A Social Competition in Women and a Benevolent Sexism

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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As outlined previously, we expected to find an increase in social competition in women who experienced both hostile and benevolent sexism. Our findings suggest that neither hostile sexism, benevolent sexism, nor hostile and benevolent sexism have a statistically significant effect on social competition.

Consistent with the literature, exposure to hostile sexism was (marginally significantly) positively correlated to an increase in socially competitive behavior (Becker & Wright, 2011; Ellemers & Barreto, 2009). It extends previous research by showing that this positive effect exhibits a measure of collective action that emphasizes social competition (Lemonaki et al., 2015). Exposure to hostile sexism, results in increased willingness to engage in collective action, because it decreases the perception that the gender system is just, and decreased perceptions of the personal advantages gained by being a woman (Lemonaki et al., 2015). As other studies predicted, benevolent sexism was a poor indicator of increased social competition. Lemonaki et al. (2015) proposed that exposure to benevolent sexism would not prompt social competition because it directly undermines women’s motivation to engage in competitive behavior.

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Our results may be explained by previous research that has focused on the dangers of benevolent sexism. Because of its subtly, benevolent sexism is less easily identified as prejudice than hostile sexism (Killianski & Rudman, 1998), specifically because it is considered normal parts daily life for women (Swim, Hyers, Cohen, and Ferguson, ????). It is also less likely to be challenged by women (Becker & Wright, 2011) as women tend to evaluate benevolent sexists as more favorable then hostile sexists (Killianski & Rudman, 1998). Our study follows this trend with 57.9% of responses claiming that nine instances of benevolent sexism has never happened to them. In fact, exposure to benevolent sexism has been seen as rewarding (Jackman, 1994) and contradicts the negative emotions that typically inspire collective action participation (Becker & Wright, 2011) such as social competition. Additionally, for those who were able to identify benevolent sexism, Dardenne et al. (2007) determined that exposure to benevolent led increased self-doubt impairing their cognitive performance—including ability or desire to engage in socially competitive behaviors.

The present study was also conducted in a liberal university in New England. Studies using information from General Survey Studies found that New England emerged as one of the least sexist regions of the United states, with Massachusetts ranking at the seventh least sexist state (Charles, Guryan, & Pan, 2018). The South, meanwhile, is full of lingering sexism, where women are preferred for traditional roles, like mother. Residential sexism as well as background sexism influence where women work, their wages, desire to participate at work, and even the age at which they marry (Charles, Guryan, & Pan, 2018), thus the current research is biased in where the study was conducted.

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Though our results are valuable, we experienced several limitations while conducting our study. We suspect that a stronger effect may have been found if our variables contained the same nominal scale (sexism scores ranged from 1 to 6 while social competition scores ranged from 1 to 5). Another limitation was the difficulty to collect data, which required actively seeking participants. One of the disadvantages of administering an online, unsupervised survey is a frequency of missed questions and need for elimination of results. Furthermore, the majority of our samples were Caucasian Boston University female students over the age of 18, which resulted in a low external validity. The small sample limits generalizability, especially across age groups and different regional locations. The smaller sample size also implies that there was lesser statistical power in these studies. The lack of diversity amongst the participants also brings about some problems with the conclusion. With the majority of participants being Caucasian, the sample does not truly reflect the United States’ true demographics. Additionally, previous research has found that women of color, on average, are more subject to both hostile and benevolent sexists remarks (Bloom & Trumbull, 2006).

Hostile sexism seemed to have a positive effect on social competition by promoting anger (Lemonaki). Benevolent sexism, on the other hand, had an inverse effect by questioning women’s efficacy. The present research did not address this possibility, but future research could measure the emotional response to each type of sexism and how that contributes to a positive or indirect effect on social competition. Additionally, it could examine different types of women (STEM, career-oriented, etc.) to see if different emotions were elicited in different types of women. One subject that remains to be explored is how antagonistic benevolent sexism could be when women are educated about it. Barreto & Ellmers (2005) showed that when patronizing behavior was made obvious to the women, they became angry—coinciding with the emotions brought on by hostile sexism and leading to more social competition. Thus, it may be important to conduct research to determine whether or not interventions would be useful for social change.

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A Social Competition in Women and A Benevolent Sexism. (2021, Feb 26). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/a-social-competition-in-women-and-a-benevolent-sexism/