How misogyny manifests itself in subtle ways


Julia C. Becker

To person

Dr. rer. nat., Dipl.-Psych., born 1978; Professor of Social Psychology at the University of Osnabrück, Seminarstrasse 20, 49076 Osnabrück. [email protected]

A look at the situation in Germany shows successful female managers, fathers on parental leave and a woman as Federal Chancellor. Social roles seem to be decoupled from gender: Every professional and life constellation appears possible - regardless of whether one is female or male. So does Germany still have a "sexism problem"? Sexism is defined as individual attitudes and behaviors or institutional and cultural practices that either reflect a negative assessment of a person based on their gender or maintain the unequal status between women and men in society. [1]

On closer inspection, the complex and unsystematic picture described above is easy to simplify: All of these examples are exceptions to the rule - not only in Germany, but worldwide. This is proven by objective indicators for gender inequality such as the "Gender Empowerment Measure" (GEM, an indicator for the gender ratio in politics and economy of a country) and the "Gender Inequality Index" (GII, an indicator for gender differences in health, prosperity, education, etc.) .), which are measured annually in over 150 countries around the world. Equality between women and men is not achieved in any of the countries examined: [2] Although there are great differences, women in all countries are underrepresented in positions that are related to power and status (e.g. parliaments, leadership positions), but take on disproportionately more Care- Work (care and nursing activities) and have a lower quality of life compared to men in all the countries examined. These objective indices of the structural disadvantage of women are also reflected in individual sexist attitudes: A survey by the project "Group-related misanthropy" shows that in 2010 one fifth (20 percent) of the German population still agreed with the statement that "women should reflect more on the role of wife and mother ". [3]

It can therefore be stated that, although conditions for women have improved significantly in the past few decades (for example with regard to professional development), women are still structurally disadvantaged and also affected by everyday discrimination. One possibility of maintaining structural disadvantage and protecting the privileges of a group (here: the group of men) is to spread legitimizing ideologies and prejudices about the disadvantaged group (here: spreading sexist attitudes). Sexist attitudes express themselves differently. In the past few decades there has been a shift from expressing overt sexist attitudes to more subtle and hidden forms of discrimination. In this article, the three essential subtle manifestations of sexism are presented from a social-psychological perspective: modern sexism, neosexism and ambivalent (benevolent and hostile) sexism. The main focus of the article is to outline the concept of benevolent sexism. Then the negative consequences of benevolent sexist attitudes are presented and possibilities of reducing or confronting subtly sexist attitudes are discussed. [5]

Modern sexism and neosexism

Based on research on modern racism, the concepts of modern sexism and neosexism were developed independently in the USA and Canada in the same year in order to measure "hidden" prejudices against women. [6] Modern sexism is defined as the denial of discrimination and the rejection of measures aimed at reducing inequality. Neosexism is defined as the conflict between egalitarian values ​​(women and men should be treated equally) and negative emotions towards women. Both concepts can be characterized by three components: 1) Denial of continued discrimination ("Discrimination against women is no longer a problem in Germany today"), [7] 2) Resistance to alleged privileges of women ("In recent years women have had more of received by the government than they would be entitled to ") [8] and 3) Rejection of demands for equal treatment (" The demands of women for equal rights are completely exaggerated "). [9] Modern and neosexism thus provide ideological justifications for existing inequality: the status quo is perceived as fair, and a reduction in gender inequality is consequently prevented.

Although men tend to be more in agreement with modern and neosexism than women, a substantial proportion of women also agree with modern and neosexism. The fact that women also deny discrimination and speak out against measures for gender equality initially seems astonishing. One theory that helps explain this finding is that of systems justification. [10] This states that people are not only motivated to positively evaluate themselves and the groups to which they belong, but also the higher-level system in which they live. According to this theory, people have a general need to perceive social relationships as just and legitimate. This means that people want to believe in a just and predictable world where every person gets what they deserve. [11] Applied to modernity and neosexism, the realization that women are still discriminated against can place the individual in an uncomfortable, aversive state, as this realization implies that the world is unpredictable and a woman is not in complete control of her life. A strategy that women also use to avoid this aversive loss of control is to deny social injustice - such as the disadvantage of women - or to justify it as an individual problem for individual women. Although such a denial is psychologically understandable for the woman as an individual, it has the consequence that social change is inhibited because structural injustice persists. Various research findings prove this: For example, modern sexism goes with a rejection of egalitarian values ​​and Affirmative action- Accompanying measures such as quota regulations. [12] In addition, women confronted with modern sexism are less interested in tackling gender inequality. [13]

Modern and neosexism are conceptually closely related, but differ in their operationalization. The scale for measuring modern sexism primarily depicts the first component (denial of continued discrimination), while the scale for measuring neosexism primarily depicts the second and third components (resistance to alleged privileges and rejection of demands for equal treatment).

Ambivalent sexism

The publication of the concept of ambivalent sexism was a milestone in sexism research. For the first time sexism was not only defined as a negative attitude, but it was shown that supposedly positive attitudes can also contribute to maintaining the status quo. Ambivalent sexism describes the interplay of hostile (hostile) sexism and benevolent (benevolent) sexism. Hostile sexism is expressed in a negative view of women. It is based on the conviction that men deserve their higher status and at the same time characterized by the fear that women can lose this higher status. At its core, it is about male experience of threat and the associated devaluation of the source of threat: Hostile sexists assume that women pursue the goal of gaining power and control over men, either through feminist ideology or by exploiting their sexual attractiveness. [14] Hostile sexism is therefore primarily directed against non-traditional types of women such as feminists and career women.

Benevolent sexism, on the other hand, appears in the guise of "chivalry" or "cavalry". From the subjective point of view of the Benevolent sexists, it represents positive beliefs and behaviors towards women. Benevolent sexist behavior can be observed, for example, as follows: A man offers a woman to take on a relatively simple task, such as installing a computer program so that she can herself "as a woman doesn't have to deal with it". Benevolent sexism can be described more precisely by the three sub-facets of protective paternalism, complementary gender differentiation, and heterosexual intimacy. [15] Protective paternalism is characterized by the conviction that men must protect women and provide them financially. Complementary gender differentiation refers to a view of women as the "better sex" and is expressed in positive, but gender-role-compliant attributions: Women are described as more warm-hearted, more loving and more tactful than men. Heterosexual intimacy refers to a romantically transfigured image of a woman as a partner, without whom a man cannot lead a meaningful life ("men are imperfect without women").

At first glance, the three sub-facets appear friendly, harmless and unproblematic: Assistance and protection offers are first and foremost prosocial, positive gestures that should actually be reinforced instead of changed. Indeed, benevolent behaviors don't always have to be sexist, they can just as easily be meant nicely. Benevolent behaviors only become sexist if they only apply to one gender and it is not desired if women behave in the same "paternalistic" way. The same applies to the complementary gender differentiation: Even positive attributions and compliments only become problematic if they are one-sided and only apply to women. Research shows that the positive "warmth-related" ascriptions are not associated with positive "competence-related" ascriptions (e.g. intelligent, independent). The result is that women are characterized as wonderful, but also as weak and in need of protection. [16] Furthermore, this ascription predestines women for roles with low status. The third sub-facet, heterosexual intimacy, idealizes the concept of heterosexual love and presents it as a person's most desirable goal. A woman is stylized as a decorative accessory that a successful man should have for a full life. Before further negative consequences of benevolent sexist beliefs are described in detail, the origin and current state of research of the concept of ambivalent sexism are presented.