Egalitarianism and Self-Esteem as Correlates of Hate Ideation Against Gay Men and Lesbians

Egalitarianism and Self-Esteem as Correlates of Hate Ideation Against Gay Men and Lesbians

Tejeda, Manuel J

OBJECTIVES: This paper examines the relationships between egalitarian attitude and self-esteem and self-reported hate ideation toward gay men and lesbians. Prior research has suggested that egalitarianism is an important correlate of both gender stereotypes and domestic violence. Moreover, research has suggested that hatred and violence are related to low self-esteem. METHODS: TUJO independent samples of undergraduate and graduate business students were surveyed. Measures included demographic items, the Sex-Role Egalitarianism Scale, the Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale, the Marlowe Crowne Social Desirability Scale, and global indicator items to assess hatred against gay men and lesbians. RESULTS: Stepwise hierarchical regression analyses revealed that a relationship exists between egaliiarianism and hatred toward gay men and lesbians. Regressions also revealed that self-esteem is related to hatred. However, egalitarianism accounted for significantly more variance in anti-gay/lesbian hatred than did self-esteem. CONCLUSIONS: Directions for future research with other populations and target groups are suggested. Information on the causes and effects of hate crimes against gay men and lesbians as well as members of other disenfranchised groups is essential to the development of preventive campaigns, rehabilitation interventions for perpetrators, and sensitive services for victims of hate.

KEY WORDS: Gay Men; Hate Crimes; Lesbians; Self Esteem; Violence

The purpose of this paper is to examine the attitudinal correlates of self-reported hate against gay men and lesbians. The rights of homosexuals in American society in terms of privileges such as marriage, housing, and employment are currently central issues of social and political debate. Although the majority of hate crimes are still promulgated because of race, anti-gay speech and actions in the United States have risen dramatically over the past decade and “are the most socially acceptable and probably the most widespread form of hate crimes among teenagers and young adults” (American Psychological Association [APA], 1998, p. 11). Additionally, a number of well-publicized incidents of anti-gay violence such as the murder of a young, gay man in Laramie, Wyoming have brought the issue of hate crimes against gay men and lesbians to the forefront of American consciousness (New York Times, 2002). Irrespective of nation, between 27% and 35% of homosexual respondents in research studies have reported being victims of violent crimes in direct relation to their homosexuality (Anderson, 1982; Klinger & Stein, 1996; Rankine, 2001).

Hate speech is of equal concern in that it, too, is intended to inflict psychological harm on the victim. Hate speech is significantly more common than actual violence. More than 75% of gay men and lesbians in separate samples routinely report being the targets of verbal abuse related to their homosexuality (Herek, 1989; McNaught, 1993). With the rise of Internet usage, so-called “digital hate speech” has risen as well. In fact, in February 2002, the Arts Council of England and the Council of Europe proposed a ban on any Internet material that is xenophobic or racist (Khan, 2002).

In response to growing concerns about potential hate crimes, 22 States and the District of Columbia had passed legislation that defined crimes based on the sexual orientation of the victim as hate crimes by 1998. Perhaps the most publicized of anti-hate legislation has been the 1990 Hate Crimes Statistics Act that authorized and required the U.S. Department of Justice to compile and publicize hate crime statistics, including hate crimes based on victims’ sexual orientation. Subsequent legislation, such as the 1994 Hate Crime Enhancement Act, has been aimed at increasing the sentences of individuals who commit federal level criminal offenses. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1998 sought to expand federal jurisdiction over hate crimes by (a) allowing federal authorities to investigate all possible hate crimes, not only those in which the victim was engaged in a federally protected activity, and (b) expanding categories that were covered by hate crimes legislation to include gender, sexual orientation, and disability (APA, 1998). In Spring 2002 and in response to growing concerns regarding hate crimes and speech among some of their constituents, U.S. legislators proposed the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act, a bill gives local officials additional resources to manage and combat hate crimes based on gender, actual or perceived sexual orientation, and disability.

