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Title: Why people misunderstand sexism
Author: Hopkins-Doyle, Aífe
ISNI:       0000 0004 7969 9650
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2019
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Sexism and misogyny are not perfect synonyms. As well as being reviled, women are revered as the moral, refined, but weaker sex who need and deserve men's reverence and protection. This latter, warm, paternalistic representation of women is known as benevolent sexism (BS). Though it is affectionate, BS is counterproductive to gender equality in well-documented ways and tends to go hand-in-hand with misogyny. Research paints a less clear or complete picture of people's understanding of BS: do people 'get' what it is and what consequences it has? In the present thesis, I show that for the most part people do not understand BS, and that their misunderstanding springs precisely from the warmth of BS. Thus, perceptions of warmth, which are known to play a central role in social cognition, also play a central role in masking the structure and function of sexism. Eight studies use observational, correlational, and experimental methods to examine the role of warmth in concealing the functions of BS. Three studies provide evidence that warmth influences women's (under)reactions to experiences of benevolent sexism (Ch. 2). Together, Studies 1 (n = 297), 2 (n = 252), and 3 (n = 219) indicated that although women recall experiencing benevolent (vs. hostile) sexism more often, they protest it less often, because they see it as warm. In Study 4 (n = 296, Ch. 3), men who portrayed benevolently sexist behaviours toward women (vs. hostile and control behaviours) toward women were seen as lower in hostile sexism (HS) and more supportive of gender equality. In Study 5 (n = 283, Ch. 3) men high (vs. low) in BS attitudes were seen as lower in HS, more supportive of gender equality, and much lower in a wide array of known correlates of BS. The pattern of results largely showed that people erroneously perceive men high (vs. low) in BS as less likely to support outcomes which are antagonistic to women's interests (e.g. justification of domestic violence), and more likely to support outcomes in women's interests (e.g. gender specific collective action). In Study 6 (n = 211, Ch. 3), the causal role of warmth was established by experimentally manipulating the warmth of protagonists' attitudes toward women. Study 7 (n = 263, Ch. 4) conceptually replicated and extended the findings of Study 6 by manipulating a man's apparent trait warmth (whether he was a warm or cold personality) rather than his warmth toward women specifically. A final study (Study 8, n = 198, Ch. 4) investigated the influence of warmth on perceptions of BS more closely by orthogonalizing men's apparent trait warmth and the warmth of their attitudes toward women specifically (e.g., a man could be warm generally, but have cold attitudes toward women). In keeping with a Gestalt understanding of warmth, findings suggest that trait and attitudinal warmth combine additively and multiplicatively to influence perceptions of BS, albeit the influence of attitudinal warmth may be more proximal. In concert, these findings demonstrate that the warm affective tone of BS, particularly when displayed by men, masks its ideological functions. A final chapter discusses implications for theories of consent and legitimacy in social systems, for theories of person perception, for future research in gender relations, and for applications of that research, for example in efforts to raise consciousness about the misleading dynamics of sexism.
Supervisor: Sutton, Robbie Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: BF Psychology