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Benevolent Sexism

Definition

Benevolent sexism is a form of paternalistic prejudice (treating a lower status group as a father might treat a child) directed toward women. Prejudice is often thought of as a dislike or antipathy toward a group. Benevolent sexism, however, is an affectionate but patronizing attitude that treats women as needing men's help, protection, and provision (i.e., as being more like children than adults). Benevolently sexist attitudes suggest that women are purer and nicer than men, but also mentally weaker and less capable. Behaviors that illustrate benevolent sexism include overhelping women (implying they cannot do something themselves), using diminutive names (e.g., “sweetie”) toward female strangers, or “talking down” to women (e.g., implying they cannot understand something technical).

Although benevolent sexism might seem trivial, patronizing behaviors can be ...

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