Benevolent Sexism - Definition and Explanation - The Oxford Review - OR Briefings

Benevolent Sexism – Definition and Explanation

Benevolent Sexism


Benevolent Sexism refers to attitudes and beliefs that appear positive or well-intentioned towards women, but ultimately reinforce traditional gender roles and maintain male dominance. Unlike hostile sexism, which is overtly derogatory, benevolent sexism operates under the guise of kindness or protection towards women. It portrays women as delicate, nurturing, and in need of men’s guidance and protection.


Despite its seemingly positive facade, Benevolent Sexism perpetuates harmful stereotypes and restricts women’s autonomy. For example, phrases like “women should be cherished and protected” may seem complimentary, but they imply that women are inherently weak and need male guardianship. Similarly, assigning traditional gender roles such as expecting women to prioritise family over career advancement reinforces societal expectations that limit women’s choices and opportunities.

The Impact:

Benevolent Sexism can have far-reaching consequences in various aspects of life, including education, employment, and relationships. In the workplace, women may encounter barriers to leadership positions due to assumptions about their nurturing nature being incompatible with assertive leadership roles. This bias can also manifest in hiring and promotion decisions, where women may be overlooked for opportunities based on perceived vulnerability or the assumption that they prioritise family responsibilities.

Challenging Benevolent Sexism:

Combatting Benevolent Sexism requires awareness and proactive efforts to challenge ingrained stereotypes and biases. It involves promoting gender-neutral language and policies that foster equality rather than perpetuating traditional gender roles. Education and training on unconscious bias can help individuals recognise and address benevolent sexist attitudes in themselves and others.


In the journey towards achieving true gender equality, it’s crucial to recognise and confront subtle forms of bias like Benevolent Sexism. By understanding its manifestations and implications, we can work towards creating a more inclusive society where individuals are valued for their abilities and contributions regardless of gender.

Remember, true equality isn’t just about treating everyone the same; it’s about recognising and addressing systemic barriers and biases that perpetuate inequality.


Dardenne, B., Dumont, M., & Bollier, T. (2007). Insidious dangers of benevolent sexism: consequences for women’s performance. Journal of personality and social psychology, 93(5), 764.

Jones, K., Stewart, K., King, E., Botsford Morgan, W., Gilrane, V., & Hylton, K. (2014). Negative consequence of benevolent sexism on efficacy and performance. Gender in Management: An International Journal, 29(3), 171-189.

Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (2018). The ambivalent sexism inventory: Differentiating hostile and benevolent sexism. In Social cognition (pp. 116-160). Routledge.



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