Gendered framing in human rights campaigns

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Abstract

Human Rights Organizations (HROs) often rely on gender stereotypes in their advocacy campaigns. Yet, we know little about the effects of such essentializing stereotypes on the success of HRO campaigns. Using a survey experiment, we examine how human rights campaigns emphasizing sex and gender roles of the victims affect individuals’ attitudes on the campaign issue and their willingness to take direct action. Although we find no direct effect of gendered personal frames in an HRO campaign on levels of consensus or action mobilization, there are indirect effects. When victims are portrayed as holding stereotypically feminine roles, respondents are more likely to identify them as innocent and vulnerable. These evaluations lead respondents to identify the violence described as a fundamental human rights violation, and to participate in direct action to end the abuse. However, as these effects are indirect and often substantively trivial, we recommend HROs avoid using such problematic messaging strategies.

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Leiby, M., Bos, A. L., & Krain, M. (2021). Gendered framing in human rights campaigns. Journal of Human Rights, 20(3), 263–281. https://doi.org/10.1080/14754835.2021.1882837

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