Debate Magazine

Of Course: Chivalry Is Sexist!

By Eowyn @DrEowyn

Huffington Post: Chivalry is dead, at least as far as equal rights are concerned.

A new study out of Northeastern University in Boston says there are two types of sexists out there. Acts of so-called chivalry, like paying for dinner, offering up jackets and calling a women ‘love’ or ‘dear’ can be signs of “benevolent sexists,” according to psychologist Jin Goh, while “hostile sexists” are those who specifically leave housework to wives and girlfriends, or wolf whistle at women walking down the street.

Judith Hall

Judith Hall

People don’t typically associate sexism with the warmth and friendliness benevolent sexists display, Goh explained to the Telegraph. While some women consider the behavior of benevolent sexists to be gentlemanly and courteous, co-author and psychology professor Judith Hall at the Boston-based university told the Daily Mail that “benevolent sexism is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing — [it] perpetuates support for gender inequality.”

The study, which paired 27 men with women between the ages of 18 and 22, encouraged the individuals to take a quiz and get to know each other. Rating their agreement on statements like ““a good woman should be set on a pedestal by her man” and “women are too easily offended” helped differentiate between the two types of sexists.

So does that mean we should do away with chivalry altogether? Not necessarily. As Australia’s News.com points out, if a man is carrying out these actions because he believes a woman is fragile, and thus requires protection, then he’s being sexist. But if he’s doing it to be kind? That’s just being polite.

Peter Glick, author of the original benevolent sexism study, says the intention is not to make men feel like they should stop being courteous, but rather knowing when they are crossing the line. In his 1996 report, Glick said people in general find benevolent sexism more desirable than detrimental, but it still promotes gender inequality.

feminism8

In many cases men don’t even realize they are being sexist. In 2011 psychologists Janet Swim and Julia Becker looked at the differences in how men and women recognize and respond to sexism in their daily lives. Swim explained that men continued sexist behavior after it was recognized, but revealed they were more sympathetic when asked to look at the comments from a woman’s perspective.

On International Women’s Day Emma Watson, UN Goodwill Ambassador for Women, took to Facebook to discuss, among other topics, the act of chivalry and how it should really be consensual. Watson noted she wouldn’t be offended if a man held a door open for her, since he’s just being courteous, but to her, the real question is whether or not he would mind if she held the door open for him.

Watson’s wise words are worthy of a deeper conversation. Can we stop calling it chivalry and focus on gender-less courtesy?

DCG


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