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Competitive Loss, Gendered Backlash and Sexism in Politics

Article rédigé par Jordan Mansell, professeur associé à l’IEIM, Allison Harell & Tania Gosselin, professeures au Département de science politique de l’UQAM et Melanee Thomas, University of Calgary.

Mansell, J., Harell, A., Thomas, M. et al. Competitive Loss, Gendered Backlash and Sexism in Politics. Polit Behav (2021).

Résumé

Politics is often seen as a zero-sum game, so understanding how competition affects political behavior is a fruitful, yet underexplored area of study. Reactions to competition are known to be gendered, as women are significantly more aware of and averse to the potential negative effects of competition—risk and loss—than are men. Participants (n = 1296) completed an experiment involving a non-political competitive task, where they were randomly assigned to receive a negative cue about their individual or gendered group’s poor performance. Following this, we assessed their levels of political ambition, efficacy, interest, and sexism. We hypothesize that: (1) negative performance feedback on a competitive task will decrease political ambition, efficacy, and interest among women; and (2) men who receive negative feedback about their performance relative to women will report higher levels of sexism. We use a non-binary measure of masculinity/femininity that helps explain how gender identity affects these outcomes. Evidence does not support the conclusion that negative feedback about competition contributes to women’s lower levels of psychological engagement with politics. However, results show that negative performance feedback, particularly when it is relative to women, increases sexism in men. Furthermore, the effect of negative feedback on sexism is larger when men identify more strongly as masculine. We argue that threatening men’s relative performance partly explains larger trends of backlash against women in politics.

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