Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
  • Get access
    Check if you have access via personal or institutional login
  • Cited by 3
  • Print publication year: 2012
  • Online publication date: June 2012

3 - An ambivalent alliance: hostile and benevolent sexism as complementary justifications for gender inequality

from Part I - Beyond prejudice

Summary

If woman had no existence save in the fiction written by men, one would imagine her a person . . . very various; heroic and mean; splendid and sordid; infinitely beautiful and hideous in the extreme.

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929/1981)

What Woolf saw as ‘astonishing extremes’ in men’s images of women date back to ancient texts. Pomeroy (1975), a social historian, suggested that classical representations of women fit into the polarized categories of goddesses, whores, wives and slaves. Feminists who analyse contemporary society (e.g. Faludi, 1992) argue that similarly extreme characterizations of women are alive and well in popular culture, such as film depictions that divide women into faithful wives and murderous seductresses. Although what Tavris and Wade (1984) termed the pedestal–gutter syndrome (or the Madonna–whore dichotomy) has long been recognized by psychologists, historians and feminists, most empirical researchers have identified sexism only with regard to hostility towards women, ignoring the corresponding tendency to place (at least some) women on a pedestal.

This chapter reviews recent theory and empirical research on hostile and benevolent sexism. Hostile sexism is an adversarial view of gender relations in which women are perceived as seeking to control men, whether through sexuality or feminist ideology. Although benevolent sexism may sound oxymoronic, this term recognizes that some forms of sexism are, for the perpetrator, subjectively benevolent, characterizing women as pure creatures who ought to be protected, supported and adored and whose love is necessary to make a man complete. This idealization of women simultaneously implies that they are weak and best suited for conventional gender roles; being put on a pedestal is confining, yet the man who places a woman there is likely to interpret this as cherishing, rather than restricting, her (and many women may agree). Despite the greater social acceptability of benevolent sexism, our research suggests that it serves as a crucial complement to hostile sexism that helps to pacify women’s resistance to societal gender inequality.

