“Benevolent sexism” is the belief that women deserve to be protected and cherished by men, with the implicit understanding that these are perks in exchange for men's general dominance. In two related studies reported in 2013 in the European Journal of Social Psychology, women who held these beliefs had steeper drops in relationship satisfaction when conflict arose. “It is likely that conflict contrasts starkly with beliefs about being cherished and threatens their investment in supporting their partner,” says study co-author Matthew Hammond, a psychology researcher at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. He points out that it is important to understand that some disagreement is normal and to reflect on the sources of one's expectations about relationships. “Expectations built from ideas in society about what men and women ‘ought’ to do will be hard for reality to match,” Hammond says.
This article was originally published with the title "Watch Your Sexism, Women" in SA Mind 25, 1, 10 (January 2014)