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Benevolent Sexism

Man helps woman out of car benevolent sexism
Many of us, male and female, strongly believe that hostile sexism is wholly inappropriate. But what about so-called benevolent sexism?


In the age of #metoo, teens are pretty aware that hostile sexism is a bad thing. But what about the chivalry they witness in movies or have been told by grandma to expect (if they're female) or to do (if they're male)? Teens (and often their parents too!) are confused about something that can seem complimentary and respectful but also feels weird or funny or off because it's based on men taking care of women.

Geez, What's wrong with being taken care of??

Nothing! We definitely want our sons and daughters to understand that taking care and being taken care of are both important parts of relationships. But we want our sons to know they don't always have to be the strong ones and our daughters to know they can also be strong. 


The funny feeling comes from knowing somewhere in their gut that chivalry highlights male strength and power and female weakness and passivity.


Chivalrous behavior like picking up the tab at a restaurant and holding open doors for women seem perfectly benign and even courteous on the surface of it. But it reinforces a sexual script in which a man takes charge while a woman remains passive. These behaviors are based on women’s need for help and protection due to their frailty and inferiority.


Another aspect of benevolent sexism is placing women on moral pedestals, based on the stereotype that women are more...

  • compassionate (read: don’t be assertive)

  • intuitive (you lack logic and rational thinking)

  • nurturing (you take care of the kids)

  • tidy (you’re better at chores, and your house and body better be neat)

  • beautiful (no wonder we objectify your bodies).

Of course these qualities in and of themselves aren’t bad but they are used as just another stranglehold on women and disguised as benevolence. Behave in these very particular ways or you’re aberrant.

"Women actually don’t need to be championed and revered; they just need to be treated as equal human beings."      - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian Author   


Feminist Parenting
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