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
References
Allport, G. W. 1954 The Nature of PrejudiceCambridge, MAAddison-Wesley
Brown, R. A. 1995 Prejudice: its Social PsychologyOxford, UKBlackwell
Carpenter, S. 2000
Cuddy, A. C. 2000
Eagly, A. H.Mladinic, A. 1989 Gender stereotypes and attitudes toward women and menPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin 15 543
Eagly, A. H.Mladinic, A. 1993 Are people prejudiced against women? Some answers from research on attitudes, gender stereotypes and judgments of competenceStroebe, W.Hewstone, M.European Review of Social PsychologyNew YorkWiley
Eagly, A. H.Wood, W. 1999 The origins of sex differences in human behavior – evolved dispositions versus social rolesAmerican Psychologist 54 408
Faludi, S. 1992 Backlash: the Undeclared War against WomenNew YorkDoubleday
Fiske, S. T. 1998 Prejudice, stereotyping, and discriminationFiske, S. T.Lindzey, G.The Handbook of Social PsychologyNew YorkMcGraw-Hill
Fiske, S. T.Glick, P.Cuddy, A. CXy, J. 1999
Fiske, S. T.Xu, J.Cuddy, A. CGlick, P. 1999 Respect versus liking: status and interdependence underlie ambivalent stereotypesJournal of Social Issues 55 473
Glick, P.Fiske, S. T. 1996 The ambivalent sexism inventory: differentiating hostile and benevolent sexismJournal of Personality and Social Psychology 70 491
Glick, P.Fiske, S. T. 1999 The ambivalence toward men inventory – differentiating hostile and benevolent beliefs about menPsychology of Women Quarterly 23 519
Glick, P.Fiske, S. T. 2001 Ambivalent sexismZanna, M. P.Advances in Experimental Social PsychologySan Diego, CAAcademic Press
Glick, P.Fiske, S. T. 2001 Ambivalent stereotypes as legitimizing ideologies: differentiating paternalistic and resentful prejudiceJost, J. T.Majore, B.The Psychology of Legitimacy: Emerging Perspectives on Ideology, Justice and Intergroup RelationsCambridge, UKCambridge University Press
Glick, P.Diebold, J.BaileyWerner, B.Zhu, L. 1997 The two faces of Adam: ambivalent sexism and polarized attitudes toward womenPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin 23 1,323
Glick, P.Fiske, S. T.Mladinic, A.Saiz, J.Abrams, D.Masser, B. 2000 Beyond prejudice as simple antipathy: hostile and benevolent sexism across culturesJournal of Personality and Social Psychology 79 763
Guttentag, M. 1983 Too Many Women: the Sex Ratio QuestionBeverly Hills, CASage
Harris, M. J. 1991 Cultural AnthropologyNew YorkHarperCollins
Hochschild, A. 1998 King Leopold’s Ghost: a Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial AfricaBoston, MAHoughton Mifflin
Jackman, M. R. 1994 The Velvet Glove: Paternalism and Conflict in Gender, Class, and Race RelationsBerkeley, CA/LondonUniversity of California Press
Jöreskog, K. G.Sörbom, D 1993 Lisrel 8: Structural Equation Modeling with the SIMPLIS Command LanguageHove, UK/Chicago, ILLawrence Erlbaum Associates/Scientific Software International
Jost, J. T.Banaji, M. R 1994 The role of stereotyping in system-justification and the production of false consciousnessBritish Journal of Social Psychology 33 1
Katz, I. 1981 Stigma: a Social Psychological AnalysisHillsdale, NJErlbaum
Katz, I.Hass, R. G. 1988 Racial ambivalence and value conflict: correlational and priming studies of dual cognitive structuresJournal of Personality and Social Psychology 55 893
Kilianski, S.Rudman, L. A. 1998 Wanting it both ways: do women approve of benevolent sexism?Sex Roles 39 332
Kipling, R. 1899 The White Man’s burden: a poemMcClure’s Magazine 20 290
Moya, M.Exposito, F.Casado, P. 1999
Pomeroy, S. B. 1975 Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical AntiquityNew YorkSchocken
Pratto, F. 1996 Sexual politics: the gender gap in the bedroom, the cupboard, and the cabinetBuss, D. M.Malamuth, N. M.Sex, Power, and ConflictNew YorkOxford University Press
Ridgeway, C. 1992 Gender, Interaction and InequalityNew YorkSpringer-Verlag
Rudman, L. A. 1998 Self-promotion as a risk factor for women: the costs and benefits of counter-stereotypical impression managementJournal of Personality and Social Psychology 74 629
Rudman, L. A.Heppen, J. 2000
Salzman, P. C. 1999 Is inequality universal?Current Anthropology 40 31
Sidanius, J.Pratto, F.Bobo, L. 1994 Social-dominance orientation and the political psychology of gender – a case of invarianceJournal of Personality and Social Psychology 67 998
Six, I.Exckes, T. 1991 A closer look at the complex structure of gender stereotypesSex Roles 24 57
Smith, E. 1993 Social identity and social emotions: toward new conceptualizations of prejudiceMackie, D. M.Hamilton, D. L.Affect, Cognition, and Stereotyping: Interactive Processes in Group PerceptionSan Diego, CAAcademic Press
Smuts, B. 1996 Male aggression against women: an evolutionary perspectiveBuss, D. M.Malamuth, N. M.Sex, Power, and ConflictNew YorkOxford University Press
Spence, J. T.Buckner, C. E 2000 Instrumental and expressive traits, trait stereotypes, and sexist attitudesPsychology of Women Quarterly 24 44
Tajfel, H. 1981 Social Identity and Intergroup RelationsLondonCambridge University Press
Tavris, C.Wade, C. 1984 The Longest War: Sex Differences in PerspectiveSan Diego, CAHarcourt Brace Jovanovich
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 1998 Human Development Report 1998New YorkOxford University Press
Williams, J. E.Best, D. L. 1982 Measuring Sex StereotypesBeverly Hills, CASage
Woolf, V. 1981 A Room of One’s OwnNew YorkHarcourt Brace Jovanovich (original work published 1929)
Young-Breuhl, E. 1996 The Anatomy of PrejudicesCambridge, MAHarvard University Press