Perceptions of Feminism: A Comparative Study of Social Movements
Recent studies have shown that negative stereotypes of feminists have caused negative perceptions of feminists. Although many people agree with the goals of feminism, few self-identify as feminists. The present study tested several hypothesized effects of the negative perceptions of feminists. It was predicted that people are hesitant to self identify as feminists because they feel that the moderate feminist goals that they support (e.g., gender equality) have already been achieved, thus feeling that feminism is obsolete. It was also predicted that people perceive current feminists as pushing for radical feminist goals (e.g., privileging women). It was additionally predicted that the evaluation of the current women's movement would be less favorable than the evaluation of the women's movement of past decades. Perceptions of the women's rights movement were compared to perceptions of the civil rights movement and the gay/lesbian rights movement by means of a between-subjects design (Le., each participant evaluated only one social movement). It was predicted that the women's rights movement would be perceived as more radical than the other social movements. Due to the discrepancy between support for feminist goals and unwillingness to self-identify as feminist, it was predicted that participants would be more ambivalent toward the women's rights movement than toward the other movements. Results confirmed the hypotheses, with exceptions being that both the women's rights movement and the civil rights movement were perceived with ambivalence, and that both the women's rights movement and the civil rights movement were perceived as radical. Results suggest that negative attitudes toward feminists have discouraged public support for and participation in the organized women's movement, thus slowing the progression toward total social gender equality.