Motivated to Express: Salience of Oppression Toward Other Women Encourages Women’s Self-Expression


  • Maya Al-Khouja
  • Netta Weinstein
  • Nicole Legate


Women’s oppression undermines and inhibits women but may also prompt an enterprising reaction. In this paper, three studies explored the extent to which women respond to awareness of the oppression of other women with an increased desire for self-expression, a reactive but constructive response. Study 1 explored reactions to two forms of other women’s oppression: restricted self-expression and restricted economic opportunities. Women reported an increased desire to self-express after exposure to either form of oppression, as compared to a control group. Study 2 compared British women’s reactions to stories of a woman versus a man being oppressed, finding the former group wrote more words about an unrelated, but timely and consequential topic (Brexit). Finally, Study 3 replicated the effect of greater self-expression after being exposed to women’s oppression, and furthermore identified an indirect effect through reactance. Findings are discussed in relation to identity, constructive forms of reactance, and implications for current women’s rights movements.