Chivalry is actually 'benevolent sexism', feminists conclude
Published 15/06/2011 | 08:34
If the age of chivalry is dead, it appears a group of feminists psychologists are trying to ensure it is never revived, concluding that a man who helps his wife with her heavy shopping is actually guilty of "benevolent sexism".
The researchers created a list of such damaging acts as: helping a woman to choose the right computer, calling a group of both men and women "guys" and offering to do the driving on a long distance journey.
Even men who think they are expressing affection might be guilty - the scientists said calling a woman a "chick", showering her with unwanted affection or saying that you cannot live without her could also be sexist.
The researchers, from the feminist Society for the Psychology of Women, which is based in Washington DC, said there were many acts of unnoticed sexism taking place every day through acts or comments that suggested women could not cope without men's help.
They said the victims might be unaware of the damage but the acts were helping to create a culture of women being seen as the vulnerable sex and encouraging inequality and injustice.
The study concluded that both men and women were "not aware of the overall prevalence and extent of sexism in their personal lives".
However, they recognised that women could also be guilty.
The study was conducted among workers of both sexes in America and Germany and volunteers were asked to keep diaries in which they were asked to note when they encountered examples from a long list of both sexist and non-sexist incidents, without being told what the study was for.
Writing for the Psychology of Women Quarterly, co-authors Julia Becker and Janet Swim said: "Many men not only lack attention to such incidents but also are less likely to perceive sexist incidents as being discriminatory and potentially harmful for women.
"Women endorse sexist beliefs, at least in part, because they do not attend to subtle, aggregate forms of sexism in their personal lives."
They said making people aware of the sexism would help to change attitudes and help men feel "empathy" for the women who are the victims of "benevolent sexism".
Psychology of Women Quarterly is the official publication of the Society for the Psychology of Women and is described as a "feminist, scientific peer-reviewed" journal.