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A Stress and Coping Perspective on Confronting Sexism


  • Cheryl R. Kaiser,

  • Carol T. Miller

  • Cheryl R. Kaiser, Department of Psychology, Michigan State University; Carol T. Miller, Department of Psychology, University of Vermont.

  • Portions of these data were presented at the Third Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in Savannah, Georgia, 2002. We are grateful to Bella DePaulo, Collette Eccleston, and Brenda Major for their helpful comments on a previous draft of this manuscript.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Cheryl R. Kaiser, Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824. E-mail:


In this study we tested a stress and coping model of confronting sexism. One hundred fourteen university women completed measures of optimism, cognitive appraisals about the prospects of confronting discrimination (expectations of the costs and benefits of confrontation as well as confrontation-related anxiety), and reported on the extent to which they behaved confrontationally in two recent encounters with sexism. Structural equation modeling analyses revealed that an optimistic outlook on life was associated with more benign appraisals of the consequences of confronting discrimination, which in turn was associated with greater reports of confrontational responses to prejudice. This study suggests that silence in the face of prejudice does not necessarily or generally represent contentment with the status quo and emphasizes the importance of understanding how appraisals of the costs and benefits of confronting discrimination relate to this process.