When Sexism Leads to Racism: Threat, Protecting Women, and Racial Bias
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The stated goal of protecting White women from harm has been used, historically and contemporarily, as a pretext for racial violence. Two studies explored the relationship between protective paternalism (the belief that men should protect and care for women—part of benevolent sexism; Glick and Fiske 1996) and anti-minority racial attitudes. In Study 1 (n = 474, 61% women, 61% White), survey data found that protective paternalism was related to anti-Black bias, but only for White respondents. Study 2 (n = 242, 52% women, 74% White) experimentally manipulated feelings of threat to test for increases in protective paternalism and its corresponding effect on three anti-minority racial attitudes. For male participants only, threat (i.e., reading about recent increases in violent crime) increased endorsement of protective paternalism, which was in turn associated with a more negative view of immigration, and, for White men only, less support for policies that benefit racial minority groups and greater denial of racial bias in policing. Threat did not increase protective paternalism in female participants. For White men in particular, news of crime and danger increases racial bias by first increasing the desire to protect women. Policymakers should be aware that framing policies around safety concerns or appealing to the protection of women might unintentionally bolster anti-minority racial prejudices.
KeywordsBenevolent sexism Sexism Paternalism Racism Threat
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest
There are no potential conflicts of interest (financial or non-financial) to disclose.
Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals
This research involved human participants. Both of the studies reported in this manuscript received approval from the Portland State University Institutional Review Board prior to the collection of any data. Compensation for participation was non-coercive, data are anonymous and stored in a secure facility, informed consent was gathered, and procedures put participants at ‘minimal risk’.
All of the participants were over the age of 18 and gave their informed consent before participating in any research.
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