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Sex Roles

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Ambivalent sexism theory (Glick and Fiske 1996, 1997) suggests that sexism takes two forms: an overt hostility as well as a subtle benevolence. We examined benevolent sexist behaviors and developed a 25-item Experiences with Benevolent Sexism Scale. Exploratory factor analysis (Study 1, U.S. college sample of 489 women) and confirmatory factor analysis (Study 2, online sample of 216 women) revealed three subscales of benevolently sexist experiences: Heterosexual Intimacy, Protective Paternalism, and Complementary Gender Differences. Women reported experiencing benevolently sexist events more frequently than overtly hostile sexist events; however, they perceived the hostile events to be more distressing and sexist (Studies 1 and 2). Experiencing Protective Paternalism was positively associated with self-doubt and negatively associated with self-esteem (Studies 1 and 2), and psychological well-being (Study 2). However, experiencing Complementary Gender Differentiation was negatively associated with self-doubt and positively associated with self-esteem (Studies 1 and 2), psychological well-being, flourishing, and submission to authority (Study 2). Finally, women in romantic relationships reported more benevolently sexist experiences than did those not in romantic relationships and the frequency of those experiences was positively associated with perceptions of the partner’s benevolently sexist attitudes (Study 2). The results highlight that women frequently experience sexism, ranging from overtly hostile to a subtle benevolence, and the different types of benevolent sexism each have unique associations with women’s well-being.


Accepted version. Sex Roles, Vol. 80, No. 5-6 (March 2019): 362-380. DOI. © 2019 Springer. Used with permission.

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