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Thesis Format



Doctor of Philosophy




Calogero, Rachel M.


Gender inequality remains a pressing social issue around the world. Due to recent social movements, feminism has become a part of the cultural zeitgeist, and an increasing number of people have begun identifying as feminists in recent years. However, many modern feminists maintain a sense of ambivalence about the movement and their place within it. This ambivalence is difficult to study because the tools designed to evaluate feminist attitudes and identity do not capture this or other important and common aspects of modern feminist identity, such as fear of stigma, solidarity with other feminists, and competence to engage in feminist activism. Given that modern feminism is not well-understood by psychological researchers, I conducted five studies to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the subject. In Study 1, I provide a critical review of measures of feminist identity and attitudes over the past fifty years. In Study 2, In Study 2, I conducted a grounded theory analysis of interviews with 26 women and nonbinary feminist-identified people to develop a framework for understanding the areas in which these individuals felt uncertain or ambivalent about their beliefs and identities. In Studies 3-5, I developed and validated a new measure of feminist social identity (the Feminist Social Identity Scale) that evaluates six distinct components of modern feminist identity: four aligned identity subscales (Beliefs, Competence, Solidarity, Centrality) and two ambivalent identity subscales (Fear of Stigma, Uncertainty). In Study 3, I provide evidence of structural (exploratory factor analysis) and external validity (convergent and discriminant validity) for the FSIS. In Study 4, I provide additional evidence of structural (confirmatory factor analysis) and external validity (convergent validity) for the measure. In Study 5, I provide further evidence of the tool’s external validity (convergent validity, known-groups validity, incremental validity, criterion validity). In Study 6, I engaged in reflexive thematic analysis to analyze interviews with 28 men about their experiences adopting a feminist identity, and the ways their identities as feminists have shifted and grown over time. Taken together, this dissertation reflects a series of studies geared at understanding the ways that feminist identities are negotiated in the present cultural context.

Summary for Lay Audience

Feminism refers to the movement to end sexist oppression. While most people support the goals of the feminist movement, the stigma surrounding feminism has deterred many from identifying themselves as feminists to other people. However, as feminism has become mainstream, more people than ever are calling themselves feminists. This would seem like a welcome step forward for the feminist movement; yet, many people who call themselves feminists maintain ambivalent feelings about the feminist movement and their place within it, which may reduce their willingness to engage in behaviors consistent with their feminist identity. This dissertation examines feminist identity ambivalence and its consequences. In Study 1, I analyzed existing measures of feminist identity and attitudes to determine the appropriateness of these tools for studying modern feminism. In Study 2, I interviewed 26 women and nonbinary people who identify as feminists to develop a better understanding of the domains of ambivalence within their feminist identities. This analysis led to the new theoretical development of a framework for understanding ambivalent feminist identity, and its downstream effects on mental body-related attitudes and feminist activism. In Studies 3 through 5, I developed and tested a new measure of feminist identity, which contains subscales to evaluate both aligned (i.e., feminist beliefs, competence as a feminist, solidarity with other feminists, and centrality of feminist identity) and ambivalent (i.e., fear of experiencing stigma for being a feminist, uncertainty about feminist identity) aspects of feminist identity. These studies revealed that the scale is reliable, valid, related to other constructs related to feminist identity, and can help to predict behaviours of interest above other commonly-used measures of gender attitudes. Finally, in Study 6, I interviewed 28 men who identify as feminists to understand how their feminist identities develop and grow over time. Overall, these six studies help to update the field’s understanding of modern feminism as it is lived and experienced by people across the gender spectrum.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.