Exploring the Items Used to Measure Benevolent Sexism.
Let's Explore the Benevolent Sexism Scale.
Posted January 8, 2009
First, I owe kudos to Sassy Cindy for her "eloquent" comment in my previous post. Cindy has certainly shattered a few gender stereotypes with her "manly" talk. I thought that only drunken male sailors spoke with such a rich vernacular. I stand corrected.
I dug up the original and highly cited scale for measuring benevolent sexism [BS] (Glick & Fiske, 1996). As of January 8, 2009 (12:40 am), Google Scholar reports that it was cited 448 times, demonstrating that it is the definitive scale for measuring BS. The scale is known as the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory and it contains items that measure both hostile sexism and BS (participants enter "0" to "5" ranging from "disagree strongly" to "agree strongly"). Since our discussion is restricted to BS, I shall only reproduce those items here. Let's deconstruct us some BS.
1. No matter how accomplished he is, a man is not truly complete as a person unless he has the love of a woman.
Let us suppose that I am a very romantic man. I love the idea of sharing my life with a woman (my wife), which incidentally is rather unsurprising given that we are a sexually reproducing species. I am going to strongly agree with this statement. Oh, oh. I am demonstrating signs of BS. I suppose that if I were a man who "loves them and leaves them", I would strongly disagree with the latter statement, in which case I would not be demonstrating any BS. Of course, most women seem to abhor such sexist guys who use women for the sole purpose of sexual gratification. So what should I do? If I strongly disagree with the latter statement, I am a sexist pig. On the other hand, if I strongly agree with the latter statement, I am also a BS pig. It seems that there is little chance that I shall escape the sexist appellation.
2. In a disaster, women ought not necessarily to be rescued before men. (Reverse coded)
When ships are sinking, captains have always been instructed to first ensure the safety of women, children, and the elderly. In war, there is the expectation that women, children, and the elderly should be the first to be rescued and/or protected. In one famous Seinfeld episode, George Costanza pushes aside an elderly woman and several children whilst fleeing from a burning apartment. This is subsequently construed as an act of great cowardice. Fire fighters (both men and women) seem to obey the same hierarchical rescue code namely to save women, children, and the elderly first. I wonder how many women would find it a desirable trait if a man were to display "non-sexist" cowardice.
3. People are often truly happy in life without being romantically involved with a member of the other sex. (Reverse coded)
The same comment applies here as the one that I've already provided for item 1. Incidentally, there is a growing literature that shows that married people (or more generally coupled individuals) are happier than their single counterparts (cf. Stack & Eshleman, 1998 on the positive relationship between happiness and marriage using data from 17 countries; see also Easterlin, 2003). Again, this is hardly surprising given that Homo sapiens are a coupling species. Hence, if I agree that I would be happier sharing my life with a woman, I am apparently being sexist. Nice.
4. Many women have a quality of purity that few men possess.
Let us suppose that I strongly disagree with this statement, hence providing a "non-sexist" response. Would it be better to believe that women are as "impure" as men? Incidentally I am unsure what is meant exactly by purity here? If I believe that the average woman displays a greater proclivity for "pure love" than the average man, does this make me sexist? Is it better that I say that women are not capable of such purity? OK, ladies. You are as brutish and impure as men. I've avoided the BS appellation on this one!
5. Women should be cherished and protected by men.
Oh, Oh. This is a big trap. The politically correct answer is to emphatically disagree with this statement. What could be more "disgusting" than cherishing women? I suppose that I'll have to strongly disagree with this statement to demonstrate that I am not sexist. By the way, this is a very poorly constructed item as it is a compound question. For example, I might agree with the "cherish" part but disagree with the "protect" part yet I am unable to provide a response that captures accurately my true opinions.
6. Every man ought to have a woman whom he adores.
The same comment applies as for items 1 and 3. To demonstrate that I am not sexist, I should strongly disagree with this statement. Let us suppose that I am a "playa" who "adores" numerous women simultaneously. I would have to strongly disagree with the latter statement. Hence, according to the BS construct, a man who is strictly interested in short-term mating is less sexist than a man who desires to be with one woman that he'll adore. Nice.
7. Men are complete without women. (Reverse coded)
The same comment applies here as for items 1, 3, and 6.
8. A good woman should be set on a pedestal by her man.
I am sensing another "political correctness" trap here. Clearly, I should be strongly disagreeing with this statement to demonstrate that I do not suffer from BS. However, I do put my wife on a pedestal. I do love, cherish, and honor her. I have been "unmasked" by the BS police.
9. Women, compared to men, tend to have a superior moral sensibility.
Well, there have been countless studies that have repeatedly shown that women have a superior moral and ethical fortitude as compared to men (see Collins, 2000 for a review of 47 studies that have explored sex differences in ethical proclivity, a majority of which found that women were more ethical than men). Being ethical and moral are virtuous traits. Hence, that women outperform men on morality is a compliment to women's characters. Should I disagree with the latter statement to demonstrate that I do not suffer from BS? OK, women are as immoral as men. Phew, I am not sexist.
10. Men should be willing to sacrifice their own well being in order to provide financially for the women in their lives.
I am perfectly happy if my wife wishes to pursue her thriving professional career full throttle. If anything, a dual income increases our ability to buy a house in Southern California. Of course, if my wife were to choose to be a stay-at-home mother, and if this implied that I had to work harder to generate a greater income (e.g., accepting consulting gigs) then I would gladly do it for her and my daughter. On the other hand, if I were unwilling to sacrifice my well being to provide maximally for my family, this would be a "superior" non-sexist answer! I thought that lazy, apathetic men were viewed as unattractive by the majority of women. There I go succumbing to the "sexist" evolutionary-based mating preferences that have been uncovered in endless cultures throughout the world. As a side note, I have taken a parental leave so that I can contribute equally in the raising of our newborn daughter. I wonder how the BS police would construe this act. Let's hope that they'll throw me a few charitable brownie points for breaking down "stereotypical" parenting roles.
11. Women, as compared to men, tend to have a more refined sense of culture and good taste.
The same logic applies here as did for item 9. Possessing a refined sense of culture and having good taste are wonderful qualities. Hence, if it were indeed the case that women possessed these traits to a greater extent than men, I would think that this is something to be proud of. That said I am somewhat ambivalent about this item (no pun intended given the name of the scale).
Bottom line: I wish to honor, cherish, and protect my wife. I wish to place her on a pedestal because she is an intelligent, kind, and generous woman. I love her immeasurably. Oh, the shame. I have been "unmasked" as a BS pig.
There you have it folks. I hope that most of you will agree that the BS items are little more than a lot of BS.
Cindy (and to some extent Barrett): I look forward to your next round of empty ad hominem attacks.
Dr. Grewal: I hope that I have provided you with the necessary additional details in support of my position. Ciao for now.
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