Benevolent sexism is a part of a model of sexism developed by Peter Glick and Susan Fiske in 1996. Benevolent sexism, as opposed to hostile sexism, often seems to be a favorable view towards females, despite being grounded in gender stereotypes. For example, the beliefs that women are more nurturing, the men should always pay for a date, and that women should be rescued first from a sinking ship are all indicative of benevolent sexism. Benevolent sexism has three sources: protective paternalism (wanting to protect women), complementary gender differentiation (viewing women as different and better), and heterosexual intimacy (worshiping women).

A problem can arise when women are opposed to hostile sexism but not benevolent sexism, such as demanding equal pay for equal work but also believing a man should open the door for a woman. Men often view this as a double standard.

Glick and Fiske found that both types of sexism can, and generally do, coexist. Men who exhibit signs of benevolent sexism also tend to exhibit signs of hostile sexism. This is part of the reason that benevolent sexism may not be as harmless as it seems: it is clearly linked to the more injurious hostile sexism. This may help explain why sexism is still so prevalent in our society. Since the two are related, we can't eliminate the one without the other. Allowing benevolent sexism to remain may be forcing hostile sexism to stay, too.

Based on the published works of Glick and Fiske and a recent lecture in my psych of sex differences class.

If you thought that hostile sexism was the only way to degrade women, you thought wrong. According to a model developed by Peter Glicke and Susan T. Fiske there's another complementary part to hostile sexism, termed benevolent sexism. Hostile sexism is the type that most people think of when they think of "male chauvinist pigs". In this case the man is blatantly disrespectful to women, calling them degrading names and expressing views such as "The kitchen is where she belongs" or "Of course she wouldn't know that, she's a woman and women aren't very smart." Misogynists are very likely to display this type of sexism. Benevolent Sexism is much more covert and possibly more detrimental because women actually accept it and most people just aren't aware of it.

"Benevolent sexism (a subjectively favorable, chivalrous ideology that offers protection and affection to women who embrace conventional roles) coexists with hostile sexism (anitpathy toward women who are viewed as usurping men's power)."

It's in this article that chivalry and benevolent sexism are equated. Chivalry, orignially a medieval code of honor for knights, is generally thought to be a positive thing but it is finally exposed for its gender inequality perpetuating properties. It is still very much alive in the South of this great country. Chivalry is considered romantic to the most traditional of people. What's not to love about a man who will open doors for you, pay for dinner and give you the coat off of his back? This is in no way bad, and in fact it shows that the man respects you, if he is sincere. However, I feel that it puts unecessary expectations on the man, limits the woman's ability to express respect for the man, and is just a bit old fashioned. Romance should not be captured in an archaic code of honor.

This whole thing doesn't become an issue, in my opinion, unless the man becomes ridiculously insistent on being "chivalrous". For example, while going into a restaurant you, the woman, reach the door first and as the liberated, independent woman you are you open the door rather than wait for him to do it. You then hold the door open expecting him to go through so you two can go and have your lovely dinner. Instead he stops short, grabs the door and looks at you expectantly. An uncomfortable moment passes and you realize that he's not going to go through the door before you. Rather than make a scene you give up and walk through and he triumphantly follows feeling that he has shown respect for you because you're a lady and ladies must always go first. This is not respect. Furthermore, it is not romantic. That was the lady's chance to show that she respects the man as much as he should respect her. Instead, she's left feeling a mixture of things: indignation, humiliation, anger, annoyance, and possibly worry that she's insulted you. This puts both the man and the woman in a bad position. Men, respect the fact that we can open a door for you too.

In the end, I will not refuse a door being opened for me, whether held open by a man or woman as I expect others to accept the courtesy when I extend it to them. This should not be about respect for a certain gender, but rather respect for fellow your fellow human beings, no matter how idealistic it may be.

Article in question:

An Ambivalent Alliance: Hostile and Benevolent Sexism as Complementary Justification for Gender Inequality.


Peter Glick, Lawrence University
Susan T. Fiske, Princeton University

It has come to my attention from a fellow noder that I neglected to address the feelings of the man in the hypothetical situation. So, a disclaimer, I do not claim that this addresses every aspect of this situation. As with everything it is multi-layered and this is the layer that I present you with.

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