Friday, May 24, 2013

Benevolent Sexism


I started down a rabbit hole of googling because a woman on a message board I frequent was upset that men at her workplace act chivalrous- holding open doors for ladies, carrying boxes, letting them into elevators first, lending umbrellas, etc. She wanted to know if this was actionable under a typical HR department as sexism or discrimination. Several folks who replied said it is called ‘benevolent sexism’ and is a bad thing. So I found this article that summarizes research that indicates chivalry is the carrot (positive reinforcement) afforded to women who maintain the feminine gender role and is the flipside of the stick (derision, violence, ridicule, etc) used when women step outside of the feminine gender role. I never thought about chivalry like this or that it had that sort of subconscious purpose and effect. Now I happen to enjoy (a lot) the traditional gender roles and conforming to the feminine expectations of society and while I don't support the stick to keep people in line, I don't at all mind these carrots to encourage it. In fact it kind of depresses and terrifies me at the thought of being treated like a man (I like being cherished and protected by the men in my life). Having said that, I recognize that not everyone feels the same way and some feel stifled and offended by the norms. So we have a serious and ongoing societal conflict and all sorts of controversy about the norms: are they ordained by God (and should be accepted), are they rooted in biology (and does that make a difference in whether we support them or try to overcome them?), are they effective in making society a safe and successful place, and how do we handle those who genuinely lean toward either gender role, or the gender role they were born into? So many questions. Here is the article, FYI: http://www.sparksummit.com/2012/02/06/research-blog-%E2%80%9Cill-get-that-for-you%E2%80%9D-chivalry-is-alive-and-holding-your-boxes/

Post a Comment