Master of Science
Calogero, Rachel M.
Research in the area of feminist identity and body image has produced mixed results. Some evidence suggests that feminist identity may be protective against negative body image in women. The current study was an independent partial conceptual replication and extension of Roy et al. (2007) and examines the experimental effect of feminist self-identification on forms of internalized body stigma. After completion of baseline measures, undergraduate women (N = 149) were assigned to one of three experimental conditions and read about either a positive portrayal of feminists, negative portrayal of feminists, or non-feminist-related topic. Participants then completed measures of feminist self-identification, endorsement of feminist ideology, body shame, anti-fat attitudes, and broad conceptualization of beauty. Overall, the hypotheses were not supported – levels of feminist self-identification and scores on the internalized body stigma variables did not significantly vary across conditions. Discussion centers on the study’s limitations and future directions for feminist self-identification research.
Summary for Lay Audience
This study is an independent partial replication and extension of Roy, Weibust, and Miller’s (2007) study, “Effects of stereotypes about feminists on feminist self-identification.” Feminist self-identification refers to an individual’s willingness to label themselves a feminist, whether privately or publicly (Cowan et al., 1992). This is an important distinction from endorsement of feminist attitudes. Past research has demonstrated that the majority of women endorsed feminist attitudes and ideology but were reluctant to actually self-identify as a feminist (Alexander & Ryan, 1997; Burn et al., 2000; Williams & Wittig, 1997).
As holding a feminist identity may provide protection against negative body image and responses to experiences of sexism, it is important to examine why women are unwilling to self-identify as feminists (Liss & Erchull, 2010; Moradi & Subich, 2002; Murnen & Smolak, 2009). One reason that women are reluctant to self-identify as feminists is because of the stigma surrounding the label “feminist.” Even if women do not view feminism as a bad thing, women often assume that others may have negative views of feminists (Roy et al., 2007). The original authors aimed to determine whether exposure to negative stereotypes about feminists inhibited feminist self-identification in women and found evidence that exposure to stereotypes about feminists had an effect on individuals’ feminist self-identification. Additionally, women exposed to negative stereotypes about feminists were less likely to self-identify as feminists than those in the positive feminist portrayal or control conditions; individuals exposed to positive stereotypes about feminists were conversely more likely to self-identify as feminists. We were also interested in examining the relationships between feminist stereotypes and internalized weight stigma, body shame, and anti-fat attitudes, as well as the relationships between feminist self-identification and internalized weight stigma, body shame, and anti-fat attitudes.
We conducted this study as a conceptual replication of Roy et al.’s experimental manipulation and have expanded this work by examining the effect of the manipulation and feminist self-identification on a collection of body image measures that have not been previously tested in relation to feminist social identity. Finally, we examine the role of several personality and social support variables in women’s feminist self-identification and body image.
Hillier, Courtney C., "The Effect of Feminist Identity on Women's Conceptualizations of Beauty and Body-Based Stigma: A Conceptual Replication and Extension" (2021). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. 7854.
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