Understanding Prejudice
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College Classroom Activities

Gender Discrimination in the United States


To vividly illustrate that gender discrimination continues to be a widespread and serious problem in contemporary American society.


Rent, buy, or borrow a copy of The Fairer Sex (Primetime Live, Oct. 7, 1993; 16 minutes).


This videotape is especially effective if students have watched True Colors in an earlier session. Using the same hidden camera technique employed in True Colors, the video uncovers gender discrimination in everything from employment to car sales to tee-off times on a golf course.


  1. Introduce The Fairer Sex as follows:

    "Do you remember True Colors, the videotape we saw in which two professional "testers" were treated differently based on their race? Well, our next film is a follow-up that was conducted by ABC Primetime, except that this time the two testers were female and male.

    What do you think they found -- was there the same kind of discrimination that we saw between Whites and Blacks?

    Let's watch, and then we can discuss the video afterwards."

  2. Show the videotape.

  3. Discuss the following questions:

    • Do you think the discrimination shown in this film is typical?

    • Were you surprised by anything you saw?

    • How did you feel while you were watching?

    • How do you think the level of gender discrimination in this tape compares with the racial discrimination in True Colors?

    • If a restaurant finds that it will do more business with a female hostess than a male host, is it reasonable to hire a woman?

      [Note: If students answer yes, you might ask whether the same logic applies if a White hostess is better for business. Or you might ask students what they think of a restaurant like Hooters arguing that its business depends on hiring female waitresses dressed in provocative clothing.]

    • In general, how do you know when gender discrimination is taking place?

Discussion of the Personal/Group Discrepancy

This session can be used to explore the "personal/group discrepancy" in perceived discrimination (the average tendency for people to perceive themselves as facing less discrimination than other members of their gender, racial, or ethnic group). For example, before showing the videotape, instructors might ask female students to answer the question:

"On the whole, would you say that you personally face more, less, or about the same amount of gender discrimination as most other female students your age?"

If a majority of students answer "less," you might discuss the reasons for this discrepancy and the implications of it for reducing gender discrimination. For further information on the personal/group discrepancy, see pages 33-34 of Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination.


It is important to stress that the videotape is meant to be illustrative and is not a substitute for carefully controlled studies of discrimination. At the same time, instructors might note that the videotape is consistent with studies documenting pervasive gender discrimination in the United States. For specific citations, please see the Reading Room.