BREAKING: Some dudes on the internet refuse to believe sexism is a thing

According to a new study, That Guy in the Comments Section is going to need a lot more than Real Scientific Evidence to convince him that sexism exists.

The study, published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, examined the hellhole that is the comments sections of articles reporting on experimental evidence of gender bias in STEM. It found that — surprise! — (some) men on the internet will go to great lengths to excuse or justify sexism, even when they’re looking right at the scientific data. More specifically, the study noted:

  • 9.5% of the comments argued that sexism does not exist; 68% of these were from men.
  • 67.4% of the comments agreed that gender bias exists; 29% of these were from men.
  • 22% of all of the comments justified the existence of gender bias; between 79% and 88% of these were from men.
  • Of the comments justifying gender bias, 59.8% did so using biological explanations, 29.6% used non-biological explanations, and 10.6% justified it stating that women perpetrate it by discriminating against other women.
  • 7.6% of the comments argued that sexism targets men more than women; 65% of these commenters were men.
  • 100% of the comments expressing gratitude for the study were made by women.
  • 11.2% of the comments expressed a call for social change; 46% of these were made by men.

What does all this mean going forward? The study suggests that dropping knowledge on the guy you Facebook-debated in college (hi Ben) may not be enough to engender change in his attitudes and beliefs. As the paper notes,

“Many current STEM diversity initiatives rest on the theory that exposing participants to evidence of gender bias will ultimately reduce bias and enhance diversity (Moss-Racusin et al., 2014). In contrast, the current research suggests that reactions to demonstrated bias in STEM may be quite variable, necessitating a more systematic approach to understanding when (and for whom) demonstrating bias is associated with positive outcomes.”

Thanks Science! You can read the study here.

New Haven, CT

Dana Bolger is a Senior Editor at Feministing and the co-founder of Know Your IX, the national youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She's testified before Congress on Title IX policy and legislative reform, and her writing has appeared in a number of outlets, including The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. She's also a student at Yale Law School, and you can find her on Twitter at @danabolger.

Dana Bolger is a Senior Editor at Feministing and a student at Yale Law School.

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