Skip to main content

Why Do Women Endorse Hostile and Benevolent Sexism? The Role of Salient Female Subtypes and Internalization of Sexist Contents

Abstract

The present research aims to explain women’s endorsement of hostile and benevolent sexist beliefs. Based on a convenience sample of N = 92 women in the general public in Germany, Study 1 demonstrated that women endorse hostile sexist beliefs when they do not think about themselves when completing the hostile sexism scale but about non-traditional female subtypes (feminists or career women). In contrast, women were more likely to agree with benevolent sexist beliefs the more they internalize these beliefs and the more they think about traditional subtypes (housewives) while completing the scale. A follow-up experimental study using a convenience sample of N = 123 German women further demonstrated that these results depend on women’s identification with the respective subtypes.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

References

  • Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regressions: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barreto, M., & Ellemers, N. (2005). The burden of benevolent sexism: how it contributes to the maintenance of gender inequalities. European Journal of Social Psychology, 35, 633–642.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Becker, J. C., & Wagner, U. (2009). Doing gender differently—the interplay of strength and content of gender identity in predicting women’s endorsement of sexist beliefs. European Journal of Social Psychology, 39, 487–508.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Benokraitis, N. V., & Feagin, J. R. (1995). Modern sexism: Blatant, subtle, and covert discrimination (2nd ed.). Englewood-Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bohner, G., & Lampridis, E. (2004). Expecting to meet a rape victim affects women’s self-esteem: the moderating role of rape myth acceptance. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 7, 77–87.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bohner, G., Ahlborn, K., & Steiner, R. (2010). How sexy are sexist Men? Women’s perception of male response profiles in the ambivalent sexism inventory. Sex Roles, this issue.

  • Cadinu, M., & Rothbart, M. (1996). Self-anchoring and differentiation processes in the minimal group setting. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 661–677.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Eagly, A. H., & Mladinic, A. (1989). Gender stereotypes and attitudes toward women and men. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 15, 543–558.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Eckes, T. (2001). Ambivalenter Sexismus und die Polarisierung von Geschlechterstereotypen. [Ambivalent Sexism and the polarization of gender stereotypes]. Zeitschrift für Sozialpsychologie, 32, 235–247.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Eckes, T. (2002). Paternalistic and envious gender stereotypes: testing predictions from the stereotype content model. Sex Roles, 47, 99–114.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Eckes, T., & Six-Materna, I. (1999). Hostilität und Benevolenz: Skala zur Erfassung des Ambivalenten Sexismus [Hostility and benevolence: A scale measuring ambivalent sexism]. Zeitschrift für Sozialpsychologie, 30, 211–228.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fassinger, R. E. (1994). Development and testing of the attitudes toward feminism and the women’s movement (FWM) scale. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 18, 389–402.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Garcia-Retamero, R., & López-Zafra, E. (2006). Prejudice against women in male-congenial environments: perceptions of gender role congruity in leadership. Sex Roles, 55, 51–61.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (1996). The ambivalent sexism inventory: differentiating hostile and benevolent sexism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70, 491–512.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (2001). An ambivalent alliance: hostile and benevolent sexism as complementary justifications for gender inequality. American Psychologist, 56, 109–118.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Glick, P., Diebold, J., Bailey-Werner, B., & Zhu, L. (1997). The two faces of Adam: ambivalent sexism and polarized attitudes toward women. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 1323–1334.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Glick, P., Fiske, S. T., Mladinic, A., Saiz, J. L., Abrams, D., Masser, B., et al. (2000). Beyond prejudice as simple antipathy: hostile and benevolent sexism across cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 763–775.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Haddock, G., & Zanna, M. P. (1994). Preferring “housewives” to “feminists”: categorization and the favorability of attitudes toward women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 18, 25–52.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hebl, M. R., King, E. B., Glick, P., Singletary, S. L., & Kazama, S. (2007). Hostile and benevolent reactions toward pregnant women: complementary interpersonal punishments and rewards that maintain traditional roles. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 1499–1511.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Heilman, M. E., Wallen, A. S., Fuchs, D., & Tamkins, M. M. (2004). Penalties for success: reactions to women who succeed at male gender-typed tasks. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89, 416–427.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Jackman, M. R. (1994). The velvet glove: Paternalism and conflict in gender, class, and race relations. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jost, J. T., & Kay, A. C. (2005). Exposure to benevolent sexism and complementary gender stereotypes: consequences for specific and diffuse forms of system justification. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 498–509.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kilianski, S. E., & Rudman, L. A. (1998). Wanting it both ways: do women approve of benevolent sexism? Sex Roles, 39, 333–352.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Krueger, J. I. (2007). From social projection to social behaviour. European Review of Social Psychology, 18, 1–35.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Liss, M., Hoffner, C., & Crawford, M. (2000). What do feminists believe? Psychology of Women Quarterly, 24, 279–284.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Noseworthy, C. M., & Lott, A. J. (1984). The cognitive organisation of gender-stereotypic categories. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 10, 474–481.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Otten, S., & Epstude, K. (2006). Overlapping mental representations of self, ingroup, and outgroup: unraveling self-stereotyping and self-anchoring. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32, 957–967.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Parks-Stamm, E. J., Heilman, M. E., & Hearns, K. A. (2008). Motivated to penalize: women’s strategic rejection of successful women. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 237–247.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Richards, Z., & Hewstone, M. (2001). Subtyping and subgrouping: processes for the prevention and promotion of stereotype change. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 5, 52–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Roy, R. E., Weibust, K. S., & Miller, C. T. (2007). Effects of stereotypes about feminists on feminist self-identification. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31, 146–156.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ryan, R. M., & Connell, J. P. (1989). Perceived locus of causality and internalization. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 749–761.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Sibley, C. G., & Wilson, M. S. (2004). Differentiating hostile and benevolent sexist attitudes toward positive and negative sexual female subtypes. Sex Roles, 51, 687–696.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Six, B., & Eckes, T. (1991). A closer look at the complex structure of gender stereotypes. Sex Roles, 24, 57–71.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Swim, J. K., Mallett, R., Russo-Devosa, Y., & Stangor, C. (2005). Judgments of sexism. A comparison of the subtlety of sexism measures and sources of variability in judgments of sexism. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 29, 406–411.

