Because we really did need scientific evidence of this: A new study has found that, when encouraged to look for instances of sexist behavior in their daily lives, people are more likely to dislike the men displaying that behavior.
The research, conducted by Julia Becker of University Marburg and Janet Swim of Pennsylvania State University, is set to the old tune of raising awareness:
"We propose that women and men endorse Modern Sexist and Neosexist beliefs to some extent because they are not aware of the overall prevalence and extent of sexism in their personal lives."
Apparently not noticing sexism makes it worse.
The problem with Becker and Swim's work is its grounding in feminist theory. Behaviors can be classified as "modern sexism," "neosexism," or "benevolent sexism." The study explicitly states its intention to reduce endorsement of these and encourage "individuals 'to see the unseen.' " So, they want men and women to accept and apply certain definitions of sexism in their daily lives. That's a pretty political aim for a scientific study in a peer-reviewed journal.
This week, Alex Berezow in USA Today, reviewed the categorization of what constitutes different types of sexism according to the study:
"A man telling a woman to stay in the kitchen qualified as sexism. But a man opening a door for a woman or believing that women should be rescued first in a disaster qualified as "benevolent sexism." Tired of hearing about sexism? That's sexist, too.
As it turns out, if everything is defined as sexism, then sexism ends up being everywhere."
Among the offensive behaviors are also complimenting a woman on her cooking, her skill with children, or offering to pay for her dinner or bring her home. If chivalry isn't already dead, this new definition of sexism may just kill it.
Sexism is not something that anyone wants to be accused of, but it's a lot scarier when your accuser is not a progressive academic, but a co-worker. The law already protects women from discriminatory behavior, but more importantly, so does societal etiquette. Women do not need the special protection of the law–nor do they need a handbook telling them what they should find offensive. Intuition does a fine job of that and forcing men to tiptoe around women to avoid offense sounds, well, sexist.
Image courtesy of Pink Ponk on Flickr.