Are women attracted to men with benevolent sexist attitudes?

Women are attracted to men with benevolent sexist attitudes claims a research which was published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin by Pelin Gul from Iowa State University and Tom Kupfer from the University of Kent. This made me ponder on my attitude towards benevolent sexism. 

The concept of benevolent sexism was first developed in 1996 by Peter Glick and Susan Fiske. Peter Glick is a psychologist who studies benevolent sexism — “the paternalistic belief that women are pure, fragile flowers in need of men’s protection.” Benevolent sexism, unlike hostile sexism, feels positive and well-intentioned. According to the research, the warm feeling surrounding benevolent sexism come at a cost – and that cost is gender inequality.

So does that mean opening the door for a woman, paying the bill for a dinner, pulling the chair for the lady to sit – a display of benevolent sexism? Well the old-fashioned way of describing this exact behavior would have been – being a gentleman or practicing chivalry! It reminds me of the SRK style of wooing women (and of course the women adored it :))  But things have quite changed with the millennials and Gen Z in terms of the gender equation and expectations. The good ol’ SRK wooing style would probably freak out the millennial women. Check the two videos below and one can find the transition in  the male – female equations. SRK in the first one is flattering while Irfan in the second one seems much more relatable, vulnerable and hence more authentically humane. You get the vibes of an equal relationship between the characters in the second video.

The old-fashioned way of describing this exact same behavior would have been – being a gentleman or practicing chivalry!

But according to the research  women are still attracted to men with benevolent sexist attitude.The study proposes an explanation drawn from evolutionary and socio-cultural theories (parental investment theory) on mate preferences. As biologically woman’s reproductive success is tied to her ability to complete months of gestation and lactation –  she is wired to choose a mate who was able and willing to assist in this process – by providing food or protection from aggressors to increase her reproductive success. Evolution, therefore, shaped female psychology to prefer mates whose characteristics and behaviors reveal the willingness to invest (i.e. protect, provide and commit). Benevolent sexist attitudes and behaviors signal that a man is willing to invest.

Benevolent sexist attitudes and behaviors signal that a man is willing to invest.

Hence there is a conflict between the evolutionary response to benevolent sexism and her current state of autonomy. Probably that’s why women tend to send conflicting signals on how they would like to be treated.This leads to confusion for many men. Should they pay the bill  on a dinner date or should they go dutch? Should they open the door or should they not? Would she feel being treated as less equal or would she consider it being rude? 

Recent studies show men are acting less like a “gentleman” and that has to do with the conflicting signals they receive from the society and women. 

The new generation of independent women certainly are not expecting a knight in a shining armor. So should we consider chivalry to be dead?  Probably yes in the way it used to be defined earlier but chivalry could be redefined.  It could be redefined as kindness and thoughtfulness. Holding a door for someone with hand full of grocery irrespective of the gender is chivalry. Being emotionally supportive and supporting her growth can be the new age chivalry. Chivalry now may look a lot less like FLATTERY but more like genuine RESPECT – oh boy! that definitely is attractive.

What are your thoughts on this? Would like to hear from you.

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. Kranti says:

    I like the idea of newly defined chivalry. I myself would get attracted to a man who’s more genuine helpful, thoughtful, kind and emotionally supportive and who would support my likes & hobbies. This article exactly explained what I feel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sophia says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!


    1. Sophia says:

      Thank you 🙂


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