Many researchers agree that blatant sexism is declining in American workplaces, however it is being replaced with a subtler, and for that reason, possibly even a more dangerous, form of sexism (Basford, 2014). Subtle forms of sexism are known by a variety of names, such as subtle sexism, gender micro aggressions, neosexism, modern sexism, benevolent sexism, ambivalent sexism, and everyday sexism. Some common characteristics among those who practice subtle sexism include a belief that discrimination against women is rare nowadays, feelings of antagonism about feminist issues, and resentment towards any efforts to address issues of inequality (Becker, & Swim, 2011). Although women are more likely than men to notice subtle forms of sexism (Basford, 2014), both genders engage in it to some degree (Becker, & Swim, 2011), often without even realizing they are doing it.
Consider the characteristics of benevolent sexism (Becker, & Swim, 2011):
- Women who choose to take the more traditional roles are viewed more favorably.
- In this view, women are the gentler sex, are better caregivers, and should be protected and provided for. In contrast women in less traditional roles are viewed with more hostility.
Perspective #1 of benevolent sexism: It is a way of being affectionate, courteous, and respectful towards women.
Perspective #2 of benevolent sexism: It promotes women as a weaker sex who are more incompetent than men, thus creating gender power differences.
What causes these polar-opposite perspectives of women? Several factors can influence how a person perceives subtle sexism. Their perception can be effected by their gender, age, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, education, workplace tenure, occupation, culture, or sexual orientation (Basford, 2014).
Which perspective of subtle sexism do you have?
Why factors do you think influence your perspective?
Basford, T. E. (2014). Do you see what I see? Perceptions of gender microaggressions in the workplace. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 38(3), 340-349.
Becker, J.C., & Swim, J.K. (2011). Seeing the unseen: Attention to daily encounters with sexism as way to reduce sexist beliefs. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 35(2), 227-242. doi: 10.1177/0361684310397509