    Google Scholar 

  • Swim, J.K., Becker, J.C., & DeCoster, J. (2009a). Core dimensions of contemporary measures of sexist beliefs. Paper submitted for publication.

  • Swim, J. K., Becker, J., Lee, E., & Pruitt, E. R. (2009b). Sexism reloaded: Worldwide evidence for its endorsement, expression, and emergence in multiple contexts. In N. Russo & H. Landrine (Eds.), Handbook of diversity in feminist psychology. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1979). An integrated theory of intergroup conflict. In W. G. Austin & S. Worchel (Eds.), The social psychology of intergroup relations (2nd ed., pp. 33–47). Monterey, CA: Brooks/Cole.

    Google Scholar 

  • Turner, J., Hogg, M., Oakes, P., Reicher, S., & Wetherell, M. (1987). Rediscovering the social group: A self-categorization theory. Cambridge: Blackwell.

    Google Scholar 

  • Twenge, J. M., & Zucker, A. N. (1999). What is a feminist? Evaluations and stereotypes in closed- and open-ended responses. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 23, 591–605.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vonk, R., & Ashmore, R. D. (2003). Thinking about gender types: cognitive organization of female and male types. British Journal of Social Psychology, 42, 257–280.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgement

The author wishes to thank Gerd Bohner, Janet K. Swim, and Ulrich Wagner as well as the action editor Tiane Lee and journal editor Irene H. Frieze for their helpful comments on previous versions of this article.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Julia C. Becker.

Appendix

Appendix

Items Used for the Experimental Manipulation in Study 2

Hostile sexism directed against feminists/career women/housewives/the respondent

  1. 1.

    Viele Feministinnen/Karrierefrauen/Hausfrauen versuchen/Ich versuche unter dem Deckmantel der Gleichberechtigung, besondere Vergünstigungen zu erlangen, wie z.B. eine Bevorzugung bei der Besetzung von Arbeitsstellen (Many feminists/career women/housewives actually seeking/I actually seek special favors, such as hiring policies that favor them/me over men, under the guise of asking for “equality”).

  2. 2.

    Wenn Feministinnen/Karrierefrauen/Hausfrauen/ich in einem fairen Wettbewerb gegenüber Männern den Kürzeren ziehe/n, behaupten sie/ich gerne, sie seien/ich sei diskriminiert worden (When feminists/career women/housewives/I lose to men in a fair competition, they/I typically complain about being discriminated against).

  3. 3.

    Feministinnen/Karrierefrauen/Hausfrauen/Ich übertreibe/n Probleme, die sie/ich am Arbeitsplatz habe/n (Feminists/career women/housewives/I exaggerate problems they/I have at work).

  4. 4.

    Die meisten Feministinnen/Karrierefrauen/Hausfrauen/Ich interpretiere/n harmlose Äußerungen oder Handlungen als frauenfeindlich (Feminists/career women/housewives/I interpret innocent remarks of acts as being sexist).

  5. 5.

    Feministinnen/Karrierefrauen/Hausfrauen sind/Ich bin zu schnell beleidigt (Feminists/career women/housewives are/I am too easily offended).

  6. 6.

    Die meisten Feministinnen/Karrierefrauen/Hausfrauen/Ich sehe/n gar nicht, was Männer alles für sie/mich tun (Most feminists/career women/housewives/I fail to appreciate fully all that men do for them/me).

