Women’s Political Leanings Impact Their Responses to Sexual Harassment and Misconduct

A new study by Alexa Bankert, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Georgia, found that women who have experienced gender discrimination report higher levels of political participation and are more likely to vote in the general election. This connection, however, is not consistent across women’s ideological spectrum.

Dr. Bankert’s research found that liberal women – when experiencing discrimination – turn toward direct political action like volunteering for a campaign, while conservative women do not show a similar increase in their political engagement. In her study, Bankert suggests that conservative women might look for other, less overtly political, support systems such as religious communities.

Key to the findings are differences between what liberal and conservative women categorize as sexual harassment. Initially, Dr. Bankert said she expected to see that both liberal and conservative women report similar levels of sexism, but that was not the case. In fact, she saw that liberal women reported experiencing sexism at much higher rates than conservative women.

“I further investigated that pattern,” Dr. Bankert said. “And I show that conservative women have a much narrower understanding of sexism than their liberal counterparts.”

Among conservative women, the perception dominates that sexist behavior consists of isolated incidents while liberal women view sexism as a more systemic problem. This might explain why experienced sexism amplifies liberal women’s political engagement but there is not a similar participatory impetus among conservative women, Dr. Bankert said.

Dr. Bankert is a graduate of the Free University of Berlin in Germany. She earned a Ph.D. in political science at Stony Brook University of the State University of New York System.

The full study, “Let’s Talk About Sexism: The Differential Effects of Gender Discrimination on Liberal and Conservative Women’s Political Engagement,” was published on the website of the journal American Politics Research. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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