Despite national trends and legislative responses, there remains very little empirical research on hatred against homosexuals. Much of the research has focused on documenting victimization incidence rather than causative factors or physical, psychological, and social effects. For example, in a replication of Hovland and Sears (1940) early work, Green, Glaser, and Rich (1998) examined the connection between economic conditions and prevalence of hate crimes. These researchers examined the incidence of anti-Semitic and anti-gay/lesbian violence in New York City in relation to the economy between 1987 and 1995. Findings failed to support the hypothesis that increases in the prevalence of anti-gay/lesbian violence are associated with periods of economic depression.

Herek (1989) convincingly argued that understanding hate is an imperative for psychology and other health and social service professions since hate crimes affect psychological and social well-being. In addition to physical ailments, hate crimes result in intense feelings of vulnerability, anger, depression, learning problems, and difficult interpersonal relations, all of which are symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. Herek and colleagues have found that hate crime victims have needed as much as 5 years to overcome their ordeal, whereas victims of nonbias crimes have experienced a decrease in psychological symptoms within 2 years after the crime (APA, 1998).

At the interpersonal level, one primary goal of hate against gay men and lesbians is to create an atmosphere of fear with the intention of controlling the expression of homosexual behavior. Gender incongruence appears to be an important feature in anti-gay resentment. As Herek (1989) reported, “Fear of anti-gay harassment also functions to enforce rigid norms of gender-appropriate behavior” (p. 948).

Egalitarianism

There is an important and related body of literature concerning sex-role stereotypes that may yield insight into anti-gay/lesbian hate. Egalitarianism has been conceptualized as a tolerance for deviations from gender-related expectation and stereotypes (King & King, 1983). King, Beere, King, and Beere (1981) defined sex-role egalitarianism as:

“an attitude which causes one [individual] to respond to another individual independently of that other individual’s sex. One who possesses this attitude believes that the sex of an individual should not influence the individual’s rights, obligations, and opportunities. Consequently, a sex-role egalitarian does not discriminate against or relate differentially to another on the basis of the other’s sex. (p. 1)

Hence, egalitarian individuals will relate to others in a manner independent of the expected gender roles. Given that gender incongruence appears to be an important feature in anti-gay harassment, one can hypothesize that egalitarian attitude will be an important predictor of anti-gay/lesbian hate because homosexuals frequently violate expectations of gender-appropriate behavior.

With regard to violence based on gender, research has supported the notion that egalitarian attitude is an important variable. Stith (1990) found a significant negative relationship between egalitarianism and approval of martial violence. Billingham and King (1991) also found a strong negative relationship between egalitarianism and approval of interpersonal violence. In a related study, Crossman, Stith, and Bender (1990) found that after controlling for social desirability and alcohol use in a sample of 115 male substance abusers and batterers, egalitarianism was negatively related to the approval of violence and use of severe, violent strategies in martial disputes.

Self-Esteem

If one considers aggression as one possible expression of hatred, then another possible correlate of anti-gay/lesbian hatred is self-esteem. Long (1990) and Schoenfeld (1988) have proposed that many individuals profess that self-loathing results in violent actions against another, barring any cognitive suppression of violent behavior. That is, individuals with high and stable self-esteem are less likely to entertain violent intentions and less likely to engage in violent actions than are individuals who have low self-esteem.

Findings on self-esteem and violence have been mixed and paradoxical. For example, Marcelli (2001) reported a positive relationship between self-esteem and aggression in a sample of adolescents. Karatzias, Power, and Swanson (2002) also reported a positive relationship between self-esteem, specifically peer self-esteem, and aggression and victimization. However, the view that self-esteem in positively related to aggression remains controversial.

Baumeister, Smart, and Boden (1996) offered a contradictory view. They argued that aggressive behavior and violent intentions are the result of high self-esteem that is threatened by the acts of others. There has been empirical evidence to support this view (Bushman & Baumeister, 1998). Aggression may also be an attempt to improve affective states related to self-esteem (Bushman, Baumeister, & Phillips, 2002). If these notions are correct, then, aggression may serve to hoist self-esteem.

Regardless of directionality, self-esteem may be an important correlate of anti-gay/lesbian hatred, Alternately, self-esteem may be an important variable that should be controlled for when investigating other correlates. With respect to egalitarianism, it was expected that egalitarianism would be a more powerful correlate of anti-gay/lesbian hatred than self-esteem. Specifically, it was expected that egalitarianism would be related to anti-gay/lesbian hatred beyond any relationship observed between self-esteem and anti-gay/lesbian hatred. Thus, three hypotheses were tested in this study:

H1: After controlling for response bias, egalitarian attitude will be negatively related to self-reported hatred of gay men and lesbians.

