Benevolent Sexism

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Despite BS sounding more positive than HS, it is associated with other negative beliefs. Li, Huang, and Cui (2012) found that men high in BS were more likely to have positive views about women returning to their traditional role of staying at home during serious economic situations. Furthermore, Thomae and Houston (2016), using vignettes, had heterosexual men rate their desire for a relationship with a traditional woman (homemaker-type) or a non-traditional woman (career-type).

They found men high in BS preferred a traditional woman more than men low in BS. Glick et al. (2016) found that BS positively predicted women’s honor beliefs (e.g., obedience to men, sexual modesty, and religious piety) in a sample of Turkish people. Individuals with high BS were more likely to support employment equity policies that promote the hiring of women in feminine, but not masculine, positions (Hideg & Lance, 2016). BS beliefs have also been linked to right-wing authoritarianism (RWA), SDO (Radke, Hornsey, Sibley, & Barlow, 2017), and to the preservation of in-group norms and the expression of prejudice toward out-group members who threaten those norms (Christopher & Mull, 2006).

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Women experience BS on a weekly basis. Becker and Swim (2011), using a diary method, found that US and German college women experience one to two BS incidents per week (e.g., paternalistic treatment). The experiences can have many harmful consequences. Oswald, Baalbaki, and Kirkman (2018), for example, found that experiencing the protective paternalistic aspect of BS (e.g., people suggesting that women need “protectors” in their lives) was positively associated with self-doubt and negatively associated with self-esteem.

Another study found that when college women were exposed to the stereotype of women as dependent, they were less willing to seek helping behavior (Wakefield, Hopkins, & Greenwood, 2012). Another study found that exposure to BS resulted in a decrease in performance on a problem-solving task (Dardenne, Dumont, & Bollier, 2006). Taken together, these findings suggest that BS may hold consequences for helping behavior and general decision making in women.

Men also show benevolent behavior stemming from sexism. Oliveira, Laux, Ksenofonto, and Becker (2015) found that BS beliefs predicted BS behavior in the form of worry for a female confederate who expressed plans to intern as a counselor of imprisoned rapists. Participants were asked to choose a statement that best fit what they would say in the situation (e.g., “I think that would be very dangerous for you”). Furthermore, men scoring higher in BS were less likely to assign challenging developmental opportunities to women compared with lower BS men (King, Botsford, Hebl, Kazama, Dawson, & Perkins, 2012).

Another study had women decide whether or not to accept their partner’s protectively justified prohibition of an internship opportunity counseling rapists and wife abusers (Moya, Glick, Expósito, de Lemus, & Hart, 2007). The researchers showed that most women reacted positively to the prohibition if it was justified in a benevolently sexist way. Moreover, Hebl, King, Glick, Singletary, and Kazama (2007) demonstrated that both men and women showed more benevolent reactions towards an ostensibly pregnant woman (compared with a non-pregnant woman), when the woman was presented in a traditional role (as a store customer), whereas they showed more hostile reactions when the woman was presented in a non-traditional role (as a job applicant).

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Benevolent Sexism. (2019, Apr 05). Retrieved from