Article on benevolent sexism
“Here’s the abstract of a study that conservatives such as Charles Murray and magazines such as The Atlantic are having fun with:
Previous research suggests that benevolent sexism is an ideology that perpetuates gender inequality. But despite its negative consequences, benevolent sexism is a prevalent ideology that some even find attractive. To better understand why women and men alike might be motivated to adopt benevolent sexism, the current study tested system justification theory’s prediction that benevolent sexism might have a positive linkage to life satisfaction through increased diffuse system justification, or the sense that the status quo is fair. A structural equation model revealed that benevolent sexism was positively associated with diffuse system justification within a sample of 274 college women and 111 college men. Additionally,benevolent sexism was indirectly associated with life satisfaction for both women and men through diffuse system justification. In contrast, hostile sexism was not related to diffuse system justification or life satisfaction. The results imply that although benevolent sexism perpetuates inequality at the structural level, it might offer some benefits at the personal level. Thus, our findings reinforce the dangerous nature of benevolent sexism and emphasize the need for interventions to reduce its prevalence.
Everything in bold was highlighted by Murray.
The feminist, social scientific article distinguishes between benevolent sexism and hostile sexism, but seemingly not fundamentally. They’re both part of the ideology of sexism, which perpetuates gender inequality. So even benevolent sexism is “dangerous” and must be rooted out through “interventions.”
The old-fashioned ways of describing benevolent sexism are, of course, being a gentleman or practicing chivalry. Hostile sexism used to be called mistreating women or treating women as objects to be exploited. Hostile sexism is not what the gentleman thinks or feels or does, because he knows how to treat a lady.
The social scientific authors admit that benevolent sexism, unlike hostile sexism, has “personal benefits” or is association with “life satisfaction” for both men and women. But that personal good must give way to the eradication of systemic evil. Benevolent sexism puts women down by suggesting that they need special treatment. Now someone might respond that thinking that someone deserves special treatment suggests that someone is special–a lady. But it also suggests, the egalitarian response is, that they’re especially weak.
All in all: The study shows that the bad news is that men and women are happy thinking of themselves as ladies and genltemen. Let the interventions begin!
Now the authors’ view is that the personal satisfaction comes form being seduced by the illusion that the present sexist system is fair. If men think they know that to treat ladies as ladies is fair, then they have the satisfaction of knowing who they are as gentlemen and what they’re supposed to do. That “honor code,” we might say, gives both men and women the indispensable orientation required to act well as relational beings.
Perhaps from a feminist view, things are getting better, even without draconian interventions. The studies show men are acting less like gentleman than ever. One reason is their desire to adapt to the new modes of egalitarian fairness. Good men, if they come to believe that picking up the check, holding the car door, doing a woman’s heavy lifting are unfair, will stop doing them. But they do so in a confused and uncertain way: They remain romantic enough to believe that women are somehow special, to be protected and courted. Surely one reason why young men seem so dazed and confused these days is that they don’t have a clue about how to treat women. Nature and society are giving them such conflicting signals.
Liberating men from being habituated to gentlemanly manners and morals also might be thought to be even more dangerous than benevolent sexism. Surely we forced to admit that the “hook-up” culture of egalitarian reciprocal exploitation is harder on women than men. Not only that:
About a year ago, a group of today’s men were tested the way that the men on board the Titanic were. When the cruise ship Costa Concordia hit a rock and capsized off the coast of Isola del Giglio, Tuscany, last January, men pushed women and children out of the way to save themselves.
Can anyone really say that the evolution toward egalitarian individualism from the relatively gentlemanly time of the Titanic to the dog-eat-dog time–a time when men when men are free from the illusions of benevolent sexism–of the Costa Concordia has made life safer for women in every respect?
A balanced view might be that the ideas of gentleman and lady surely can and should be reformed in an egalitarian direction without being abolished.
Surely egalitarianism can be compatible with a moral and mannered recognition of sexual difference. There remain differences, after all, between fathers and mothers. And in general, can’t we say that women, as a class, are weaker than men as a class? Maybe we can even add: In the absence of benevolent habituation, men as a class are more predatory than women as a class. “Gentle” men usually aren’t really born that way. We can see these differences without denying for a moment that men and women should both be treated as free individuals under the law.
One thing, as I’ve said before, that the subversive HBO series Girls teaches us is how clueless and unhappy young people are if they’ve lost all real touch with being ladies and gentlemen. That’s might be why we see the young women in Whit Stillman’s recent film Damsels in Distress attempting to help disoriented young men recover lost manners through social dancing.
Conservatives like Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. One reason is that Aristotle is so insistent that moral virtue is about habituation, about being raised right, about learning how to take pleasure in proudly choosing well as a free and relational being.
In a well-governed political community, men will take pride in being gentlemen, in being courageous and generous and magnanimous and friendly and, yes, just. It is true that ladies and gentleman know that love and friendship always rank higher than political justice, but I’ll spare you the lesson in chivalry.
Well, Aristotle was a sexist, you say! Not so fast, I will explain later. Let’s agree for now that much about what he says about moral virtue remains applicable, at least in broad outline, in our more obviously egaltarian and high-tech time.
What are your opinions on this article?
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1. I hate that this is called a study. Almost implies that it is hard science. (aka real science)
2. I don’t find “benevolent sexism” to be that big of a problem. Without the expectation to be a “gentleman” most dudes would be barbarians.
3. Many people forget that men and women are not the same. It’s nice to want to treat everyone as “just a human being,” but huge differences in the sexes exist.
These are not real studies.
You know what?
Men and women are fundamentally different. Men and women want different things out of life. Men and women want different things from eachother. Men and women behave differently by nature.
