In trying to understand sexism and its effects, psychologists can refer to the notion of ambivalent sexism, which is underpinned by two dimensions, benevolent sexism and hostile sexism.
Hostile sexism and benevolent sexism are both prescriptive gender ideologies, but are differently associated with positive and negative stereotypes of women. These are two sides of the same coin, sexism.
If benevolent sexism is the “carrot” that keeps women in traditional roles, hostile sexism is the “stick” that punishes them when they resist.
Thus, the theory of ambivalent sexism highlights the way in which attitudes perceived as favorable to women reinforce and consolidate their subordination. Allied with hostile sexism, benevolent sexism would thus justify and maintain the existing social organization.
A better accepted form of sexism
Indeed, it is more accepted by women, as it is generally not identified as a prejudice. In addition, the "benefits" he promises (worship, protection, for example) could explain his greater acceptance. Hostile sexism, on the other hand, allows derogatory characterizations of women to justify male power, traditional gender roles and male exploitation of women as sexual objects.
Benevolent sexism, even though it relies on kinder, gentler, more "romantic" justifications for male domination, nevertheless prescribes gender roles. While hostile sexism and benevolent sexism may differ, they share common assumptions that women are the weaker sex.
These two forms of sexism are related because they share three components, each of which has a hostile aspect and a benevolent aspect: power, gender differentiation and sexuality.
Thus the power differences between the sexes are rationalized through ideologies of paternalism. The hostile aspect refers to domineering paternalism, which is the belief that women should be controlled by men. Protective paternalism is the benevolent aspect of this paternalistic ideology: because of their greater authority, power and physical strength, men should protect and support women. This protection is stronger towards women on whom men are dependent, in a couple for example, or for whom they feel a sense of ownership (ie wives, mothers, daughters).
Complementary sex differentiation refers to the benevolent aspect of traditional views of women and assigns them traits consistent with traditional gender roles. Women are seen as endowed with favorable traits (such as purity) that complement stereotypically masculine characteristics reflecting men's roles at work (competition). Competitive gender differentiation is the hostile aspect of this ideology. Thanks to negative stereotypes of women, men have long cultivated their self-confidence by believing themselves to be better than the other half of the population.
Is gallantry "à la française" a disguised form of sexism?
This is a fairly common strategy by which members of a group increase their self-esteem through derogatory beliefs about other groups.
Sexualization and idealization
Men's sexual desire and respect for women is the final component of ambivalent sexist attitudes. Heterosexuality carries both hostile and benevolent connotations. Heterosexual hostility reflects the tendency to see women only as sex objects. It is coupled with the fear that they might use sexual attraction to gain power over men. Conversely, intimate heterosexuality idealizes women, who are seen as the romantic partners a man needs to be "complete."
Glick and Fiske (1997) propose to measure the level of ambivalent sexism using an inventory, which is made up of 22 items, 11 items for the hostile sexism subscale (examples: "Women are too quickly offended "," There are many women who like to excite men by appearing sexually interested and then refuse their advances ") and 11 for that of benevolent sexism (examples:" During a disaster, women must be saved before men ”,“ Women, compared to men, tend to show a greater moral sense ”,“ Whatever his level of achievement, a man is not really “complete” as that nobody if he is not loved by a woman ”) and which has been translated into French.
According to a study of 19 different countries, the differences between countries are more marked on the scale of hostile sexism than on that of benevolent sexism. They can be traced back to data obtained from the United Nations indicating that, in countries with higher hostile sexism, gender equality is low (in terms of income and positions of responsibility held). For Moya, Poeschl, Glick, Paez and Fernandez Sedano (2005), there is a link between ambivalent sexism and other variables, such as the low level of human development, low scores in femininity or, even, the least respect for rights. civilians.
Although benevolent sexism is better accepted and goes more easily unnoticed, this does not prevent women from being sensitive to it, as evidenced by its negative impact on their performance during simulation of recruitment tests for example. Women, confronted with a benevolent sexist discourse, perform inferior to those exposed to a neutral or even hostile discourse. Vescio, Gervais, Snyder and Hoover (2005) show that condescending behavior related to benevolent sexism of men placed in a superior position towards women placed in a lower position affects the latter, inducing anger and poorer performance. .
For Jones, Stewart, King, Morgan, Gilrane and Hylton (2014), the feeling of self-efficacy, that is to say the feeling that an individual has of being able to organize and carry out actions necessary for the accomplishment of a task, would have a mediating effect between benevolent sexism and performance. It is because they would feel less competent that the performance of women, faced with benevolent sexism, would be worse.
Hostile sexism and benevolent sexism also have an impact on judgments made against perpetrators and victims of sexual assault. Thus, they reduce the level of responsibility attributed to the perpetrator, but increase the blame placed on a rape victim.
On the other hand, hostile sexism is linked to the acceptance of rape myths, which are prejudices and beliefs which tend to deny or relativize the responsibility of the rapist or to attribute it to the victims. Benevolent sexism, on the other hand, seems to be linked to the belief in a just world. Thus, people who score higher levels in benevolent sexism are more likely to blame the rape victim for protecting their belief in a just world, considering that she should have behaved according to the roles assigned to her gender and ultimately only has what it deserves.