Skip to main content

Confronting Sexism: The Role of Relationship Orientation and Gender

Abstract

This study examined whether relationship orientation was associated positively with confronting sexism and whether confronting sexism was associated positively with competence, self-esteem, and empowerment for women but not men in stereotypically masculine domains. Men and women undergraduates from a United States Midwestern university (n = 165) were exposed to a sexist statement during a staged, online interaction. Relationship orientation, confronting (i.e., publically rating the sexist statement as problematic and inappropriate), competence, self-esteem, and empowerment were assessed. Consistent with hypotheses, relationship orientation was associated positively with confronting. Additionally, confronting was associated positively with competence, self-esteem, and empowerment for women but not men. Implications for interpersonal confrontation, relationship orientation, and gender differences in response to everyday sexism are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  • Aiken, L., & West, S. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ashburn-Nardo, L., Morris, K., & Goodwin, S. (2008). The confronting prejudiced responses (CPR) model: Applying CPR in organizations. Academy of Management Learning and Education, 7, 332–342.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ayers, M. M., Friedman, C. K., & Leaper, C. (2009). Individual and situational factors relating to young women’s likelihood of confronting sexism in their everyday lives. Sex Roles, 61, 449–460.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Baron, R. M., & Kenny, D. A. (1986). The moderator-mediator variable distinction in social psychological research: Conceptual, strategic, and statistical considerations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 1173–1182.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Barreto, M., & Ellemers, N. (2005). The perils of political correctness: Men’s and women’s responses to old-fashioned and modern sexist views. Social Psychology Quarterly, 68, 75–88.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bass, B. M., & Avolio, B. J. (1992). Manual for the Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire—form 6S. Redwood City: Mind Garden, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  • Berkowitz, L., & Lutterman, K. (1968). The traditionally socially responsible personality. Public Opinion Quarterly, 32, 169–185.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chen, S., Lee-Chai, A. Y., & Bargh, J. A. (2001). Relationship orientation as a moderator of effects of social power. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 173–187.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Clark, M. S., & Mills, J. (1979). Interpersonal attraction in exchange and communal relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 12–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clark, M. S., & Mills, J. (1993). The difference between communal and exchange relationships: What it is and what is not. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19, 684–691.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clark, M. S., Ouellette, R., Powell, M. C., & Milberg, S. (1987). Recipient’s mood, relationship type, and helping. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 53, 94–103.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Citron, A. F., Chein, I., & Harding, J. (1950). Anti-minority remarks: A problem for action research. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 45, 99–126.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Czopp, A., Monteith, M., & Mark, A. (2006). Standing up for a change: Reducing bias through interpersonal confrontation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 784–803.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Dardenne, B., Dumont, M., & Bollier, T. (2007). Insidious dangers of benevolent sexism: Consequences for women’s performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 764–779.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Dodd, E., Giuliano, T., Boutell, J., & Moran, B. (2001). Respected or rejected: Perceptions of women who confront sexist remarks. Sex Roles, 45, 567–577.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Eagly, A., & Carli, L. (2007). Through the labyrinth: The truth about how women become leaders. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eagly, A., & Wood, W. (1991). Explaining sex differences in social behavior: A meta-analytic perspective. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 17, 306–315.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gardner, W. L., & Seeley, E. A. (2001). Confucius, “Jen”, and the benevolent use of power: The interdependent self as a psychological contract preventing exploitation. In A. Y. Lee-Chai & J. A. Bargh (Eds.), The use and abuse of power: Multiple perspectives on the causes of corruption (pp. 263–280). Philadelphia: Psychology Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gervais, S. J., & Vescio, T. K. (2010). Patronizing behavior and gender differences in personal control and performance. Manuscript Submitted for Publication.

  • Haslett, B. B., & Lipman, S. (1997). Micro inequalities: Up close and personal. In N. Benokraitis (Ed.), Subtle sexism: Current practice and prospects for change (pp. 34–53). Thousands Oaks: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heatherton, T. F., & Polivy, J. (1991). Development and validation of a scale for measuring state self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 895–910.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hyers, 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.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Inman, M. L., & Baron, R. S. (1996). Influence of prototypes on perceptions of prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 727–739.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kaiser, C., & Miller, C. (2001). Stop complaining! The social costs of making attributions to discrimination. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 254–263.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kaiser, C., & Miller, C. (2003). Derogating the victim: The interpersonal consequences of blaming events on discrimination. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 6, 227–237.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kowalski, R. (1996). Complaints and complaining: Functions, antecedents, and consequences. Psychological Bulletin, 119, 179–196.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lamb, L., Bigler, R., Liben, L., & Green, V. (2009). Teaching children to confront peers’ sexist remarks: Implications for theories of gender development and educational practice. Sex Roles, 61, 361–382.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Logel, C., Walton, G., Spencer, S., Iserman, E., von Hippel, W., & Bell, A. (2009). Interacting with sexist men triggers social identity threat among female engineers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 1089–1103.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Major, B., Quinton, W., & McCoy, S. (2002). Antecedents and consequences of attributions to discrimination: Theoretical and empirical advances. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 34 (pp. 251–330). San Diego, CA: Academic.

