Allies Against Sexism: The Impact of Men’s Egalitarian Versus Paternalistic Confrontation on Women’s Empowerment and Well-Being

Abstract

Men as advantaged group members can be involved in actions against inequality. But how do women experience men’s confrontation of sexism? We examine how women perceive men’s egalitarian versus paternalistic confrontation of sexism. We hypothesized that women would be more likely to report empowerment and well-being (i.e., more happiness and less anger) after egalitarian confrontation than after paternalistic confrontation, which should increase their future intention to confront sexism. Using hypothetical scenarios, the results of three studies conducted in Spain, Germany, and Mexico confirmed our hypotheses. They also highlighted that empowerment (but not happiness) triggered by egalitarian confrontation, as well as anger triggered by paternalistic confrontation, lead women to express greater future intention to confront sexism. Our findings suggest that male confronters motivated by egalitarian reasons are more likely perceived as allies of women because they not only make women feel better but also empower them to keep fighting. Further, women may react against men motivated by paternalistic reasons (especially if they are strongly identified as feminist or endorse low benevolent sexist beliefs). Implications for activists, policymakers, and practitioners who are interested in involving men in fighting gender inequality are discussed.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Data Availability

Description of additional measures and results, an English translation of the main measures used in the three studies and original questionnaires in Spanish and German can be found in the online supplement. Further, preregistration of Studies 2 and 3 as well as and the data sets generated for pooled analyses of Studies 1–3 can be found in https://osf.io/uh27n/. The raw data supporting the conclusions of Studies 1–3 and the original version of measures used in Studies 1–3 will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation, to any qualified researcher.

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Acknowledgements

We want to thank Nora Sassenhagen and Theresa Maier for their valuable help with German translations, as well as Elena Dapper, Hanna Seelemeyer and Leon Walter, for helping us with data collection in Germany.

Funding

The present research was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness through the predoctoral contract granted to the first author (FPU14/0511) and through the excellence project granted to the second author (PSI2016–79971-P). Furthermore, this work received financial support by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation; DFG BE 4648/4–2).

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Correspondence to Lucía Estevan-Reina.

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This study was funded by grant number FPU 14/05111 awarded to the first author and grant number PSI2016–79971-P awarded by the Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad from the Spanish Government. The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Estevan-Reina, L., de Lemus, S., Megías, J.L. et al. Allies Against Sexism: The Impact of Men’s Egalitarian Versus Paternalistic Confrontation on Women’s Empowerment and Well-Being. Sex Roles 84, 536–553 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-020-01184-4

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Keywords

  • Men as allies
  • Sexism confrontation
  • Egalitarian motivation
  • Paternalistic motivation
  • Empowerment
  • Anger
  • Feminist identification
  • Benevolent sexism