  7. 7.

    Feministinnen/Karrierefrauen/Hausfrauen/Ich versuche/n, Macht zu erlangen, indem sie/ich Männer immer mehr beherrsche/n (Feminists/career women/housewives/I seek to gain power by getting control over men).

  8. 8.

    Hat eine Feministin/Karrierefrau/Hausfrau/Habe ich erst mal einen Mann “rumgekriegt”, dann versucht sie/versuche ich, ihn an die kurze Leine zu legen (Once a feminist/career woman/housewife/I get a man to commit to her/me, she/I usually tries/try to put him on a tight leash).

  9. 9.

    Viele Feministinnen/Karrierefrauen/Hausfrauen haben/Ich habe Spaß daran, mit Männern zu “spielen”, indem sie sich/ich mich zuerst verführerisch gebe/n, dann aber die Annäherungsversuche der Männer zurückweisen (Many feminists/career women/housewives/I get a kick out of teasing men by seeming sexually available and then refusing male advances).

  10. 10.

    Feministinnen/Karrierefrauen/Hausfrauen/Ich stelle/n an Männer vollkommen berechtigte Forderungen (Feminists/career women/housewives are/I am making reasonable demands of men).*

  11. 11.

    Was Feministinnen/Karrierefrauen/Hausfrauen/Ich wirklich wollen/will ist, dass Frauen mehr Macht bekommen als Männer (Feminists/career women/housewives/I seek to gain power by getting control over men).

Note: Items with an asterisk were recoded.

Benevolent sexism directed against feminists/career women/housewives/the respondent

  1. 1.

    Ein Mann sollte bereit sein, sein eigenes Wohl zu opfern, um für seine Feministin/Karrierefrau/Hausfrau/mich sorgen zu können (A/my man should be willing to sacrifice his own well-being in order to provide financially for his feminist/career woman/housewife/me).

  2. 2.

    Viele Feministinnen/Karrierefrauen/Hausfrauen/Ich habe/n eine Art Ehrlichkeit, die nur wenige Männer besitzen (Many feminists/career women/housewives/I have a quality of honesty that few men possess).

  3. 3.

    Bei einer Katastrophe sollte/n Feministinnen/Karrierefrauen/Hausfrauen/ich vor Männern gerettet werden (In a disaster, feminists/career women/housewives/I ought to be rescued before men).

  4. 4.

    Ein Mann kann im Leben erst richtig glücklich sein, wenn er eine Feministin/Karrierefrau/Hausfrau/eine Frau wie mich hat, die er liebt (A man can not be truly happy in life without being romantically involved with a feminist/career woman/housewife/woman like me).

  5. 5.

    Verglichen mit Männern habe/n Feministinnen/Karrierefrauen/Hausfrauen/ich ein besseres moralisches Empfinden (Feminists/career women/housewives/I, compared to men, tend to have a superior moral sensibility).

  6. 6.

    Verglichen mit Männern habe/n Feministinnen/Karrierefrauen/Hausfrauen/ich einen feineren Sinn für Kultur und einen besseren Geschmack (As compared to men, feminists/career women/housewives/I tend to have a more refined sense of culture and good taste).

  7. 7.

    Männer sind/mein Mann ist ohne Feministinnen/Karrierefrauen/Hausfrauen/mich unvollkommen (Men are/my man is incomplete without feminists/career women/housewives/me).

  8. 8.

    Egal wie erfolgreich ein Mann/mein Partner auch sein mag, ohne eine Feministin/Karrierefrau/Hausfrau die ihn liebt/ohne meine Liebe fehlt ihm etwas ganz Wichtiges (No matter how accomplished he/my partner is, a man/he is not truly complete as a person unless he has the love of a feminist/career woman/housewife/me).

  9. 9.

    Eine Feministin/Karrierefrau/Hausfrau/Ich sollte von ihrem/meinem Mann auf Händen getragen werden (A feminist/career woman/housewife/I should be set on a pedestal by her/my man).

  10. 10.

    Feministinnen/Karrierefrauen/Hausfrauen/Ich sollte/n von Männern umsorgt und beschützt werden (Feminists/career women/housewives/I should be cherished and protected by men).

  11. 11.

    Jeder Mann sollte eine Feministin/Karrierefrau/Hausfrau/Frau wie mich haben, die er wirklich liebt (Every man ought to have a feminist/career woman/housewife/woman like me whom he adores).

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Becker, J.C. Why Do Women Endorse Hostile and Benevolent Sexism? The Role of Salient Female Subtypes and Internalization of Sexist Contents. Sex Roles 62, 453–467 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-009-9707-4

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-009-9707-4

Keywords

  • Benevolent sexism
  • Hostile sexism
  • Female subtypes
  • Internalization of sexism
  • Gender identification