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When Men Who Dislike Feminists Feel Proud: Can Self-Affirmation and Perspective-Taking Increase Men’s Empathy Toward Feminists?

Persson, S and Hostler, TJ (2021) When Men Who Dislike Feminists Feel Proud: Can Self-Affirmation and Perspective-Taking Increase Men’s Empathy Toward Feminists? Psychology of Women Quarterly. ISSN 0361-6843

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Abstract

Abuse against women’s rights activists is a serious concern, but there is a lack of research into strategies on how to reduce this. Past research has identified self-affirmation (i.e., thinking about one’s valued traits) and perspective-taking as promising strategies to reduce minority target backlash. Through one pilot study (n = 98), and one two-part experimental study (n = 202), we tested the effect of perspective-taking and self-affirmation on empathy toward feminism among men. Fictional Facebook profiles were manipulated to encourage perspective-taking, perspective-taking with self-affirmation, or were neutral in content. Participants then rated feelings toward individual feminists as well as feelings (in the context of perspective-taking emotions) toward abuse faced by feminists more generally. Results indicated that perspective-taking combined with self-affirmation promoted empathetic feelings (as represented by perspective-taking emotions) toward feminists experiencing abuse. The impact on empathy was particularly strong among men with high initial prejudice toward feminists. These results suggest that self-affirmation could potentially reduce online abuse of feminists through an increase in empathetic feelings. This research has broader implications for male engagement within feminism, and we recommend that educators and male allies of feminism promote positive, affirming roles for men (e.g., as fathers), as this may encourage empathy toward feminist issues. Policy makers could consider this strategy in the context of promoting policies such as shared parental leave.

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