The dark secret behind sexist advertisements. | Natalia Ortiz Hazarian | TEDxYSMU

How to Spot a Secret Sexist

Gender equality is a hot topic right now, and we’re all for it. From Emma Watson championing women’s rights to the science world righting research’s rampant gender bias, the important issue is getting some much-deserved time in the spotlight. All that progress unfortunately doesn't mean sexism is over and done with, but at least now women are being equipped with different tools to spot it in the wild. One of the strangest potential giveaways that a guy is sexist? His smile, according to a new study published in the journalSex Roles.

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Researchers at Northeastern University wanted to see whether there’s a difference between how crazy aggressive "hostile" sexism (a.k.a. the stereotypical kind) and the more under-the-radar "benevolent" sexism present in men. "Hostile sexism is what we normally associate sexism to be," says study coauthor Jin X. Goh, a Ph.D. candidate at Northeastern University in the department of psychology. "It is a dislike of feminists, career women, and it maintains the patriarchy in a dominant way. Benevolent sexism is the belief that women are pure and wonderful, but at the same time, they are weak and incompetent. Basically, it is chivalry. It may look nice on the surface, but it is insidious because it assumes women are inferior."

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To investigate the difference between the two types of sexism, the study authors set up interactions between 27 pairs of undergraduate men and women and took note of the verbal and non-verbal expressions of the two types of sexism. The participants also filled out the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory, a scale that’s frequently used in social psychology because it measures both hostile and benevolent sexism separately and on sliding scales. Translation: There's no distinct cutoff line for what makes someone sexist or not sexist, but the inventory shows where someone falls on the spectrum. 

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The duos participated in two different interactions. They played a trivia game, then they had a conversation. During the trivia session, men who ranked higher for benevolent sexism tended to be more patient when waiting for women to answer questions than the ones who rated higher for hostile sexism. And get this, during both interactions, higher benevolent sexism was associated with more friendliness, using more positive words, and moresmiling.This held true even when the researchers controlled for various personality traits that might be associated with friendliness and also for women’s smiling (since one person’s behavior can so easily influence another’s).

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“Sexist men can also look friendly, charming, and harmless, and that is the real danger,” says Goh. But that’s not to say you should be suspicious of every sweet guy that crosses your path. “It is the underlying intention that we should pay attention to,” says Goh. “We caution people that paternalistic behavior—or behavior done under the assumption that women are inferior and cannot do it themselves—can be damaging.”

So if your boss thinks you and your female colleagues are charming but only promotes men even when women are just as qualified, that could be a tip-off that he thinks women can’t handle the job. Or if a guy you’re dating thinks you’re adorable but acts like you can’t think for yourself or handle yourself in important situations, that’s another red flag.

It may seem like benevolent sexism isn’t as harmful as the in-your-face variety—and in fact, women demonstrate similar levels of benevolent sexism to men, according to This type of sexismisdamaging, though. “Because benevolent sexism looks so nice on the surface, women may not want to challenge it," says Goh. "As a result, they become okay with gender inequality and living in the status quo."

But since the status quo isn’t fair to womankind, it's important to keep your eyes peeled for both hostile and benevolent sexism (and challenging any benevolent sexist thoughts you may have). Being aware of sexism’s shifting nature brings everyone a step closer to kicking it altogether.

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Date: 13.12.2018, 09:02 / Views: 53562