Activists need an image makeover

We’ve long realized that Christians had an image problem, but according to a new study, so do people pushing for social change.  Several sociologists conducted parallel arguments in the US and Canada, and found that the majority of the population agreed with activists about issues like feminism and environmentalism.  

For one of the main studies, undergrads read about either a “typical” feminist, who took part in rallies, or an atypical feminist, who used less abrasive techniques, such as holding social events to raise money for feminist causes. Next, all the students read an article, ostensibly written by the aforementioned feminist, about the unfair obstacles that women continue to face. Finally, the students declared their intentions to adopt pro-feminist behaviours, such as getting involved in pro-women’s rights initiatives.

The students who read about a typical feminist tended to assume she had more negative stereotypical traits, such as being militant and eccentric. What’s more, after reading her article, these same students tended to report fewer intentions to engage in pro-feminist behaviours themselves, as compared with students who’d encountered the atypical feminist and her article. These two things were linked – mediation analysis suggested students who encountered the typical feminist and her article had lower pro-feminist intentions because they saw the feminist as having stereotypical activist traits.

All of which poses the question: to what degree do our preconceptions about people stop us from doing what we know is right?  

As people of faith, how do we strive to do better?

Read the whole study here

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