Many men today feel as though they cannot influence gender equality as they are not the disadvantaged group. They ask, “What am I supposed to do?” or they say, “I don’t know what needs to be done.” These are valid things to be said and asked but unfortunately, the answer is more easily said than done. Benevolent sexism is an issue that is present in a majority of countries with smaller gender inequality gaps. Benevolent sexism is when men are not overtly aggressive to women, however, they cast women as fragile beings that must be protected and provided for by men. This does not seem to fit in many people’s ideas of what the world is today, as women work outside of the home in many cases and take care of themselves. As well, women having been choosing to not have children more than in years past.
Now, none of these things are inherently bad for society or bad overall, but certain groups in society may judge them as bad. This happens through a process described by Ambivalent Sexism Theory. This theory is all about how the attitudes of the dominant group in society (men in this case) can impact society with the attitudes they present as other men and the disadvantaged group (women in this case) tend to accept these attitudes as the status quo. We can see how this might be problematic when people in the dominant group have attitudes that tear the disadvantaged group down rather than building them up.
Right about now, you may be thinking: well that’s great, but what am I supposed to do to change that? Here’s a list of small and big actions that you can take to help the gender equality movement:
- Think about the way you present yourself in the world. Do you notice if you are ever benevolently sexist?
- Think about how the way you speak impacts others. Do you hold a large audience that could be impacted by the words you are saying?
- When you notice someone else being benevolently sexist, how does that make you react? Do you speak up?
If your answer to any of the above indicated to you that you may be guilty of benevolent sexism, don’t fret! A majority of the population is guilty of being benevolently sexist at one point or another and this does not mean that you are a bad person for having certain attitudes because tomorrow is a new day and there is always room to make changes.
Now that you are noticing your actions and words, you can move forwards with this in mind to make positive changes. When you are aware of how you present yourself in the world and the attitudes you display, you have the ability to do great things.
Because of the position that men hold in regards to other men, they have the ability to actually make changes to the status quo. This may seem impossible to a single person, but just think: if enough men got on board with this, couldn’t they change the world?
Reference: Sibley, C. G., Overall, N. C., Duckitt, J., Perry, R., Milfont, T. L., Khan, S. S., Robertson, A. (2009). Your sexism predicts my sexism: Perceptions of men’s (but not women’s) sexism affects one’s own sexism over time. Sex Roles, 60(9-10), 682-693.