    Google Scholar 

  • Menon, S. (2001). Employee empowerment: An integrative psychological approach. Applied Psychology: An International Review, 50, 153–180.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mills, J., & Clark, M. S. (1982). Exchange and communal relationships. In L. Wheeler (Ed.), Review of personality and social psychology (pp. 121–144). Beverly Hills: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mills, J., & Clark, M. S. (1994). Communal and exchange relationships: Controversies and research. In R. Erber & R. Gilmour (Eds.), Theoretical frameworks for personal relationships (pp. 29–42). Hillsdale: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • 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.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Rasinski, H. M., & Czopp, A. M. (2010). The effect of target status on witnesses’ reactions to confrontations of bias. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 32, 8–16. doi:1080/01973530903539754.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sechrist, G. B., Swim, J. K., & Stangor, C. (2004). When do the stigmatized make attributions to discrimination occurring to the self and others? The roles of self-presentation and need for control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 111–122.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Shelton, J., & Richeson, J. (2005). Intergroup contact and pluralistic ignorance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 91–107.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Shelton, J. N., Richeson, J. A., Salvatore, J., & Hill, D. M. (2006). Silence is not golden: The intrapersonal consequences of not confronting prejudice. In S. Levin & C. Van Laar (Eds.), Social stigma and group inequality: Social psychological perspectives. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  • Simon, B., & Oakes, P. (2006). Beyond dependence: An identity approach to social power and domination. Human Relations, 59, 105–139.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Snyder, M., & Omoto, A. M. (2001). Basic research and practical problems: Volunteerism and the psychology of individual and collective action. In W. Wosinska, R. B. Cialdini, D. W. Barret, & J. Reykowski (Eds.), The practice of social influence in multiple cultures (pp. 287–307). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    Google Scholar 

  • Spencer, S., Steele, C., & Quinn, D. (1999). Stereotype threat and women’s math performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 4–28.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Stangor, C., Swim, J., Van Allen, K., & Sechrist, G. (2002). Reporting discrimination in public and private contexts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 82, 69–74.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Swim, J. K., & Hyers, L. L. (1999). Excuse me—what did you just say?!: Women’s public and private responses to sexist remarks. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 68–88.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • 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.

    Google Scholar 

  • Swim, J., Hyers, L., Cohen, L., & Ferguson, M. (2001). Everyday sexism: Evidence for its incidence, nature, and psychological impact from three daily diary studies. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 31–53.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Swim, J. K., Gervais, S. J., Pearson, N., & Stangor, S. J. (2009). Managing the message: Strategic self-presentation of confrontation to interpersonal discrimination. In F. Butera (Ed.), Coping With Minority Status: Responses to Exclusion and Inclusion (pp. 55–81). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Triandis, H., & Gelfand, M. (1998). Converging measurement of horizontal and vertical individualism and collectivism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 118–128.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • U.N. World Survey on the Role of Women in Development. (2009). At a glance: Women’s control over economic resources and access to financial resources. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/ws2009/documents/DESA_Survey_FactSheet.pdf.

  • U.S. Department of Labor & Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2006). Women in the labor force: A databook (Report No. 996). Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/cps/wlfdatabook2006.htm.

  • Vandello, J., & Cohen, D. (1999). Patterns of individualism and collectivism across the United States. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 279–292.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vescio, T. K., Synder, M., & Butz, D. A. (2003). Power in stereotypically masculine domains: A social influence stategy X stereotype match model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85, 1062–1078.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Vescio, T. K., Gervais, S., Snyder, M., & Hoover, A. (2005). Power and the creation of patronizing environments: The stereotype-based behaviors of the powerful and their effects on female performance in masculine domains. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 8, 658–672.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sarah J. Gervais.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Gervais, S.J., Hillard, A.L. & Vescio, T.K. Confronting Sexism: The Role of Relationship Orientation and Gender. Sex Roles 63, 463–474 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-010-9838-7

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-010-9838-7

Keywords