When Sexism Leads to Racism: Threat, Protecting Women, and Racial Bias

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Sex Roles

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The stated goal of protecting White women from harm has been used, historically and contemporarily, as a pretext for racial violence. Two studies explored the relationship between protective paternalism (the belief that men should protect and care for women—part of benevolent sexism; Glick and Fiske 1996) and anti-minority racial attitudes. In Study 1 (n = 474, 61% women, 61% White), survey data found that protective paternalism was related to anti-Black bias, but only for White respondents. Study 2 (n = 242, 52% women, 74% White) experimentally manipulated feelings of threat to test for increases in protective paternalism and its corresponding effect on three anti-minority racial attitudes. For male participants only, threat (i.e., reading about recent increases in violent crime) increased endorsement of protective paternalism, which was in turn associated with a more negative view of immigration, and, for White men only, less support for policies that benefit racial minority groups and greater denial of racial bias in policing. Threat did not increase protective paternalism in female participants. For White men in particular, news of crime and danger increases racial bias by first increasing the desire to protect women. Policymakers should be aware that framing policies around safety concerns or appealing to the protection of women might unintentionally bolster anti-minority racial prejudices.



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