When is Women's Benevolent Sexism Associated with Support for Other Women's Agentic Responses to Gender-Based Threat?

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The British Journal of Social Psychology

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Three studies examine how women's benevolent sexism (BS) shapes support for other women's agentic responses to gender-based threat. In Study 1, women read vignettes about a woman who agentically responded (vs. no response) to gender-based threat (e.g., sexism). As hypothesized, BS predicted more positive attitudes towards the woman who chose not to challenge sexism and more negative attitudes towards the woman who did. Studies 2 and 3 focused on whether these effects are driven by the behaviour displayed by the target (response or not) or by the ideology it seeks to uphold (traditional or non-traditional). There may be circumstances under which BS is associated with positive attitudes towards women's agentic (i.e., non-gender role conforming) behaviour, for instance, when it is used to support traditional gender roles. Studies 2 and 3 showed that when women's agentic behaviour is used to uphold traditional gender roles (vs. challenge them), BS is positively associated with support for such behaviour. These findings underscore the importance of ideology underlying women's agentic behaviour: BS can support women's agentic responses that violate prescribed gender roles, so long as they reinforce the status quo.


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