TAMPA (CBS TAMPA) — A new study finds that “benevolent sexism” – where women are treated as helpless entities reliant on male support — is endorsed by many women, especially those with a strong sense of entitlement.
The University of Auckland study titled, “The Allure of Sexism: Psychological Entitlement Foster’s Women’s Endorsement of Benevolent Sexism Over Time,” showed that women “higher in psychological entitlement” endorsed this type of sexism that promises benefits ranging from protection to financial stability.
“This research was designed to test a central part of Ambivalent Sexism Theory that has not been previously examined — whether or not benevolent sexism is attractive to women because of its promises of benefits to individual women (under the conditions of being cared for and provided for by a man within an intimate relationship),” lead researcher Matthew D. Hammond of the University of Auckland told PsyPost.
The study linked a sense of entitlement in women to a stronger backing of controversial “benevolent sexism” – a separate concept from “hostile sexism,” which researchers defined as overtly negative and misogynistic in its belief that women are intellectually and physically inferior to men.
“It tells us that one factor underlying women’s endorsement of sexist attitudes toward women is the propensity to feel more deserving than others and wanting to feel special,” he explained. “This also gives us insight into showing how benevolent sexism is subjectively positive but is not actually a ‘pro-social’ set of attitudes.”
Kathleen Connelly from the University of Florida summarized “benevolent sexism” as the belief that “women are wonderful, but weak,” reports PsyPost.
The study analyzed 2,700 women and 1,600 New Zealand men over the course of one year, and found that the women who felt they had more of a “right” for the best things in life embraced the “benevolent sexism” concept, and were more likely to agree with statements such as, “Women should be cherished and protected by men.”
However, Hammond warned that aggressive sexism present in the cultural context of the study’s location should give pause to the idea that such a belief in “benevolent sexism” is translatable to other societies.
“One central and important limitation is that our research was conducted in a relatively egalitarian country in which hostile and aggressive forms of sexism, as well as overt forms of discrimination and violence toward women, are relatively less prevalent and relatively less tolerated,” Hammond told PsyPost.
“Other research has shown that when these kinds of threats are salient, one reason women agree with benevolent sexism is a self-protection motivation, because it promotes the care and safeguarding of women against danger.”