H2: After controlling for response bias, self-esteem will be negatively related to self-reported hatred against gay men and lesbians.

H3: After controlling for response bias and self-esteem, egalitarian attitude will be negatively related to self reported hatred against gay men and lesbians.

Since hatred is generally viewed as a socially undesirable characteristic, control of social desirability response bias was deemed to be particularly warranted in this study.

METHOD

Participants

Data for this study were collected from two independent samples of business students.

Sample 1. The first sample consisted of 339 individuals enrolled in undergraduate business and training courses at several large southeastern universities. The sample was comprised of 149 females (44%) and 190 males (56%). The ethnic breakdown of the sample was 44% White, 9% African-American, 26% Hispanic, and 10% Asian; 11% of the sample did not report their ethnic background. The mean age of the sample was 20.40 years (SD = 3.54, range = 18-55 years). Slightly over half (52%) of the sample was employed, 61% of these participants on a full-time basis and 39% on a part-time basis. In terms of sexual orientation, 81%, of the participants reported that they were heterosexual, 11% self-identified as being either homosexual or bisexual, and 7% did not respond.

Sample 2. The second sample consists of 69 individuals enrolled in masters-level business courses at a small private university in the southeastern United States. The sample was comprised of 20 females (29%) and 49 males (71%). The ethnic breakdown was 44% White, 25% African-American, 19% Hispanic, and 9% Asian; 3% of this sample did not report their ethnic background. Reflective of their higher educational status, participants in the second sample were older than the sample of undergraduate students (M = 34.17, SD = 10.15, range = 25-55 years). All participants in Sample 2 were employed full-time as managers with a minimum of 20 subordinates. The vast majority (94%) of participants in this sample reported their sexual orientation as being heterosexual, whereas only 6% self-identified as being either homosexual or bisexual.

Procedures

Because of the potentially sensitive nature of study measures, potential participants were informed that their participation in the study was strictly voluntary. They were given a guarantee of confidentiality, and signed informed consent was obtained. Participants in Sample 1 completed the paper and pencil measures either during or immediately after a class period. Participants in Sample 2 completed the questionnaire during course seminars. The response rate for both undergraduate and graduate samples was 100% of the students in attendance at the time of data collection.

Measures

Demographics variables. Participants were asked to report their age, gender, race of primary identification, and employment status. Participants were also asked to report their primary sexual orientation.

Egalitarianism. Egalitarian attitude was measured using the Sex-Role Egalitarianism Scale (SRES) Form KK (King & King, 1990), an abbreviated version of the full SRES. The SRES Form KK consists of 25 items regarding the gender roles of men and women. All 25 items have a 5-point Likert response format that ranges from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Positive and negative items are intermixed, and negative items are reversed scored so that high scores indicate more egalitarian attitudes. Sample items from the SRES are “Women ought to have the same possibilities for leadership positions as men”, “Male managers are more valuable to an organization than female managers”, and “An applicant’s sex should be an important consideration in a job screening.” The SRES has demonstrated favorable internal consistency and construct validity in prior research (King & King, 1983; King & King, 1997; Scandura, Tejeda, & Lankau, 1994). The SRES may be scored either as a total egalitarianism scale or as five subscales intended to measure egalitarian attitudes in various social contexts. Consistent with prior research (Stith, 1990), the total egalitarianism score was used in the present study. The internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha) reliability estimate for the 25 SRES items was .98 for both Sample 1 and Sample 2.

Self-Esteem. Self-esteem was measured using the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (RSES) (Rosenberg, 1965). This measure consists of 10 positively and negatively worded items; negatively worded items are reverse scored so that high scores indicate high self-esteem. Sample items from the scale are “I feel that I have a number of good qualities”, “I take a positive attitude toward myself”, and “I am able to do things as well as most people”. Respondents were asked to indicate their level of agreement with each item using 4-point Likert scale that ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 4 (strongly agree). The RSES has been widely used in research across disciplines and across samples and has demonstrated adequate psychometric properties, including construct and convergent validity (Adler, 1997; Blascovich & Tomaka, 1991; Lorr & Wunderlich, 1986; Fleming & Courtney, 1984). Internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha) reliability estimates for the 10 RSES items were .98 for Sample 1 and .98 for Sample 2 in this study.

