STUDY: Feminists more willing to ‘sacrifice’ men

Feminist women are the most willing to sacrifice men in a hypothetical moral dilemma task, according to a newly published study out of the University of Exeter. 

The study—“Subliminal Gender Stereotypes: Who Can Resist?”—sought to explore how women’s perceptions of men change after exposure to subliminal stereotypes, which were predicted to “trigger resistance in some women.” 

“We expect resistance to occur among women who are relatively strongly identified with feminists, but not with the broader group of women,” the researchers wrote, suggesting that feminists might try to resist gender norms by devaluing men. 

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To assess this, researchers led participants through a fictional Moral Choice Dilemma Task, which consisted of eight scenarios “in which sacrificing one person can save several others of unspecified gender.” 

“In four scenarios, participants are asked to sacrifice a man to save several others (of unspecified gender), and in four other scenarios they are asked to sacrifice a woman,” the study explains. 

While the researchers concede that the task may seem “extreme,” they note that other academics have found that it “can provide information about the social value given to different groups: Socially valued individuals are less likely to be sacrificed.” 

Indeed, the authors say the study confirmed their suspicions, revealing that women “who are strongly identified with feminists, but not other women, sacrificed men more readily after subliminal stereotype exposure.”

“We argue that both these responses reflect resistance because they do not assimilate to but instead go against subliminal stereotypes, attempting to counteract them,” they explain, adding that this may be how feminists fight the notion that men are more socially valued than women. 

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The study was spearheaded by Jolien van Breen of the University of Exeter, and was published in the latest issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

In an interview with Campus Reform, van Breen said her team’s research is the first to show that feminists are more willing to sacrifice men, though previous studies have found similar results with other marginalized groups, such as racial minorities.  

“If a person wanted to counteract that and ‘level the playing field’, that can be done either by boosting women or by downgrading men” van Breen told Campus Reform. “So I think that this effect on evaluations of men arises because our participants are trying to achieve an underlying aim: counteracting gender stereotypes.” 

However, van Breen was quick to note that there’s “no evidence that feminists behave more negatively towards men” outside of a psychology research lab. 

“To sum that up: I don’t think the finding says anything specifically about how these women view men, but rather this is a means to an end: the effect is produced by their desire to counteract the implications of stereotypes,” she explained. 

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen