Identifying ambivalent sexism

Reporter to female politician: “How do you juggle your work with being a mother?”

“Girls need to dress appropriately in school, so boys won’t be distracted.”

“A woman shouldn’t be POTUS because of her hormones.”

“It is in a woman’s nature to be a nurturing mother figure.”

“Women shouldn’t be on the front lines in the military.”

“Women are so much more emotional than men.”

“Teaching is a woman’s profession.”

“Pink is for girls, blue is for boys.”

“Stop crying like a little girl!”

“You punch like a girl!”


These are just some of the many types of sexist opinions held by many people hold about girls and women-opinions that are not held exclusively by men either. Many women feel the same way. This is the result of living in a sexist culture. Here in the United States, sexism suffuses our culture, and people pick up sexist messages about girls and women from a young age. Some of these messages are examples of hostile sexism, such as forcing girls to adhere to dress codes or the belief a woman should not be the president. Others, such as the belief that teaching is a woman’s profession or that women are more nurturing, are forms of benevolent sexism (beliefs about girls or women that-on the face-are seemingly benevolent, but are really about upholding rigid gender roles). For many people, accepting that they hold sexist beliefs is difficult, bc as sexism is generally seen as a bad thing (MRA’s notwithstanding), being sexist or holding sexist beliefs is therefore deemed bad. And no one wants to be bad. For all that though, we all hold sexist beliefs of some sort. Some people hold more hostile sexist beliefs. Others hold more benevolent ones. Many people (most, I’d say, though I have no hard evidence on that) hold a combination of the two (yes, there is a dual nature to sexism). If you’re going to advocate for women’s equality (and you damn well should), you have to be willing to accept that you have biases and be willing to confront them. You’re not likely to ever be rid of all your biases, but being aware of them, and working to eliminate them is a step in the right direction.

Thanks to a friend, I’ve found an interesting test at Understanding Prejudice that might help some people identify to what degree they hold sexist beliefs about women. Actually, it’s more of an inventory of sexist beliefs, rather than a test. It consists of 22 statements that the reader is asked to indicate the strength of their agreement or disagreement with (it took me roughly a minute to go through, so you’re not likely to spend much time on the inventory). Once completed, you’ll be asked a few personal questions (gender, age, ethnicity) and then you’ll see your results. You also get to compare your score against the scores of people in other countries, for a cross-cultural comparison. Please note that this is just meant to give an idea of the strength of some sexist beliefs an individual might hold. This is not some comprehensive sociology test. But it is interesting nonetheless.

Identifying ambivalent sexism

3 thoughts on “Identifying ambivalent sexism

  1. 2

    I took that one too. I cam out with slight biases in favor of men. I mean, I guess that’s to be expected when you grow up in culture that is sexist, but it is still somewhat disappointing.

    ::redoubles efforts to be more aware of sexist biases::

  2. YOB

    It appears I have a bit of knight-in-shining-armor lurking about. But, I kinda already knew that.

    Implicit association
    Couldn’t take it. No flash 🙁

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