Benevolent Sexism and Its Hidden Harm

“The housework is my wife’s responsibility.” is a statement that leaves most of us agitated and questioning the person’s sexist mindset. While “Let me get the door for you.” inspires the romanticism of long lost chivalry. After all, Something that sounds so nice cannot be sexist, right?

These two statements are in fact examples of Ambivalent Sexism.

Theorists Glick and Fiske explain the concept of Ambivalent Sexism, which includes two different types of sexist attitudes and behaviour. The former depicts ‘Hostile sexism,’ which is what comes to people’s minds when they think of sexism. This includes the angry and explicitly negative attitudes towards women.

The latter portrays a more understated type of prejudice called benevolent sexism, which portrays women as delicate and sensitive. It conceptualizes women as weak individuals who need to be protected and provided for.

In other words, although these remarks may seem to be in favour of women, research has shown that benevolent sexism is just as oppressive as hostile sexism.

For example, you see a really funny female stand-up comedian’s video on YouTube; scroll down to the comments section, and all you find are remarks about her being ‘cute’. Even though these comments are nice, if put in the right context, these are uncalled for and can cause a feeling of unease, especially if it’s the artist’s appearance being complimented instead of her work in question. These may also include women’s perception to be competent for domestic roles only, which results in false sentiments of superiority among men. Everyone can remember at least one such remark.

What is even more surprising is how comfortably women tend to excuse them, especially by the men in their lives. This re-enforces the idea of women being incapable of providing for themselves and positions them below men in society’s strata.

Here’s some food for thought – In today’s romance culture, why are there expectations for men to be chivalrous? Why do women desire chivalry? Does this pattern result from men becoming fixated on fulfilling their “traditional gender roles” as providers in that relationship?

 If yes, isn’t it pure negligence towards the oppression being caused by these benevolent sexist attitudes? Forming stereotypes about men and women’s strength (mostly opposing) is one of the features of benevolent sexism and leads to gender inequality.

The widespread prevalence of benevolent sexism has resulted in the acceptance of these ideas in women also – many are found to set less ambitious career goals for themselves and end up depending on males for financial support. People must be made aware of this concept so that they can stop themselves from crossing the line and point out others who unconsciously inscribe sexism onto society.

No one should be brainwashed by this repressive regime prevalent among the people. They should know they are the only thing that limits themselves, and essentially, no one has any say or influence over what they can/cannot achieve. Every small action or comment matters. Every act is responsible for the establishment of a truly sexist configuration within the framework of society.

Written by Abhineet Kashyap for MTTN

Edited by Kriti Gopal for MTTN

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Artwork by D’Ara Nazaryan, Shutterstock

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