Sexism is kind of like PMS – you can blame just about anything on it, and you’re usually right. Usually, we associate sexism with obvious stuff: Thinking that women are bad drivers because there are no roads between the bedroom and the kitchen, arguing vociferously with me about the wage gap in the comments section, saying things like “I’m not a feminist, I’m an equalist,” that kind of thing. Now a study out of Northeastern University found that there are actually two kinds of sexism: Hostile (the kind we’re all familiar with) and benevolent. Via WaPo:
A new study examining the nonverbal cues thrown out during interactions between men and women finds that men who have high ratings of “benevolent sexism” — attitudes towards women that are well-intentioned but perpetuate inequality — finds that smiling and other positive cues increase when this kind of sexism is prevalent.
The study, though small, didn’t just consist of a bunch of researchers observing men interacting with women and then arbitrarily applying sexist labels. They paired men with women, and gave them a little game to play along with time to hang out afterwards. They observed the way the men acted with the women. The men were also asked to fill out surveys designed to determine sexist attitudes. When they combined the sexism responses with behavioral observations, they found that the “benevolent” sexists were more likely to be warm, friendly and smile more when interacting with women.
Hostile sexists are what you’d expect – they think women are “too easily offended,” or “a problem in the workplace.” Benevolent sexists, though, aren’t sexist because they hate women. Instead, they think that women are weak creatures, and it’s a man’s duty to do things like open doors, pay the check and put the pussy on a pedestal.
Basically, a hostile sexist calls you a whore after you let him buy you a drink but then refuse to fuck him, while a benevolent sexist calls you a whore when you won’t let him buy you a drink in the first place.
This is, obviously, a problem. The researchers believe that both kinds of sexism work together to keep shit kind of real for women. While aggressive, hostile sexists are easy to spot, a benevolent one may come off as more charming than a normal guy who actually respects women. It’s one thing to deal with a guy who hates women, but it’s another to deal with a whole cadre of charming men who don’t think women should be able to, say, have jobs because they’re too pure and fragile to do so.
What the study authors expect you to do with this information, however, is not clear. Personally, I would advise you not to kick every guy you see holding a door in the nuts on the suspicion that he might be thinking sexist thoughts. I say that because I hold a lot of doors, and there's a better chance I'm thinking about your butt in yoga pants than your value as a member of society.
(Note – To the handful of guys who troll articles on this subject, learn to read or else fuck off. No one’s saying you can’t hold doors for people, offer to pay for dates, help chicks carry stuff, etc. It has to do with your intentions, not the actions.)