Why is the desire to have a housewife considered sexist
Sexism towards women is not just a man's thing. There are also members of the female sex who are of the opinion that women should better stay out of areas such as business, science and politics, as they can cause the least damage behind the stove. Nonetheless, social psychological research has so far mainly focused on men when it comes to sexism towards women. Admittedly, if (heterosexual) men approach women with prejudice, this is an interesting phenomenon: If, for example, racists can simply avoid people with other ethnic roots in the best possible way, sexists usually relate the object of their prejudice as a (sexual) partner in their life planning with a. A perception of women as negative is therefore problematic for heterosexual men.
Against this background, Peter Glick and Susan Fiske developed the concept of "ambivalent sexism": According to them, there is not only hostile sexism, which is expressed in a negative attitude towards women and their emancipatory aspirations, but also benevolent sexism. The latter is characterized by the fact that women are indeed met with prejudices, but these have positive connotations (e.g. women are sensitive, delicate beings). Women are also assigned conservative and restrictive gender stereotypical roles here (e.g. housewife and mother). With regard to both sexisms, one (or woman) could assume that primarily men hold such attitudes.
However, a Belgian research team led by Arne Roets now investigated the question of whether men actually differ from women in their hostile and benevolent sexism towards women - or whether there are other more central influencing factors than gender. In two large samples with men and women of different ages, the researchers measured both the extent of both sexisms and various personality traits. It found that while men are indeed the bigger sexists, the difference between the sexes is extremely small, especially when you consider benevolent sexism.
A far more important influencing factor than a person's gender seems to be a trait that psychology calls the “need for cognitive cohesion”. People with this need prefer clear, structured and unambiguous answers to all questions, they hate chaos, ambiguities and situations for which there is no simple solution. Anyone who has a need for cognitive unity tends to quickly interpret an unclear situation as unambiguous in accordance with existing thought patterns and thus consolidate their own attitudes. The study now showed that the growing need for cognitive unity is accompanied by more pronounced sexism - regardless of gender.
“The men bring in the money, the women do the housework.” There are men for whom this simple view of the world comes in handy. Women too.
Roets, A., van Hiel, A., & Dhont, K. (2012). Is sexism a gender issue? A motivated social cognition perspective on men’s and women’s sexist attitudes toward own and other gender. European Journal of Personality, 26, 350–359.
© Experience Research 2012, all rights reserved
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