Sometimes men with good intentions will end up saying things that are sexist or patronising to women without meaning to. Benevolent sexism is a less obvious form of sexism. At first, it kind of seems like a compliment, even though it’s rooted in men’s feelings of superiority.
“You’re not like other women.”
Most of us have gotten these kinds of compliments before. On the surface looks like a compliment, but it’s based on depreciation of women as a whole. These statements like these praise a woman even as they shame her for being female. It also asks women to agree and isolate themselves from other women.
It’s also when men say women are worthy of their protection or that they’re more nurturing than men. We speak of equality, but we continue to nourish the idea of the young lady who needs to be rescued. Benevolent sexism is restrictive.
From a pretty early age, many girls hate being told how nurturing women are. Particularly as someone who knows she doesn’t want children and yes, some girls know this from early grade school. Generalisations are not fun.
Overly concerned because women need protecting
Giving a woman advice out of concern for their safety, such as: “I’m just worried that other guys will get the wrong idea.” What he’s really doing in this example is slut-shaming her. He asking her to change her ways under the pretence that he’s trying to protect her. That’s patronising and rude.
When men go out of their way to give unsolicited advice to women, they may be coming from a well-intentioned place, but the act itself suggest that they see women as needing protection and guidance.
Benevolent Sexism at the Office
At work, you might experience benevolent sexism as a male co-worker asking you to fetch coffee when that’s not part of your job, or being given more administrative tasks than a male coworker because “women are more organised.” Personally, I have witnessed women with MBAs and law degrees being asked to take minutes in meetings because they have better handwriting or can type faster.
You can also experience a boss who will give larger projects to male coworkers because he’s really concerned about how the extra work responsibilities could affect your family life. He may think that he’s looking out for you, but what he’s really saying is that you should be at home looking after your family, not in the workplace.