It’s a good thing.
There’s nothing negative about “benevolent sexism” (which isn’t really an -ism at all.) Only an extremist “feminazi” would consider those things negative.
Why can’t people just keep it real?
There are many differences between males and females. To what extent we can blame socialization is debatable (manimal, I’ve seen some of your posts; no, you don’t know the answer to that question), but there are also differences in our body structures and functions to keep in mind.
@dalniente, Don’t get me wrong, I also agree there are huge differences between men and women. I was just curious to see what differences you guys might personally find notable. Thanks for the post. I like your thoughts.
Now as for my actual response to the thread: I consider myself a feminist, but I don’t like calling myself one because the term has so many connotations and I know my interpretation of the word is likely very different from that of the person I’m speaking with. I think this idea of “harmful benevolent sexism” is ridiculous. Of course I expect a guy to hold a door open for me. I expect a girl to do it, too. It’s not about gender roles; it’s about not letting the door slam on whoever was behind you. It’s not called “chivalry”, it’s called not being a jerk. I’ve never had a guy open a door for me because he didn’t think I could do it myself; usually it’s just the nice, courteous thing to do. 99% of these gentlemen rules we impose on guys are things that we should consider just being a decent human being, and things we should all keep in mind regardless of gender.
@rachclam, Jesus I don’t even know where to start. When you look at child development boys and girls act and react differently, think differently and develop differently. That is why girls respond much better to psychotherapy. As adults just look around at all the anecdotal evidence (yes I am being lazy and not looking up real sources) of men and women acting differently. There is a reason that people say women are emotional, and chicks do cry all the time. The same hormones that make men men, also make us want to bang a million girls and fight people. If we look at our biology it is very easy to see why “man chores” (yard work, taking out trash, building shit) and “woman chores” (taking care of kids) are the way they are.
@rachclam, I just find this to be a fascinating topic, so I jumped on your question right away (sorry, General!). For example, I find the study of math ability between the sexes to be very relevant to my life.
I agree that we should aim to be decent people in general.
@rachclam, To add to the generals list: Women for instance get a serotonin rush from gossiping. Males don’t. This is because back when we were hunter gatherers the females stayed mostly at ‘home’ and took care of kids and generally had a lot more time to talk. Males were out hunting which is why males seem to have more ‘street smarts’ then women do as I have observed over the years. That’s why girls can seem to talk forever about the stupidest shit (coming from a males perspective, no disrepect) that I don’t have too much interest in.
Also, the female hierarchy works quite differently then males do. Females tend to have a way of stabbing eachother in the back where males seem to deal with their conflicts head on (fist fights, gun fights).
Furthermore, we are also very different physically. Females bodies are primarily prepped for birthing only and do not develop the muscle mass that males do. This is also linked to our ancestry. That’s why males dominate athletics. We needed our muscles for hunting and what not. Personally I think feminism (to an extent) is a giant facepalm. It’s like girls are trying to fill the role of a male now. You don’t see males trying to run around with bras on and shit. I say stick to the role you were birthed as and don’t try to be something your not. Of course I believe in equality, but we are equal in different manners. Cheers!
@everymorningbornfromtheashes, of course, look at gangs though. I have more gangs per capita where i live then pretty much anywhere in the states or canada I believe. These gangs are primarily male dominated. And yes they use guns to settle their business.
@everymorningbornfromtheashes, One where there’s, yknow, science involved. Research and stuff. Not just amateur attempts at trying to support silly opinions about pointless stuff.
@dalniente, Do you? You claim that I don’t have the answer. That’s also a claim that you do, how else would you know that someone else doesn’t? And on what do you base your assumption that I do not know?
Oh wait, I think I got it, it’s just what you think. As usual. Fine with me.
You don’t know what you don’t know.
@splashartist, I don’t think feminism is women wanting to fulfill the roles of a man so much as it is women wanting to have the rights of a man. Of course there are many biological differences between men and women, but these differences are becoming more irrelevant as our technology and medicine increases. Men are stronger than women, but women are less prone to infectious disease, and all of these advantages/disadvantages tend to wash out so that each sex has its biological strengths and weaknesses. Even if a man has more muscle mass, the disparity in physical strength matters less than ever before now that we move towards being an intellectual economy and society.
I don’t blame you or anyone else for wanting to live up to traditional gender roles. There’s nothing wrong with a man wanting to be the breadwinner of the house while his wife nurtures the children. The danger is when this becomes expected and women are ostracized for not wanting to do so. The good thing is that human nature tends to solve these problems; traditional men couple up with traditional women and nontraditional men couple up with nontraditional women. I don’t think feminism is about teaching women to be men or shaming women for wanting to be traditional. It’s about having options and freedom.
@rachclam, is there anything in particular that you’d like to hear about?
I’m torn between PhD, MD, and MD-PhD programs. If I went into research (so, either PhD or MD-PhD) it would be focused on biophysics. Certain fields are dominated by men, so as a female who loves math I’m curious to know how some of what was discussed in this thread would affect females in STEM.
@rachclam, True, good points. I find some women take it way too far though, just my opinion. But, like I stated im just pointing out differences. It seems you took it as muscle mass as a benefit or something better then what women had by your reponse. Its just different, not better. Like you stated, our society doesn’t need huge muscle anymore. Im thinking thats where sports came from, an outlet to use our muscle.
@manimal, as for some of your posts on gender and socialization, I can recall some going back several months. How many do you want me to dig up? Here’s a recent one:
“Gender suppression has very little to do with it.”
It’s hard to know where to draw the line between the influence of “natural inclinations” and socialization. You may find the emergence of a division of labor interesting.