There are people who think there’s such a thing as “benevolent sexism.” What’s that? Like, holding doors open? Not necessarily. One definition I’ve seen is
Benevolent sexism is when, for example, you think a woman can’t “take” a clumsy attempt at flirtation.
Ahhhhhhh is that what it is. It’s a new word for the kind of feminism that thinks women should be able to work without constantly being interrupted by “clumsy” attempts at flirtation.
Ok look. No. It’s not that we think a woman can’t “take” a clumsy attempt at flirtation. Don’t insult me with that shit. It’s that we don’t think women should have to “take” clumsy (or graceful) attempts at flirtation when they’re trying to do something else. Ok? It’s not about incapacity. It’s about wanting to be able to be free to concentrate on something else.
This idea is very similar to the bullshit about thinking we’re too fragile to put up with the occasional joke. No, that’s not it. It’s that we shouldn’t have to. Why is that such a difficult concept?
Now it’s true that there are some women who are (or claim to be) perfectly happy to be subject to clumsy attempts at flirtation (and plain old propositions and gropings) at all times in all situations. I think some of them claim this just to disagree with feminists, and think somewhat differently when dealing with actual clumsy attempts – but never mind that; take them all at their word; I still don’t think their wants should trump the wants of women who don’t want that.
There are much more reasonable definitions and explanations of “benevolent sexism” though, like this one in Scientific American last April. It’s not about “versions of feminism I don’t like”; it’s about patronizing views of women.
Something can’t actually be sexist if it’s really, really nice, right?
I mean, if someone compliments me on my looks or my cooking, that’s not sexist. That’s awesome! I should be thrilled that I’m being noticed for something positive!
Yet there are many comments that, while seemingly complimentary, somehow still feel wrong. These comments may focus on an author’s appearance rather than the content of her writing, or mention how surprising it is that she’s a woman, being that her field is mostly filled with men. Even though these remarks can sometimes feel good to hear – and no one is denying that this type of comment can feel good, especially in the right context – they can also cause a feeling of unease, particularly when one is in the position of trying to draw attention towards her work rather than personal qualities like her gender or appearance.
In social psychology, these seemingly-positive-yet-still-somewhat-unsettling comments and behaviors have a name: Benevolent Sexism. Although it is tempting to brush this experience off as an overreaction to compliments or a misunderstanding of benign intent, benevolent sexism is both real and insidiously dangerous.
Completely different kind of thing.