I recently ran across an article from The Conversation discussing the issue of “benevolent sexism.”
For those feeling a bit foggy about the term “benevolent sexism,” please know you're not alone. As I read on, I discovered that I knew the definition, but simply didn’t recognize it under its modern clinical garb. From what I can tell, “benevolent sexism” is a fancy way of describing the behavior of what we once called a gentleman.
But while being a gentleman is now politically incorrect, it appears that many women – such as myself – still refuse to recognize how toxic such behavior is. In fact, women appear to be quite attracted to the benevolently sexist gentleman. The article explains this oddity:
“In our recently published research, we asked over 700 women, ages ranging from 18 to 73, in five experiments, to read profiles of men who either expressed attitudes or engaged in behaviors that could be described as benevolently sexist, like giving a coat or offering to help with carrying heavy boxes.
We then had the participants rate the man’s attractiveness; willingness to protect, provide and commit; and his likelihood of being patronizing.
Our findings confirmed that women do perceive benevolently sexist men to be more patronizing and more likely to undermine their partners.
But we also found that the women in our studies perceived these men as more attractive, despite the potential pitfalls.”
As the authors go on to say, women were attracted to this behavior because they view it as an indication that males would be “more likely to protect, provide and commit.” In other words, women appreciate security, and the men who provide this security are a hot commodity.
The authors go on to imply that such a finding could not be possible in our age of modern enlightenment. Surely the participants in the study must skew more to the right of the political spectrum and be women who dwell in the dark ages of domesticity.
Alas, such is not the case. Feminist-leaning women fall prey to this attraction as well!
“We found that strong feminists rated men as more patronizing and undermining than traditional women did. But like the other women, they still found these men more attractive; the drawbacks were outweighed by the men’s willingness to invest. It seems that even staunch feminists may prefer a chivalrous mate who picks up the check on a first date or walks closer to the curb on a sidewalk.”
The article concludes with the authors scratching their heads over such a development and chalking it up to feminine confusion. As such, they encourage women to walk the fine line between accepting the advantages of benevolent sexism while avoiding the negative, demeaning effects of it. Oddly enough, they never seem to consider the possibility that a woman’s attraction to a chivalrous man may be a completely natural, ingrained part of her biological makeup that’s rather hard to extract from even the most feminist psyche.
Today’s society is increasingly dominated by confusion. Men are confused over how to treat women. Women are confused about how to respond to men. Both men and women are confused over whether they really are males or females. And as the above article suggests, academics are confused over how to classify the confusion emanating from the genders.
Is it possible that we would clear up this confusion if we simply recognized that the sexes are different and have needs and interests which correspond to those differences?
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.