An Ambivalent Alliance: Hostile and Benevolent Sexism as Complementary Justifications
for Gender Inequality- Glick and Fiske
Benevolent sexism- a subjectively favorable, chivalrous ideology that offers protection and
affection to women who embrace conventional roles
Hostile sexism- antipathy (hostility) toward women who are viewed as usurping (taking over)
men’s power or trying to control them through sexuality or feminist ideology.
^ both coexist with one another; they are complementary, cross culturally prevalent ideologies,
both of which predict gender inequality. Women as compared with men consistently reject hostile
sexism but often endorse benevolent sexism.
Pomeroy suggested that classical representations of women fit into the polarized categories of
goddesses, whores, wives, and slaves. Feminists who analyze contemporary society argue that
similarly extreme characterizations of women are alive and well in popular culture, such as film
depictions that divide women into faithful wives and murderous seductresses. The term pedestal-
gutter syndrome (Madonna- whore dichotomy) has long been recognized by psychologists,
historians, and feminists, most empirical researchers have identified sexism only with hostility
toward women, ignoring the corresponding tendency to place women on a pedestal.
This article reviews hostile and benevolent sexism
Benevolent sexism serves as a crucial complement to hostile sexism that helps to soothe
women’s resistance to societal gender inequality
Hostile and benevolent sexism are prevalent across cultures, and cross cultural
differences in ambivalent sexism are predictable and systematic, with both ideologies
relating to national measures of gender inequality.
What ASI – Ambivalent Sexism Inventory – research reveals about the nature of sexism
challenges current definitions of prejudice as an unalloyed antipathy + draws attention to
the manner in which subjectivity benevolent, paternalistic prejudices may reinforce
inequality bw groups.
The Nature of Sexism
Allport in his book “The Nature of Prejudice” defines prejudice as: an antipathy based upon a
faulty and inflexible generalization. Some questioned the later half of the definition; mostly all
psychological theorists have likewise equated prejudice with antipathy.
From antipathy flow the discriminatory acts that disadvantage targets of prejudice
Bc ppl seek to justify social systems by believing that groups deserve their place in social
hierarchy, a groups disadvantaged status reinforces prejudice.
Women are a disadvantaged group. Hunter-gatherer societies, in which wealth could not be
accumulated, may have been relatively egalitarian, but the idea that matriarchy was once common
has been thorough debunked. Men typically rule, dominating the highest status roles in govn’t
and business across the globe.
www.notesolution.com Attitudes towards women must be overwhelmingly hostile and contemptuous
h/w recent research shows overall attitudes towards women are quite favorable!
Women and men both have favorable attitudes towards women then towards men,
attributing extremely positive set of traits to women “women are wonderful” effect
How can a group be almost universally disadvantaged yet loved?
Favorable communal traits ascribed to women (nurturing, warm) suit them for domestic
roles, whereas men are presumed to possess the traits associated w/ competence at high
their traits reinforce their lower status
Allport suggests that the crux of prejudice may not be antipathy, but social inequality.
Why Benevolent Prejudices Matter
Benevolent sexism is a subtle form of prejudice. Both hostile and benevolent sexism are
presumed to be ‘legitimizing ideologies’, beliefs that help to justify and maintain inequality bw
groups. Ideologies of benevolent paternalism allow members of dominant groups to characterize
their privileges as well deserved, even as a heavy responsibility that they must bear.
Benevolent sexism may serve functions similar to belief in the White mans burden (poem from
article), allowing men to maintain a positive self image as protectors and providers who are
willing to sacrifice their own needs to care for the women in their lives. What if this is a crucial
complement to hostile sexism, helping to justify men’s greater privilege and power? If men’s
power is popularly viewed as a burden courageously assumed, as legitimated by their greater
responsibility and self sacrifice, then their privileged role seems justified. Women who seek
power may be perceived as ungrateful deserving of harsh treatment.
Benevolent sexism is disarming; it is subjectively favorable in its characterization of
women, but it promises that men’s power will be used to women’s advtage, if only they
can secure a high-status male protector
(Rudman and Heppen) found that college women who implicitly associated male
romantic partners with chivalrous images had less ambitious career goals, presumably bc
they were counting on a future husband for economic support
(Mota, Exposito, Casado) found in a community sample of Spanish women that those
who did not have paid employment scored higher in benevolent sexism
Women who scored higher in benevolent sexism were more likely to excuse not only
benevolently justified discrimination by nonintimate men (e.g. boss) but also overtly
hostile discrimination by a husband.
o These women are more likely to tolerate rather than challenge, sexist behaviour
when the sexist’s motivation can be interpreted as being protective
Hostile and Benevolent Sexism: Universal Prejudices?
Hypothesis: hostile and benevolent sexism are predictable products of structural relations bw men
and women that are common to human societies: (a) men are typically according more status and
power than women, (b) men and women are often differentiated in terms of social roles and trait
ascriptions and (c) male-female relations are conditioned by sexual reproduction, a biological
constant that creates dependencies and intimacy bw the sexes
www.notesolution.com ^these 3 factors – patriarchy, gender differentiation, and sexual reproduction – create hostile and
benevolent attitudes toward the other sex.
Patriarchy + gender differentiation create and reinforce hostile sexism bc dominate
groups seek to justify their privileges through ideologies of their superiority and through
exaggeration of perceived differences
Sexual reproduction promotes hostile sexism bc men often resent women’s perceived
ability to use sexual attractiveness to gain power over them
Men’s dependence on women (sexual repro + role difference) fosters benevolent sexism,
an ideology that counterbalances sexist hostility with a paternalistic protectiveness
toward women as a weaker but essential/valuable group (for nurturing children, domestic
Does sexism encompass separable but related hostile and benevolent components that appear as
reasoned belief systems in a variety of cultures? Factor analysis of the ASI suggests yes.
Hostile and benevolent sexism consistently emerge as separate but positively correlated
Three benevolent sexism sub factors appear:
1- protective paternalism (i.e. women should be rescued first in emergencies)
2- complementary gender differentiation (i.e. women are purer than men)
3- heterosexual intimacy (i.e. every man ought to have a women whom he adores).
Hostile sexism items also address:
- power relations (i.e. women seek to gain power by getting control over men)
- gender differentiation (i.e. women are easily offended)
- sexuality (i.e. many women get a kick out of teasing men by seeming sexually available
and then refusing male advances)
Results: Nations in which the ASI were not random and mostly undergrad students were
participants; the countries sampled were culturally, geographically and economically
diverse = thus, provides support the pervasiveness of hostile and benevolent sexism
o Both factor analyses and correlations of raw scores on the ASI confirmed that
hostile and benevolent sexism were moderately positively correlated
o Correlations were generally smaller among respondents in the most sexist nations
o Sexist respondents hostile and benevolent sexism are only modestly related or
o Nations in which hostile sexism was strongly end