Bad Feminists? Perceived Self-Discrepancy Predicts Differences in Gender Equality Activism

Sarah E. Conlin, Martin Heesacker, Blake A. Allan, Richard P. Douglass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This study examines why people who believe in gender equality vary in their degree of activist participation. We conducted one study to assess whether US participants’ (N = 333) perceived behavioral or belief inconsistencies, or perceived knowledge deficits, predicted feminist self-identification and activism. Results demonstrated that the effect of pro-gender equality ideology on activism was mediated by our “bad feminist” variable—including behavioral and belief inconsistencies with gender equality, and perceived knowledge deficit about gender equality. Bad feminist self-perceptions (i.e., perceived inconsistencies) also predicted (1) feminist self-identification and (2) self-esteem. With perceived inconsistencies in the model, self-identification predicted activism to a relatively small degree (β = .23). This structural model explained 45% of variance in reported activism. This model represents an empirical study of the “bad feminist” effect and introduces a new framework for examining participation in the feminist movement. Practical implications suggest the need for increased education about inclusive feminism, aiming to debunk myths of a singular definition, with attention to perceived discrepancies or inadequacies. Future strategies aiming to promote engagement with feminism should also take self-evaluation processes into account.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-88
Number of pages22
JournalGender Issues
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 15 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Activism
  • Cognitive dissonance
  • Feminism
  • Feminist identity
  • Feminist self-identification
  • Feminist self-labeling
  • Gender attitudes
  • Self-concept
  • Social identity


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