Sexist Views Increased Negative Emotions

As early as 1848, women have been demanding equal rights, but more recent years have witnessed a spike in movements against sexist remarks, sexual harassment, discrimination against women and assault (Kuchynka, et al., 2018). These movements seek to document and denounce the inequalities against women. Nevertheless, progress has been slow despite the number of people, governments, and organizations have been pursuing gender equality. While women have made many strides, research has found that inequalities still exist in almost all societies—namely sexism (Barreto, Ryan and Schmitt, 2009).

Sexism has been traditionally viewed as a form of prejudice, it is typically used to refer to the explicit belief that members of certain groups are intrinsically inferior (Eagly & Karau, 2002). This more traditional viewpoint of sexism is also known as hostile sexism. Hostile sexism is rooted in men’s fear that women will overpower them either through sexuality or through feminist ideology (Lemonaki, Manstead, Maio, 2015). In keeping with the changing climate, however, people today tend to refrain from expressing overt prejudicial beliefs (Ellemers & Barreto., 2009), and rely on modern-day sexism, which is based on the same belief system as hostile sexism; however, benevolent sexism is expressed in much more subtle ways (Swim & Cohen, 1997). Typically, it is comprised of apparently positive and favorable comments or actions that portray women as kind and sensitive, but at the same time incompetent or weak and therefore in need of men’s protection (Becker & Wright, 2011).

Exposure to hostile sexism, conversely, leads to significantly more frustration (Lemonaki et al., 2011). Because the overt expressions of hostile sexism, it is more likely to be seen as a form of sexism and discrimination. Thus, women exposed to overt sexism are more likely to challenge current gender relations by expressing support for collective action (Ellemers & Barreto, 2009). Consistent with this argument, Becker and Wright (2011) found that women’s exposure to hostile sexist views increased negative emotions such as anger increased women’s participation in collective action. The anger and frustration they feel leads to the challenging of injustice collectively by confronting the outgroup (Lemonaki et al., 2015). Namely, attempts to correct intergroup inequalities through women competing with men to achieve higher standing. It is therefore important to understand the precursor to women’s intentions to engage in social competition. However, it is important to note that hostile sexism is typically seen in conjunction with benevolent sexism (Kuchynka, et al., 2018), so the true effects of either are not fully known.

Extensive research has been done on the harmful effects of gender stereotypes on women in STEM (Reilly, Rackley, & Awad, 2017), but we do not yet know how such stereotypes are typically conveyed to women in STEM environments via hostile, benevolent treatment, or both. Further, while most research on sexism’s effects on women in STEM examines hostile sexism (Hammond, Milojev, & Sibley, 2017), there is no reason to assume that benevolent sexism predicts negative STEM outcomes for women as well.

Benevolent sexism is a vital complement to hostile sexism (Glick & Fiske, 2001) and often the two are experienced together. However, no research has specifically tested differences in the association between benevolent sexism and hostile sexism and their influence on social competition. Thus, this current study builds upon prior work that has demonstrated the different influences of hostile on behavioral implications for competition and extends it to examine the influences of both hostile and benevolent sexism on social competition. We conducted a cross-sectional survey on college women examining the relationship between hostile and benevolent sexism on social competition (N = 33). We hypothesized that exposure to both hostile and benevolent sexism will lead to an increase in competitive behaviors in women.

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