Anti-Gay/Lesbian Hatred. Hatred against homosexuals was measured with two global indicator items: “I hate gay men” and “I hate lesbians”. Respondents were asked to indicate their level of agreement with each item using a 5-point Likert scale that ranged from 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree). Internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha) reliability estimates for these two items was .88 for Sample 1 and .98 for Sample 2.

Response Bias. Because both egalitarianism and self-esteem are subject to social desirability bias, the Marlowe-Crowne (MC) Social Desirability Scale was used to control for this response set (Crowne & Marlowe, 1960). The MC consists of 29 dichotomous items. Respondents were asked to indicate whether the items were true or false in regard to themselves. Internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha) reliability estimates for the 29 items in this study were .73 and .71 for Sample 1 and Sample 2, respectively.

RESULTS

Descriptive statistics for egalitarianism (SRES), self-esteem (RSES), and anti-gay/lesbian hate indicators for Sample 1 and Sample 2 are presented in Table 1. The two samples were quite comparable on measures of central tendency and variability for these variables, although participants in Sample 2 (i.e., graduate students) were slightly more egalitarian than were participants in Sample 1 (i.e., undergraduate students).

Table 2 presents the correlation matrix for demographic variables and attitudinal measures for Sample 1. Strong inverse relationships were found between egalitarianism and self-esteem and anti-gay/lesbian hatred. There was a positive relationship between age and anti-gay/lesbian hatred, indicating that older participants reported higher levels of anti-gay/lesbian hatred than did younger participants. Gender was also related to anti-gay/lesbian hatred; women reported less anti-gay/lesbian hatred than did men. There were no significant relationships between sexual orientation and race and anti-gay/lesbian hatred.

Table 3 presents the correlation matrix for demographic variables and attitudinal measures for Sample 2. Again, strong inverse relationships were found between egalitarianism and anti-gay/lesbian hatred and between self-esteem and anti-gay/lesbian hatred. In Sample 2, neither gender nor age were related to anti-gay/lesbian hatred, perhaps due to the smaller proportion of females in this sample and the greater variability of age. Moreover, a spurious relationship was observed between age and gender. Subsequent univariate analysis of variance revealed that men were significantly older than women in Sample 2 by 8.25 years (F(1,62)=10.10, p=.002). The relationship between self-identified sexual orientation and self-esteem also appeared to be spurious; a follow-up univariate analysis of variance revealed no significant differences in self-esteem between the heterosexual and the homosexual/bisexual groups.

To test each of the hypotheses, a series of stepwise hierarchical regressions were conducted. Model 1 consisted of a simple regression between response bias and anti-gay/lesbian hatred to control for social desirability. Model 2 tested Hypothesis 1 to determine if, after accounting for response bias (i.e., social desirability), egalitarianism would be related to anti-gay/lesbian hatred. Model 3 tested Hypothesis 2 to determine if, after accounting for response bias (i.e., social desirability), self-esteem would be related to anti-gay/lesbian hatred. Model 4 tested Hypothesis 3 to determine if, after accounting for both response bias (i.e., social desirability) and self-esteem, egalitarianism would be related to anti-gay/lesbian hatred. Model 5 reflects a post hoc analysis. Because respondent’s gender and age appeared to be related to anti-gay/lesbian hatred in Sample 1, it was prudent to account for gender and age as well as response bias (i.e., social desirability) and self-esteem in examining the relationship between egalitarianism and anti-gay/lesbian hatred.

Table 4 presents the results of the series of regression models for Sample 1. Table 5 presents the results of the same regression models for Sample 2. Hypothesis 1, which stated that after accounting for response bias, egalitarian attitude will be negatively related to anti-gay/lesbian hate, was supported by the data from both Sample 1 and Sample 2. Hypothesis 2, which stated that after accounting for response bias, self-esteem will be negatively related to anti-gay/lesbian hate, was also supported in both Sample 1 and Sample 2. Finally, hypothesis 3, which stated that after accounting for both response bias and self-esteem, egalitarianism would be related to anti-gay/lesbian hate, was supported as well in Sample 1 and Sample 2. Interestingly, the significant effect associated with self-esteem was suppressed when egalitarianism was included in the model. Thus, while each of the hypotheses were supported, there is only partial support for the hypothesis that self-esteem is negatively related to anti-gay/lesbian hate. Finally, regression analyses in both samples failed to support that either gender or age was an important covariate, as suggested by bivariate correlations for Sample 1.

