The Justification of Social Inequality in Response to Masculinity Threats

Kevin S. Weaver, Theresa K. Vescio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Research suggests that threatening men’s masculinity can lead to negative attitudes and aggressive behaviors. The current research expands on these findings by examining the effects of masculinity threats on attitudes about social inequality regarding women and gay men. Across studies, we predicted that men whose masculinity was threatened (compared to non-threatening controls) would be more accepting of social inequities that disadvantage women and gay men. Three hundred forty-four male students at a large northeastern U.S. university were randomly assigned to either (a) take a test about gender knowledge (Study 1 and 2) or (b) proofread either a gender knowledge test or university knowledge test (Study 2). Feedback on the test was altered to either threaten or assure masculinity. Following the test or proofreading task, men indicated their discomfort, anger (Study 2 only), and acceptance of discrimination and group-based inequality in society. In both studies identification with gender was measured as a potential moderator. The results of Study 1 (N = 160) showed that the masculinity manipulation only affected denial of discrimination against gay men, but this effect seemed to be related to the salience of gender rather than threatened masculinity. Study 2 (N = 184) added a gender salience comparison for clarification and replicated the results of Study 1, indicating that masculinity threats and assurances have effects independent of gender salience. In Study 1, men who were threatened and highly identified with their gender accepted more group-based inequality. The practical and social implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)521-535
Number of pages15
JournalSex Roles
Issue number11-12
StatePublished - Jun 2 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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