Sex Roles

pp 1–12 | Cite as

The Power of Sisterhood: The Moderating Role of Womanism in the Discrimination-Distress Link among Women of Color in the United States

  • Caleb ChadwickEmail author
  • Cirleen DeBlaere
Original Article


Sexism and racism play an important role in the psychological well-being of Women of Color (WOC). It is important to understand how protective factors, such as womanism (an outgrowth of Black feminist thought focused on the intersectional concerns of WOC), might disrupt the link between discrimination and psychological distress. With a sample of 204 U.S. heterosexual WOC, we examined (a) the links between perceived lifetime and recent sexist events and psychological distress and (b) the potential moderating role in these relations of womanism (an intersectional feminist perspective). Further, we conducted exploratory analysis on (c) the potential moderating role of womanism in the association between racism and distress. Findings indicated that all measured forms of discrimination were significantly and positively related to psychological distress. Womanism was found to moderate the relationship between each form of discrimination and psychological distress. The links between each form of discrimination and psychological distress were significant and positive for WOC with lower levels of womanism and not significant for those with higher levels. As one of the first known studies to investigate womanism as a protective factor, and the first known to explore its role in buffering experiences of racism, findings suggest that placing discrimination experiences within a larger sociocultural context of oppression may reduce distress for WOC.


Sex bias/sexism Race-ethnicity/focus on women of color Womanism Feminism Classism/racism/sexism Prejudice/stereotyping/discrimination 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors of the submitted manuscript have no known potential conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

All research was conducted under the approval of Georgia State University’s IRB and in compliance with highest standards in ethical practice of research with human subjects.

Informed Consent

All participants completed an informed consent prior to participating in the current research.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Counseling and Psychological ServicesGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

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