Ambivalent sexism, a subtle but effective method of keeping the gender equality gap from shrinking, contains two complementary belief systems about women that have the contrasting valences of subjective benevolence and hostility. Benevolent sexism masks the more overt hostile sexism by giving seemingly caring reasons for discriminatory behaviors toward women. Thus, ambivalent sexism can be a difficult prejudice to root out.

Historical conceptions of sexism assume the hostile belief that women are inferior to men and unfit for positions of leadership, especially those involving power over men. In this view, women who adhere to traditional roles are undervalued and viewed with contempt, while those who challenge such ascribed codes of behavior are resented as overstepping natural and cultural boundaries. While this notion of sexism has prevailed ...

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