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Study: Daily acts of sexism go unnoticed by men, women
According to a study published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, both men and women tend to overlook the more subtle daily acts of sexism they encounter. Things such as calling women "girls" but not calling men "boys" or referring to a collective group as "guys" are forms of subtle sexism that creep into daily interactions. The study helps not only identify which forms of sexism are most overlooked by which sex, but also how noticing these acts can change people's attitudes. The study also goes on to differentiate the way men and women's beliefs change once they become aware of subtle sexism. Women need to "see the unseen," the authors note, to make corrections, whereas men need not only to be aware of the sexist behavior or comments, but also to feel empathy for the women targeted. These results are consistent with other studies which found that empathy is an effective method for reducing racial and ethnic prejudice.
Three experiments were conducted in the United States and Germany to test whether women and men endorse sexist beliefs because they are unaware of the prevalence of different types of sexism in their personal lives. Study 1 (N ¼ 120) and Study 2 (N ¼ 83) used daily diaries as a method to encourage individuals ‘‘to see the unseen.’’ Results revealed that encouraging women to pay attention to sexism, in comparison to attention to other social interactions, led to a stronger rejection of Modern Sexist, Neosexist, and Benevolent Sexist beliefs (Studies 1 and 2) and to negative evaluations of Modern and Benevolent Sexist men described in profiles as well as to more engagement in collective action on behalf of women (Study 2). In contrast, for men, paying attention to sexism did not have these effects. Results from Study 2 suggest, and from Study 3 (N ¼ 141) confirm, that men’s endorsement of Modern and Neosexist beliefs can be reduced if attention to sexism and emotional empathy for the target of discrimination is encouraged. Finally, a follow-up survey indicated that the attitude change in women and men was stable over time. The implications of these findings for interventions to reduce women’s versus men’s endorsement of sexist beliefs are discussed.