What looks like sexism and why? The effect of comment type and perpetrator type on women's perceptions of sexism

J Gen Psychol. 2014;141(3):263-79. doi: 10.1080/00221309.2014.907769.


Sexist comments are not perceived equally in the eyes of women. We extend previous research by examining the degree to which multiple types of potentially sexist comments made by multiple types of men are perceived as sexist. Further, we examine the degree to which three possible mediators--prototypicality, perceived intent, and interdependence--explained these effects. Female undergraduate students (N = 248) were randomly assigned to read a scenario in which a hostile sexist, benevolent sexist, or objectifying comment was made by one of three types of men: a stranger, their boss, or their boyfriend. Results demonstrate that hostile sexism was perceived as more sexist than benevolent sexism or objectification. Comments made by boyfriends were also rated as less sexist than those made by bosses or strangers. Furthermore, perceptions of prototypicality of the comment or perpetrator and perceived intent to harm mediated the effect of study manipulations on perceptions of sexism.

Keywords: intent; interdependence; prototypicality; relationship; sexism; sexual objectification.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Beneficence
  • Female
  • Hostility
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sexism / psychology*
  • Social Perception
  • Speech
  • Women / psychology*
  • Young Adult