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Female Video Game Players and the Protective Effect of Feminist Identity Against Internalized Misogyny

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Video games often contain sexist content that may be connected to negative consequences for female video game players, such as internalizing negative attitudes and beliefs about women. However, aspects of feminist identification may prevent such negative outcomes from occurring. The present study investigated the relationships among time spent playing video games, internalized misogyny, and the synthesis dimension of feminist identity, which is characterized by embracing the positive aspects of being a woman and incorporating feminine attributes into one’s own unique personality. A total of 319 U.S. female video game players completed measures of media usage, internalized misogyny, and feminist identity. The authors tested a moderation model in which gaming predicted internalized misogyny and synthesis moderated this relationship. Gaming was positively associated with internalized misogyny at lower, but not higher, levels of synthesis. Thus, those who value the positive aspects of womanhood and have thoughtful and realistic perceptions of gender may be resistant to internalizing some harmful beliefs about women perpetuated in games. The present study provides evidence for the potential negative influence of cumulative video game exposure for some women and the protective effect of feminist identity synthesis. Counselors and activists should do work aimed at critically evaluating and challenging gendered messages in video games and affirming women’s gender identities and feminine attributes. Game developers must consider the impact of their content on players and strive to create female characters that are agentic, complex, and competent. Conversely, gamers should avoid supporting games with depthless depictions of women.

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Correspondence to Keiko M. McCullough.

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McCullough, K.M., Wong, Y.J. & Stevenson, N.J. Female Video Game Players and the Protective Effect of Feminist Identity Against Internalized Misogyny. Sex Roles 82, 266–276 (2020).

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