feel for us: The impact of categorization and identification on emotions and action tendencies. British Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 533–549.
Zuckerman, M., & Lubin, B. (1965). Manual for the multiple affect adjective checklist. San Diego: Educational and Industrial Testing Service.
This work is based on the master’s thesis of the first author. We thank Sjoerd Pennekamp for his helpful comments on a previous draft of this manuscript, Jack Dovidio and Janet Barnes-Farrell for their guidance as thesis committee members, and Lindsay Aronheim, Matthew Barry, Daniel Butler, Elizabeth Fabrizi, Randi Ferguson, Nick Frogley, and Sarah Pennington for their help with data collection. Portions of this research were presented at the 6th and 7th Annual Meetings of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.
About this article
Cite this article
Chaudoir, S.R., Quinn, D.M. Bystander Sexism in the Intergroup Context: The Impact of Cat-calls on Women’s Reactions Towards Men. Sex Roles 62, 623–634 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-009-9735-0
- Intergroup emotions
- Gender identity