Benevolent Sexism is one of the many forms of sexism, which contains ostensibly good perceptions of women and is a component of ambivalent sexism.  Benevolent sexism is the views or ideas about women that classify them as fair, innocent, compassionate,  pure, and vulnerable. Instead of being blatantly sexist, marked by a desire to protect and preserve, they are often referred to as chivalry or traditional values. Despite their seeming good traits, benign sexism’s attitudes are frequently limiting, dangerous and harmful to women’s rights and safety. 

Components of Benevolent sexism

Benevolent sexism has three components: 

Protective paternalism 

Protective paternalism is when a parent looks after their children. It is derived from the notion that because women are nurturing and kind, it means they need to be protected. 

Complementary gender

Women’s distinction is the concept that women are different from men.  Females are friendly and males are capable, self-reliant, and strong. 


Heterosexual closeness assumes that women and men have similar but complementary characteristics.  Men rely on women for emotional support as well as reproduction. Being sexist reinforces women’s subordination, which rewards men with prosocial treatment.

This section provides a quick overview of benevolent sexism—societal consequences on a large scale and the individual effects of benign sexism on a smaller scale. 

Connection to Ambivalent Sexism 

Peter Glick and Susan Fiske coined the expression “ambivalent sexism” to describe positive and negative sexism. There is both harmful (hostile) and favorable (benevolent) sexism. Using the self-report scale they developed, the ambivalent sexism inventory is a tool that measures ambiguous sexism. The two categories of people in all of the countries analyzed showed a relatively positive connection between men and women. Women who score well on both scales are more likely to be successful. As a result, they coined the phrase “ambivalent sexism”. There have been reports of it in 19 different nations. Women are more likely than men to support benevolent sexism to a more significant extent. Favorable evaluations of women who follow traditional gender norms are predicted by benevolent sexism, while negative assessments of women who break established gender role expectations by hostile sexism. As a result, they produce ambiguous perceptions of women in general. 

Benevolent Sexism

Effects of Benevolent Sexism 0n Society

According to Glick and Fiske and other studies, a mix of hostile and benevolent sexism contributes to social gender inequity. Benevolent sexism is prosocial treatment directed at gender-conforming or conventional women (e.g., moms, wives). It rewards women for remaining in lower-status roles than men. 

Indeed, it has demonstrated that national levels of benign sexism are objective indices of systemic gender inequity. Women are more likely to advocate mild sexism in environments with a high level of hostile sexism, suggesting that they may engage in gender-conforming, lower-status behaviors to avoid overt hostility from men. 

As a result, benign sexism may erode women’s resilience to sexism and gender inequity. Indeed, John Jost and Aaron Kay discovered that priming women with complementary gender stereotypes and complementary (benevolent and hostile) sexist items enhanced support for the status quo (i.e., decreased women’s incentive to change in a sexist society). As a result, benevolent sexism has entangled in the societal preservation of gender inequalities. 

Benevolent Sexism

Effects of Benevolent Sexism on the Woman 

A lot of research has also demonstrated that benign sexism has harmful impacts on individual women.  According to Benoit Dardenne, giving benign sexist instructions prior to taking a job skills exam in an employment interview to women makes them score worse than women who had hostile sexist or nonsexist instructions. They claim that because benign sexism is less evident than sexist sexism (i.e., it appears positive), exposure to it causes women to doubt their competence and cognitive capacities in the workplace. Laurie Rudman and Peter Glick showed evidence that paternalistic/benevolent sexist ideas can prohibit women from accessing high-risk/high-status opportunities in the workplace, hence limiting their career advancement. Instead, lower status is for women, communal jobs that conform to established gender roles.

Beneficent sexism is linked to acquaintance rape victim-blaming and has been demonstrated to impede women’s possibilities in romantic relationships. Although benign sexism is difficult to identify as sexist, research indicates that it can negatively affect its victims.

The Future of Sexism 

The term “benevolent sexism” emerges in the mid-1990s and it is still a hot topic of debate. Researchers looking into benign sexism have started looking at the societal consequences of confronting it, as well as measures to diminish the acceptance of benevolent sexist attitudes and beliefs. Researchers have also begun to look into the cardiovascular reactivity linked to benign sexism. Much of the study on benevolent sexism has primarily used white, middle-class participant samples. Future research should explore if the findings are generalizable to other racial and ethnic groups and persons of different socioeconomic status levels. 

Authored by Afifa Maryam Siddiqui

Edited by Yara Fakhoury

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