An Analysis of Tolerance Variation Among Adherents to Feminist, Environmentalist and Gay Rights Principles

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Virginia Tech

To the extent that the United States is a post-industrial society, whereby the means and ends of social production are social, and the production and reproduction of knowledge are shaped by reflexivity and continuous reconceptualizations of reality, what it means to be "tolerant" has been subjected to multiple ideologies. Supposedly freed from collectively imposed identities, social scientists have argued that in a postmodern society, individuals actively construct their own identities. In this study, it is questioned how multiple, trans-class and trans-disciplinary identities affect beliefs and behavior. Subject to exploration are expressions of tolerance, embodied as the expression of attitudes toward the following groups of traditionally nonconforming individuals: atheists, communists, racists and homosexuals.

Using 1993 General Social Survey data, independent attitudinal variables were constructed from indexed items measuring opinions about ideas embraced by three "new" social movements: the women's, environmental and gay rights' movements. Socio-structural and attitudinal variables were regressed on tolerance, the dependent variable, which was divided into general and group-specific indexes. Education and urbanism were shown to be significant predictors of tolerance, while gender and political ideology were not significant predictors of tolerance. Positive correlations resulted between general tolerance and pro-feminist, pro-environmentalist and pro-gay rights attitudes.

In conclusion, the prediction that individuals scoring high on measurements of feminism, environmentalism and pro-homosexuality, which all expound ideological convictions that refute traditional norms and value systems, would also demonstrate high levels of tolerance was greatly substantiated. Lending support for Bobo and Licari's (1989) argument, it is agreed that demographic, or social structural, variables alone are insufficient determinants of tolerance. Furthermore, although new social movements are chiefly organized around identity, rather than class, issues, even historically "tolerant" individuals, such as feminists, were shown to be less tolerant of certain groups, such as, in this study, racists

Feminism, Environmentalism, Tolerance, New Social Movements, Gay Rights Movement