Let’s Talk About Sexism: The Differential Effects of Gender Discrimination on Liberal and Conservative Women’s Political Engagement

Published date01 November 2020
Date01 November 2020
AuthorAlexa Bankert
Subject MatterArticles
American Politics Research
2020, Vol. 48(6) 779 –791
© The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1532673X20939503
“Sexual harassment on the job is not a problem for virtuous
(Phyllis Schlafly, American conservative activist)
Despite undeniable improvements in women’s status and gen-
der equality in the U.S. and beyond, sexism remains a pervasive
and widespread problem in American society. A recent survey
on women’s rights conducted among a nationally representative
sample of American women reaffirms this notion: A majority
reported experiences with some form of sexism in their lives,
ranging from hearing sexist language (70%) to being touched
inappropriately without their consent (54%). It is thus not sur-
prising that only about a third (37%) of all respondents believed
that it was a good time to be a woman in America.1
Sexism and its impact on women’s political participation
and representation has received much attention in political
science, demonstrating that women are less politically
interested and informed than men (Burns et al., 2001; Verba
et al., 1997) as well as disadvantaged when running for
office (Bauer, 2015; Dolan, 1998; Krupnikov et al., 2016;
Schneider & Bos, 2014; Schneider et al., 2016). Despite the
importance of this prior work, political scientists have paid
less attention to the most common way that women learn
about and are affected by sexism, namely through personal
experiences in their daily lives. The Me Too movement has
shown that these experiences affect women of all socio-
demographic and professional backgrounds, ranging from
actresses to restaurant workers.
Although these experiences vary in their forms and sever-
ity, they all originate in and reinforce women’s subordination
(Fitzgerald, 1993)—an experience that is likely to have a
spillover effect on women’s political behavior especially
since politics is still considered a predominantly male domain
(Lawless & Fox, 2013). Despite the face validity of this argu-
ment, there is little prior research investigating the relation-
ship between discrimination and political engagement among
women. In this manuscript, I aim to address this gap by exam-
ining the role of personally experienced sexism in shaping
women’s political engagement.
At the same time, women are not a homogenous group
and gender has been shown to be a less influential identity
by itself in American politics but more powerful when
paired with partisanship and ideology (Barnes & Cassese,
2016; Erzeel & Caluwaerts, 2015; Huddy, 2013; Huddy
et al., 2008). This notion is echoed by recent survey data
demonstrating that the partisan gap in perceptions of gender
inequality and sexual harassment greatly exceeds the gender
gap.2 It is thus plausible that political identities condition
how women perceive and respond to personal experiences
of sexism.
939503APRXXX10.1177/1532673X20939503American Politics ResearchBankert
1University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Alexa Bankert, University of Georgia, 180 Baldwin Hall, Athens, GA
30602, USA.
Email: ALEXA.BANKERT@uga.edu
Let’s Talk About Sexism: The Differential
Effects of Gender Discrimination on
Liberal and Conservative Women’s
Political Engagement
Alexa Bankert1
As the 2016 election season and the Me Too movement have powerfully demonstrated, sexism is a pervasive force not
just in American politics but also, more generally, in women’s everyday lives. While political scientists have focused on the
impact of sexism on voters’ evaluations of female candidates and their electoral chances, we know little about the effect of
personally experienced sexism on American women’s political engagement. This manuscript tries to address this gap. Using
data from the 2016 ANES Pilot Study as well as a survey experiment, I demonstrate that women who have experienced
gender discrimination report higher levels of political participation and a higher chance of voting in the general election.
However, among conservative women, personal experience with sexism is not associated with this participatory impetus.
These findings have implications for the equal representation of women from both ends of the ideological spectrum.
sexism, women, ideology, political engagement

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT