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Lecture 8

PSYC12H3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 8: International Trade Union Confederation, Radical Feminism, Ingroups And Outgroups

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Nick Hobson

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Lecture 8: Benevolent (and hostile) sexism
Intro to Benevolent Sexism: Continued inequality among men and women
Although the situation for women has improved dramatically in some nations, the
distribution of resources & power remains unequal in virtually every society around the
For instance, in a global comparison, women were paid on average 16% less than men
(International Trade Union Confederation, 2008). They are underrepresented in political
decision making bodies and in leadership positions (for an overview, see Barreto et al.,
- Negative attitudes, prejudice, or discrimination directed toward someone on the basis of
their gender.
Hostile Sexism (HS)
- Antipathy towards women who are viewed as taking mens power.
- HS is grounded in the belief that men are more competent than women and thus are
deserving of higher status and more power.
- This is accompanied by a corresponding fear that women leverage sexuality or feminist
ideology to extract power from men.
Benevolent Sexism (BS)
- Chivalrous ideology offering protection and affection to women who embrace
conventional roles.
- Although patronizing, BS characterizes women in a way that can be perceived as
E.g., In a disaster, women ought to be rescued before men.
E.g., Women tend to have a more refined sense of culture and good taste.
E.g., A man is not a complete person unless he has the love of a woman.
Benevolent sexism includes three subcomponents:
- Protective paternalism (e.g., the belief that women should be protected and taken care of
by men).
- Complementary gender differentiation (e.g., the belief that women are the “better” sex
and have special qualities, such as a superior moral sensibility, that few men possess).
- Heterosexual intimacy (e.g., the belief that women fulfill men’s romantic needs).
- Overall, attitudes towards women are positive, more positive than towards men (e.g. IAT)
- While women not treated equally, they are loved.
- Benevolent forms of sexism are prevalent, even among liberals. For example “No
women ever invented an atomic bomb, built smoke, initiate holocaust, or organized a
school shooting”
Intro to Benevolent Sexism: The acceptance of BS by women
- Remember Fiske’s Stereotype Content Model, which suggests that
complementary stereotypes may lead group members to voluntarily accept rather
than to revolt against group-based inequality?

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Lecture 8: Benevolent (and hostile) sexism
- In line with this, researchers have found that benevolent sexism is often not
described by men or women as an expression of gender discrimination. Instead, it
is often seen as “subjectively favorable” and flattering to women.
- Indeed, although women consistently reject hostile sexism more strongly than
men, they often show stronger endorsement of benevolent sexism compared with
men (e.g., Glick et al., 2000).
- Women not only like the profile of a benevolent sexist man more than that of a
hostile sexist man, they evaluate the profile of a benevolent sexist man as more
likeable and sexually attractive than a profile describing the man as completely
- Benevolent sexist justifications can lead women to accept sexist restrictions.
- For example, in a study by Moya, Glick, Exposito, De Lemus, and Hart (2007),
female participants were told that a male partner objected to her doing a
counseling practicum that involved working with rapists.
- The justifications that the male partner provided for his objection were varied.
- Results indicated that even women who did not endorse benevolent sexist beliefs
responded more positively (e.g., indicating that they felt flattered and protected)
when they received a benevolent sexist justification, compared with no
- Benevolently sexist treatment in the modern workplace.
- For example, BS among male participants led to the assignment of less
challenging tasks to female (but not male) targets, despite equal desire among
females to engage in challenging tasks.
- Moreover, one study showed that participants described themselves in more
relational and less task-related terms following exposure to benevolent as
compared to hostile sexism (Barreto et al., 2010). This effect was exacerbated
when the enactor of benevolent sexism was someone with whom the target
believed they would collaborate in the future, which is often the case in workplace
- Taken together, these results suggest that seemingly “nice” or “flattering”
treatment in the form of benevolent sexism subtly encourages women to conform
to traditionally feminine gender role expectations (i.e. nice, pretty, submissive)
while steering them away from traditionally masculine gender ideals (i.e.
competent, assertive, dominant).
- This is especially important given traditionally masculine traits are typically
required to advance to most high status positions in workplace settings (Heilman,
Glick & Fiske (1996): The Nature of Sexist Ambivalence
- Glick & Fiske (1996) propose that hostile and benevolent sexism may be
positively correlated.
- They coined the term “ambivalent sexism” to describe the phenomenon of
simultaneously holding hostile and benevolent sexist beliefs labeled as

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Lecture 8: Benevolent (and hostile) sexism
ambivalent because the two constructs subjectively entail opposite evaluative
feeling tones toward women.
- Sexist ambivalence may generally take the form of dividing women into favored
in-groups---consisting of women who embrace traditional roles versus disliked
out-groups--consisting of women such as feminists who challenge or threaten
these needs and desires.
- Ambivalent sexism may be most evident in polarized views of these different
types (e.g., the notion of women as "saints" or "sluts").
- This differentiation into subtypes may help ambivalent sexists justify their
attitudes as not prejudicial toward women overall because it is only certain types
of women whom they dislike.
- Women who simultaneously fit into a desired subtype on one dimension but fit
into a hated subtype on another may arouse a conflicted form of ambivalence.
- E.g., a sexist man's attitudes toward a daughter who is a radical feminist.
- Thus, ambivalence may be evident in both an un-conflicted form, in which
different subtypes of women elicit either extremely positive or extremely negative
reactions, as well as a conflicted form, in which particular female targets activate
both hostile and benevolent motives.
- Glick and Fiske (2001) described hostile and benevolent sexism as an
“interlocking set of beliefs that reflects a system of rewards (benevolent sexism)
and punishment (hostile sexism)” (p. 117) and as “complementary tools of
control, the stick and the carrot, that motivate women to accept a sexist system”
(p. 139).
- Ambivalent sexism maintains the status quo:
- BS used to reward conventional women.
- HS punishes non-traditional women.
Becker & Wright (2011): BS Undermines and HS Motivates Collective Action
- How do hostile and benevolent sexism affect tendencies towards collective action
(women rally around for rights)?
- The authors propose that, ironically, exposure to hostile sexism may promote efforts
to reduce gender-based inequality, whereas exposure to benevolent sexism
undermines engagement in actions intended to increase gender equality.
- The “pacifying nature” of benevolent sexism is proposed to undermine women’s
engagement in collective action, whereas the “oppressive nature” of hostile sexism
can promote women’s direct action to reduce systematic gender inequality.
- Becker & Wright accordingly investigated the hypothesis that BS prevents social
change whereas HS promotes it.
- Most social psychological theories of collective action describe two forms of action
that members of disadvantaged groups can take in response to their subordinate social
- 1) Individual/social mobility: actions designed to improve one’s own personal
position or treatment, which involves actually moving out of or psychologically
distancing oneself from the disadvantaged in-group.
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