Barriers to Women Engaging in Collective Action to Overcome Sexism
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Over centuries women have fought hard to obtain increasing gender equality, but despite these successes absolute equality remains an elusive goal. Theoretically, women’s numerical strength makes them well-placed to take effective collective action, and millions of women engage in feminist collective action every day. In this article, however, we argue that women also face barriers to engaging in feminist collective action; barriers that are associated with the social construction and experience of what it means to be a woman. Our review synthesizes sexism research under a contemporary collective action framework to clarify our current understanding of the literature and to offer novel theoretical explanations for why women might be discouraged from engaging in feminist collective action. Using the antecedents of collective action identified by van Zomeren, Postmes, and Spears’ (2008) meta-analysis, we critically review the sexism literature to argue that women face challenges when it comes to (a) identifying with other women and feminists, (b) perceiving sexism and expressing group-based anger, and (c) recognizing the efficacy of collective action. We then outline a research agenda with a view to investigating ways of overcoming these barriers.