ENTITY explains benevolent sexismPhoto via Instagram / @women.withstyle

“Wow, you’re so nurturing. You’re such a great woman.”

Cool. Maybe you don’t even identify with these traits, but for some reason society keeps perpetuating this specific idea of womanhood.

Someone doesn’t have to catcall you to be considered sexist. Sometimes, they’re more “discreet” about it. Most examples of benevolent sexism wouldn’t pass a typical sexism test. But, the benevolent sexism seen in the media and the workplace can be just as damaging to feminism and female empowerment.

To explain, here are five examples of benevolent sexism and explanations of why we need to stop using them.

First things first, what is benevolent sexism?

This isn’t the type of hostile sexism that allows men like President Donald Trump to think they can grab women “by the pussy.”

But at the same time, you’re probably wondering: how the hell can sexism be nice?

Well, benevolent sexism is masked in positivity. While the language may come off as complimentary, it also has a condescending nature that asserts that women are incomplete without men or are inferior to men. And in other instances, it can even reinforce stereotypes about women – you know, the ones that say all women must be nurturing.

But we, as women, know this stereotype doesn’t apply to everyone.

Benevolent sexism examples

1 “Every woman is someone’s wife, daughter, sister or mother.”

ENTITY explains benevolent sexism

Photo via Instagram / @damthemann

Okay, so it’s a nice sentiment that the man who said this cares about his wife, daughter, sister or mother. But the niceness stops there.

A woman’s worth is not valued by her relationship to a man. Let’s get real – women don’t need men to be goddesses, they can do that all on their own.

All women are worth love and respect. They shouldn’t be raped or sexually assaulted, and they should be treated with respect because they are Human. Beings. Not because they are “someone’s” something.

Why do you need to imagine a woman as a a close female in your life just so you can wrap your head around treating her decently? Give us a break.

We need to hold men accountable for how they treat women. It’s the 21st century and it’s time for some equality. If you wouldn’t treat a man differently because they are someone’s husband, son, brother or father, why would you justify your actions toward women in the same way?

2 “Women make better teachers, secretaries and librarians.”

Sure, it may sound like a compliment on the surface. Women are better at dealing with children and they can communicate and handle people better in the workplace. However, this kind of benevolent sexism is holding women back from higher-paying jobs. And, it’s stigmatizing men from pursuing “female” fields they may be interested in.

Women account for 97.5 percent of all Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers, according to the United States Bureau of Labor 2016 statistics. And they also make up 78.5 percent of elementary and middle school teachers and 85.2 percent of special education instructors. Moreover, when it comes to secretaries, 94.6 percent are women. And librarians, well, 83.8 percent women.

What do all these statistics suggest? Women must be better at these jobs or be more naturally equipped for them, right?


Women are socialized to believe they should gravitate toward compassionate or nurturing careers. Meanwhile, men are taught that they should go for manual labor or logic-based careers.

But this shouldn’t be the case. Women can also make great lawyers, doctors and welders. And men can make great librarians or preschool teachers. Statements claiming certain careers are better for a particular gender reinforce the stereotypes and stigmas that keep the career gender gap wide and the opportunities tight.

And unfortunately, the statistics won’t change until our attitudes do.

3 “Women are better at caring for children and housework.”

ENTITY explains benevolent sexism

This is the “crafty” man’s way of saying, “I’m too lazy to take care of myself and our family.” We see right through it. It’s time to stop reinforcing it.

Gone are the days where the man went to work all day and brought home the bacon. The patriarchy is dismantling, and more women are entering the workforce now than ever before.

In 2017, nearly 43 percent of the workforce is made up by women, according to International Labour Organization statistics. As great s this is, this means gender norms and gender-based language needs to be dismantled too.

It’s not fair for the woman to spend all day at work and then be expected to come home, make dinner, help the kids with homework before giving them a bath and tucking them in, do laundry and do it all over the next day.

Meanwhile, her man goes to work and come home.

This needs to stop. Women are working just as hard as their partners, and they should be treated as such – a partner, not a slave.

4 “Women are more compassionate.”

This doesn’t seem so bad. Women are compassionate; which in comparison to the beer-burping, fuckboy, “only about their money” male stereotype, doesn’t seem so bad.

But what about when they aren’t?

Being compassionate isn’t just about caring for the needs of others. Often times, it also means putting those needs before your own. And while a man can say he is more focused on attain success than defining good morals, women don’t get the same excuse.

If a woman is seen as “too” ambitious, she instantly becomes a bitch. And if she decides to play the field and date multiple men at once, she instantly becomes a slut. She’s not a “real” woman anymore because a “real” woman settles down and is kind to everyone.

And what’s worse is that people often equate compassion and emotional expression with weakness. And that’s why it becomes a female trait. But it’s time to stop this.

Caring about others shouldn’t be a male or female thing. It should be a human thing.

5 “Females are just naturally prettier.”

ENTITY explains benevolent sexism

Considering the ridiculous beauty ideals set for us, it’s no wonder you think so.

It may be nice to hear that we’re pretty, but it’s not like we didn’t just spend three hours getting the perfect winged eyeliner, trying on a closet full of different dresses and high heels and spraying our hair with multiple products so the heat from our hair straightener doesn’t burn it.

Trust us, when it comes to beauty, our natural self is no better than yours.

Perfumes make us smell better, makeup makes us appear youthful and carefully chosen clothes accentuate the features we want you to see. Women are expected to spend hundreds of dollars a month to keep up with what is beautiful or fashionable. Meanwhile, men can just roll out of bed, throw on a t-shirt and call it a day.

And then they have the gall to say, “Well, women are just naturally prettier”? No.

And you know what, benevolent sexism isn’t just about women. It can negatively affect men, too.

Phrases like, “You’re so manly because of your strong muscles” can be just as damaging for men as the phrases above are for women. While it’s great to celebrate your buff beau, it can be harmful to the self-esteem of the not-so-physically-endowed man.

Does being skinny make him any less manly? Of course not. There are many factors that can contribute to what it means to be a strong man, and they don’t have to do with his physicality.

And on the reverse side, saying something like, “All men are assholes” does some serious damage too. The stereotype not only harms the good men out there who are putting their best foot forward, it also negatively affects the standards we set for the men in our society.

We need to stop giving men a cop-out by attributing faulty communication skills and a general lack of effort to their “manhood.” Dudes just don’t know how to share their emotions, right? Wrong. They don’t because traditional society convinces them they shouldn’t. Because it’s not “manly” enough.

So why, exactly, is benevolent sexism damaging?

ENTITY explains benevolent sexism

It reinforces gender stereotypes and norms.

Telling us what we are as women is just as bad as telling us what we aren’t. True equality isn’t just about saying nice things to the opposite sex. Equality means respecting everyone, despite their sex or gender. It’s about celebrating an attribute because it’s part of their personhood, not because it relates to their gender.

It means choosing our language carefully and understanding the implications behind the words we choose to say.

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