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What is Feminism? College Students’ Definitions and Correlates

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Abstract

Feminism may have different meanings to different people. Three Texas college student samples (N = 272, N = 156, N = 404) were surveyed and provided information about their definitions of feminism as well as their gender role and sexist attitudes. Based on gender comparison MANOVAs, women agreed more with defining feminism from a liberal feminist perspective that focused on male/female similarities and equal rights. Men, however, were more likely to define feminism from a man-hating perspective (Studies 1 and 3). Defining feminism from a liberal feminist perspective was correlated with a womanist, more inclusive, perspective, but defining feminism from a man-hating perspective was related to cultural feminist perspectives that identified differing male/female characteristics/values (Studies 2 and 3). Across all three studies defining feminism from a liberal feminist perspective was associated with nontraditional gender role attitudes and less sexism. However, perceiving feminists as man-haters was related to more traditional values and more sexist attitudes. In each of the three studies, fewer than half of the participants indicated that they were feminists. Although many college students define feminism from a liberal feminism perspective associated with less traditional gendered values, others may be more likely to think of feminists with more negative connotations.
Curr Psychol (2019) 38:1576 1589
Published online: 14 October 2017
#
What is Feminism? College StudentsDefinitions and Correlates
Shirley Matile Ogletree
1
&Paulette Diaz
1
&Vincent Padilla
1
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017
Abstract Feminism may have different meanings to different
people. Three Texas college student samples (N= 272,
N=156,N= 404) were surveyed and provided information
about their definitions of feminism as well as their gender role
and sexist attitudes. Based on gender comparison
MANOVAs, women agreed more with defining feminism
from a liberal feminist perspective that focused on
male/female similarities and equal rights. Men, however, were
more likely to define feminism from a man-hating perspective
(Studies 1 and 3). Defining feminism from a liberal feminist
perspective was correlated with a womanist, more inclusive,
perspective, but defining feminism from a man-hating per-
spective was related to cultural feminist perspectives that iden-
tified differing male/female characteristics/values (Studies 2
and 3). Across all three studies defining feminism from a
liberal feminist perspective was associated with nontraditional
gender role attitudes and less sexism. However, perceiving
feminists as man-haters was related to more traditional values
and more sexist attitudes. In each of the three studies, fewer
than half of the participants indicated that they were feminists.
Although many college students define feminism from a lib-
eral feminism perspective associated with less traditional gen-
dered values, others may be more likely to think of feminists
with more negative connotations.
Keywords Feminism .Gender roles .Sex roles .Sexism
What are beliefs about feminism in our society today?
Celebrities refer to feminismin different ways, perhaps con-
tributing to diverse perspectives in others. For example, Miley
Cyrus, a pop culture singer famous for twerking,described
herself as a feminist because I tell women to not be scared of
anything(Silverman 2013), while Emma Watson, of Harry
Potter movie fame, spoke at the UN describing feminism as a
belief that men and women should have equal rights(Watson
2014). Watsons view is similar to a liberal feminist perspective
(Matlin 2012) that focuses on equal rights/responsibilities for
women and men as well as gender similarity, as in Hydes
(2005) gender similarity hypothesis. Cyrusposition, though,
may reflect a more sexualized perspective, that supports
womens right to behave in ways they want, including sexual
ways. Feminist scholars, however, may object to feminism be-
ingusedinsuchaway,arguingthatfeminismneedstofight
against hierarchies of oppression(Siebler 2015,p.562).
Different forms of feminism have been identified in the
past (Donelson 1999;Henleyetal.1998;Swirskyand
Angelone 2014; Tong 2007). One of the discussions among
feminists has been tied to whether or not women are biologi-
cally, fundamentally, and essentially different from men.
Although the liberal feminist perspective emphasizes equal
rights and the similarity of men and women, cultural feminism
has been described as an essentialist perspective (Alcoff
1988); cultural feminism posits that women and men are fun-
damentally different with womens traits, such as nurturance,
empathy, and caring for others, having been undervalued in
our society (Donelson 1999;Matlin2012). Cultural feminism
has been considered by some to be an ideology that re-
appropriates female nature in an effort to revalidate
undervalued female attributes,(Alcoff 1988, p. 408). Some
*Shirley Matile Ogletree
so01@txstate.edu
Paulette Diaz
p_d39@txstate.edu
Vin ce nt Pa dilla
vcp3@txstate.edu
1
Department of Psychology, Texas State University, 601 University
Drive, San Marcos, TX 78666, USA
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-017-9718-1
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
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