DISCUSSION

The purpose of this paper was to examine the relationship between egalitarianism and anti-gay/lesbian hate as well as the relationship between self-esteem and anti-gay/lesbian hate. Findings revealed that egalitarianism was, indeed, related to anti-gay/lesbian hate after accounting for response bias. These findings suggest that egalitarianism may have a broader scope than specific sex roles of men and women and be related to tolerance of gender incongruence. Indeed, egalitarian attitude may prove to be an important predictor of the potential for hate crimes or hate speech against gay men and lesbians. Unfortunately, findings from this study cannot determine whether or not a link exists between egalitarian attitude and actual anti-gay/lesbian behavior. Future research, however, might explore these relationships further.

The relationship between self-esteem and anti-gay/lesbian hate, although supported in part by regression findings, remains tenuous. When egalitarian attitude was introduced in the regression equations, egalitarianism accounted for statistically significant amounts of incremental variance and appeared to suppress the relationship between self-esteem and anti-gay/lesbian hate. The findings reinforce the importance of egalitarian attitude as a significant correlate of anti-gay/lesbian hate and suggest the need for future investigation of the direct and indirect effects of self-esteem as a predictor of anti-gay/lesbian hate.

This study had a number of limitations. First, the outcome measure, anti-gay/lesbian hate, represented a feeling or emotion which may or may not be associated with actual behaviors. Cognitive suppression of behavior, whether physical violence or hate speech, is possible if not likely. However, the latent attitudes against gay men and lesbians are commonly cited as correlates of hostile social environments that result in adverse impact against gay men and lesbians (McNaught, 1993; Tejeda, 1998). Second, the fact that all data were derived from self-report measures is a weakness of the study. Attempts to measure and statistically control response bias do not completely eliminate the limitations of single method approaches. Thus, future research might investigate the relationship between egalitarianism and anti-gay/lesbian hate using multiple methods of gathering data as well as respondents from other populations. One important population to study would be offenders who have performed sexual orientation-based hate crimes. Replication and extension of this work using a “known groups technique” (Cook & Campbell, 1979) would follow the logic used by other researchers (Stith, 1990) when examining egalitarianism as a correlate of physical violence.

Future research should also address other target populations to determine if egalitarianism, self-esteem, and other attitudinal correlates are related to hate crimes against members of various ethnic and other disenfranchised groups. Many of the “isms” (e.g., anti-semitism, colorism, classism, heterosexism, racism, sexism) often occur in tandem in the minds of intolerant members of society. With the growing prevalence of hate crimes in the United States, researchers and practitioners alike are interested in finding correlates and predictors of such offenses (Green, Glaser, & Rich, 1998).

In recent years, domestic violence has received considerable attention in the curricula of nursing and health profession educational programs. In some states (e.g., Florida), continuing education in the area of domestic violence is mandated for relicensure of nurses and other health care providers. Likewise, information on the causes and effects of hate crimes against not only gay men and lesbians but (also) members of other disenfranchised and marginalized groups is essential to the development of preventive campaigns and rehabilitation interventions for perpetrators as well as sensitivity and understanding in the care of victims of hate. As noted by the APA (1998):

Because of insufficient information … it is also likely that only a small percentage of hate crime victims receive the medical and mental health services that public and nonprofit agencies make available to victims of violent crime; thus, their pain and suffering is more likely to become a heavy burden . . . (¶15)

The APA (1998) also asserted that researchers, practitioners, and professionals from various disciplines “must work together to halt hate crimes” (¶15). Only then will we have an egalitarian and safe society.

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Manuel J. Tejeda, PhD

Manuel J. Tejeda, PhD, Associate Professor, Management and Psychology, Andreas School of Business, Barry University, Miami Shores, FL.

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