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Muslims, Christians, and Jews worship the same god. All three are religions, with many common doctrines, texts, and beliefs.

White European American (n = 91)

Ethnicity x Private feminist identity

Consider the following common perceptions about Americans and how they have developed:
Moi has further argued that the sex/gender distinction is uselessgiven certain theoretical goals (1999, chapter 1). This is not to saythat it is utterly worthless; according to Moi, the sex/genderdistinction worked well to show that the historically prevalentbiological determinism was false. However, for her, the distinctiondoes no useful work “when it comes to producing a good theory ofsubjectivity” (1999, 6) and “a concrete, historicalunderstanding of what it means to be a woman (or a man) in a givensociety” (1999, 4–5). That is, the 1960s distinctionunderstood sex as fixed by biology without any cultural or historicaldimensions. This understanding, however, ignores lived experiencesand embodiment as aspects of womanhood (and manhood) by separating sexfrom gender and insisting that womanhood is to do with thelatter. Rather, embodiment must be included in one's theory that triesto figure out what it is to be a woman (or a man).

Ethnicity x Public feminist identity

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For Butler, sexed bodies never exist outside social meanings and howwe understand gender shapes how we understand sex (1999, 139). Sexedbodies are not empty matter on which gender is constructed and sexcategories are not picked out on the basis of objective features ofthe world. Instead, our sexed bodies are themselves discursivelyconstructed: they are the way they are, at least to a substantialextent, because of what is attributed to sexed bodies and how they areclassified (for discursive construction, see Haslanger 1995, 99). Sex assignment (calling someone female or male) is normative (Butler 1993, 1).[] When thedoctor calls a newly born infant a girl or a boy, s/he is not making adescriptive claim, but a normative one. In fact, the doctor is performing an illocutionary speech act (see the entry on ). In effect, the doctor'sutterance makes infants into girls or boys. We, then, engage inactivities that make it seem as if sexes naturally come in two andthat being female or male is an objective feature of the world, ratherthan being a consequence of certain constitutive acts (that is, ratherthan being performative). And this is what Butler means in saying thatphysical bodies never exist outside cultural and social meanings, andthat sex is as socially constructed as gender. She does not deny thatphysical bodies exist. But, she takes our understanding of thisexistence to be a product of social conditioning: socialconditioning makes the existence of physical bodies intelligible to usby discursively constructing sexed bodies through certain constitutiveacts. (For a helpful introduction to Butler's views, see Salih2002.)

 

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Means, standard deviations, alpha coefficients, and bivariate Spearman correlations (N = 169)
We close by noting some limitations of our study and suggest some directions for future research. First, our study was based on a convenience sample of predominantly heterosexual women who attended a socially progressive university. The life experiences of our participants may not generalize to women from different backgrounds, sexual orientations, ages, or social contexts. Although we considered women’s ethnic-minority status as a moderator, we were not able to compare different ethnic-minority groups. Pathways to feminist identity may vary for women depending on particular ethnic backgrounds (e.g., Harnois ; Robnett et al. ) or sexual orientations (e.g., Friedman and Leaper ; Szymanski ). Furthermore, as in most prior studies of feminist identity, our sample did not include any men. There may be greater coherence among the components of feminist identity in women than men (McCabe ). Thus, in future research, it will be helpful to consider in more depth how various individual characteristics, such as gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, may moderate factors related to feminist identity.


Public self-identification as a feminist predicted confronting regardless of the women’s ethnic background, and it predicted seeking support (but only for White European American women). Confronting a perpetrator is a highly public form of coping; in comparison, seeking support is more private. Publicly identifying a feminist identity, therefore, may help to strengthen all women’s resolve to challenge sexist behavior when it occurs. However, having a feminist identity does not (and should not) necessarily lead to confrontation. Confronting a perpetrator of sexual harassment carries the risk of potential threats ranging from negative emotion to physical harm. Hence, the costs and benefits of confronting must be weighed depending on the situation (Kaiser and Miller ; Shelton and Stewart ). In some instances, the most effective coping may involve seeking support from an authority figure, friend, partner, or family member.


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Women were more likely to have positive appraisals of confronting sexual harassment if they identified more strongly as women (social gender identity), did not stereotype feminists, and publicly identified as a feminist. Identifying with other women may add to women’s belief that confronting will benefit both themselves and women as a whole (Ayres et al. ). It is notable that public—but not private—identification was a significant factor in our analysis. The former may reflect a stronger commitment to a feminist identity than the latter (Zucker ). Accordingly, a woman’s willingness to publicly express her identity as a feminist may help to strengthen her belief in the efficacy of confronting discrimination. Having a feminist identity is also related to holding a set of beliefs that may lead women to consider confronting sexism as “the right thing to do.” Compatible with cognitive consistency theory (McGuire ), beliefs and actions are conjoined when feminist-identified women endorse confronting sexist acts.

Library of Congress Catalog Data: ISSN 1095-5054

Both private feminist identity and public feminist identity were positively related to seeking support in response to sexism; however, these factors predicted seeking support only among White European American women. Preliminary analyses indicated that ethnic-minority women were more likely than White European American to seek support in response to sexism. To the extent that ethnic-minority women may experience more forms of overall discrimination (i.e., racial/ethnic and gender discrimination), perhaps they have more experience seeking support when it occurs. In contrast, because White European American women are not likely to experience racial/ethnic discrimination, gender discrimination may tend to be more salient for White European American women than ethnic-minority women (Levin et al. ; Turner and Brown ); in turn, identifying as a feminist may help White European American women recognize gender discrimination and subsequently look to others for help.