Does “benevolent sexism” cause harm?
A recent study of “benevolent sexism” (BS) concludes that it can have immediate and long-term negative consequences for women.1 BS occurs when someone (usually a man) says something that seems supportive and positive, but is based on traditional gender stereotypes. It is unique in that, unlike hostile sexism or other overt forms of discrimination, it is often deployed with consciously good intentions, and often seen by the recipient in that light.
For example, Karen and Ben have been eagerly awaiting their annual performance reviews from their manager. While Karen’s review praises her for being a likable team player that people enjoy working with, Ben’s review focuses on his efficacy as a team leader and tough negotiation skills. Although both of these reviews are positive, Karen’s review focuses on her likeability, while Ben’s focuses on leadership and toughness.