WHY PSYCHOLOGY SUGGESTS THAT THERE MAY NOT BE EMPOWERMENT AND STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
Written By: Judy Laut
In 2020, feminism, “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.) is a highly debated and controversial topic. As controversial as feminism may be, the support and fight for equality is well-founded. From politics to social situations to employment and compensation, it seems as if in modern society sexism is still alive and well.
“In-group favoritism is a central aspect of human behavior. People often help members of their own group more than members of other groups.” (Fu, 2012) The concept of in-group favoritism leads one to believe that women would be more likely to support, encourage, and defend one another especially against men and sexism. But how true is this? Do women feel more empowered to confront sexism when other women are present? According to “A recent series of experiments by Janet Swim and Lauri Hyers” (Gruman, 2016) the answer is no.
“Sexism refers to any bias against an individual or a group of individuals based on the individual’s or group member’s sex.” (Gruman, 2016) With sexism as prevalent as it is and all of the controversy surrounding it and the reactive feminist movements, why is it that woman are less likely to confront sexism when other women are present?
The answer lies within the concept that is termed the “diffusion of responsibility (i.e., the diminished sense of responsibility a person feels when he or she believes that others would or should intervene)” (Gruman, 2016)
In the series of experiments conducted by Swim and Hayers an analyzation of women’s public responses to sexist remarks reported “…that only 16% [of women] directly confronted the men with verbal responses…” (Gruman, 2016) “Interestingly, when the participant was the only woman among three male confederates, she was more likely to respond to the initial sexist remark than when other women were present.” (Gruman, 2016)
It’s both amazing and disheartening that according to the experiment more women are willing to confront sexism when they find themself the only woman in an uncomfortable situation. As women, we need to feel empowered when surrounded by one another. We can no longer justify our silence by passing on the responsibility to someone else. We need to support, encourage, and defend one another. Too many women have fought and died for our equality for us to remain silent now.
Fu, F., Tarnita, C., Christakis, N. et al. Evolution of in-group favoritism. Sci Rep 2, 460 (2012). Retrieved February 19, 2020, from https://doi.org/10.1038/srep00460
Gruman, J. A., Schneider, F. W., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2016). Applied social psychology : Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Retrieved February 19, 2020, from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com
Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Feminism. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved February 19, 2020, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/feminism
Miller, J. Howard. Rosie, the Riveter. 1942. Retrieved February 19, 2020, from https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_538122