Don’t knock ‘benevolent sexism’ – it makes us happy

25 March 2014

2:00 PM

25 March 2014

2:00 PM

The American-led Left has a new fixation: ‘benevolent sexism’. Recent examples found here, here and here.

According to one definition: ‘Ambivalent or benevolent sexism usually originates in an idealization of traditional gender roles: Women are “naturally” more kind, emotional, and compassionate, while men are “naturally” more rational, less emotional, and “tougher,” mentally and physically.’

I don’t want to say anything that could get me arrested in Belgium, but men are on average physically tougher than women. And I would have thought that stating women have – on average – greater empathy is was not likely to get you an auto-da-fé.


I imagine that ‘benevolent sexism’ is enduringly popular because people quite like it, women included:

‘For men, BS was directly associated with life satisfaction. For women, the palliative effect of BS was indirect and occurred because BS-ideology positioning women as deserving of men’s adoration and protection was linked to general perceptions of gender relations as fair and equitable, which in turn predicted greater levels of life satisfaction.’

As so often, the things that we’re told are ‘bad’ actually make us happy, while the things that we’re supposed believe to be good actually make us sad.

Sexual freedom, for example, makes people depressed much of the time, especially adolescent girls, judged cruelly by their ability to attract the opposite sex. A money-obsessed culture, with its intense competition, stress and inequality, also causes us to be miserable, although few Conservatives acknowledge this except for Jesse Norman. Ethnic diversity we know makes people unhappy because they vote with their feet. Likewise sexual equality, or at least sexual equality that refuses to acknowledge the biological reality of sex; and I can’t imagine the idea of ‘microaggressions’, in which people are encouraged to see slights in every experience, is very good for one’s mental health.

There’s a parallel between modern political ideas and modern urban living, which also makes us unhappy a lot of the time because we feel lonely and isolated. That is why rural romanticism will always have an appeal, both on the Left and Right, even when the reality of rural life has historically been awful for the vast majority of people. (I like a good bit of it myself, gazing at a beautiful country scene while on holiday, paid for with money I’ve made by working in a city.)

Cities are good things in themselves; the trick is to combine urban living with aspects of a traditional, more human existence that we feel happy with. The same is true of politics, and the aim of Burkean conservatism is to achieve progressive political ends by building on tradition and emphasising institutions, manners and social trust, rather than utopian ideas that ignore human nature.

That’s my philosophy, at any rate; the equivalent of one of those rural-style gastropubs one finds in nicer parts of London that have their own microbrewery attached.

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Show comments
  • tjamesjones

    Funny, but there’s nothing new here. This was what the left was preaching in the 1980s, and after 10 years of (metaphorical) head scratching I realised that it’s all bollocks. Woman are different to men.

    • Liz

      Yes women are different to men. Which is why it is total madness to allow men to make all the rules, dominate institutions and decide what protections women do or don’t need. They had a very long run at doing that and failed miserably, women were in a dire and perilous position. So now women want to join the, in the decision and culture shaping process and put their own effective protections in place. I would have thought that was entirely obvious as the rational approach to the issue.

      • allymax bruce

        I agree with what you have just said; I wouldn’t have 20 years ago, but I do now. Seems to me, social-change is relative to Hegelian Dialectics; where the technological tool-use available to the era, can define/redefine the social-change/cultural-norms. For instance, in some of my interactions, the ’empowered’ women of today sometimes come across as rude, when I’m only trying to be respectful; of which, makes me wonder why I’m trying to be respectful in the first place! This, I find unhelpful as a cooperative social relationship between the sexes, for society. I mean, we all have to live together; or am I going to have to start asking for ‘male-only’ social interactions, as I go through my relationship with Modern society now?

    • StephanieJCW

      “Woman are different to men”

      So I should be treated differently from a man on the basis I have a vagina.


      • tjamesjones

        I didn’t say that, but if you want to play suffragettes be my guest.

      • Mark Bailey

        Well, I’m sure you would prefer seperate changing facilities and toilets, just to give one common example.

        It really isn’t that difficult.

        • StephanieJCW

          Leaving aside that you don’t know my opinions on separate toilet facilities (I have used many a unisex toilet facility without issue) this a lazy example as well as not being what is referred to as ‘benevolent sexism’.

          Aside from certain biological realities I can’t think of any reason why I should be assigned a gender role and treated differently on the basis of that role. What is wrong with treating as individuals?

  • Liz

    You know who’s into benevolent sexism and male guardianship of women?
    The Saudis. The Afghans. The Yemenis. The Sicilians. The members of the Abrahamic religions.

    You know who isn’t?
    The Scandinavians.

    You know where women are safest and most protected from male abuse?

    • Mark Bailey

      No. The Saudis, Yemenis and Afghans are just into straightforward oppression: BS doesn’t even come into it, but nice try.

      Now, as for the notoriously cheery Scandis…………………..

      • StephanieJCW

        The Saudis, Yemenis and Afghans most certainly are in BS. What is the Saudis call it – yes ‘Complementarianism’. Placing women on a pedestal…

        • Mark Bailey

          They don’t place them on a pedestal; they place them out of sight. And they can call that what they like, but it ain’t BS.

          I’m curious. What Arabic word translates in ‘complementarianism’?

          • StephanieJCW

            They do place them on pedestal. They don’t treat women as they do because they dislike them. But out of a patriarchal sense of protectionism. Benevolent sexists never see a negative downside to their actions.

    • Hexhamgeezer

      I don’t know? Please tell.


  • Liz

    “palliative effect of BS was indirect and occurred because BS-ideology positioning women as deserving of men’s adoration and protection”

    Ah yes the palliative effect of men’s protection. Protection from what by the way? Bears? Tigers? Tornados? Deep puddles? A nip in the air? Heavy doors? Standing up? Dishonour? Women? Themselves?

    Their protection was kind of crap really. Not so hot on making domestic violence or empassioned murder, or marital rape crimes. In fact, what they heck, let’s institutionalise them. Protecting women’s civil right to free movement and association? Eyhm, no. Divorce rights? Nup. Financial protections? Employment rights? Sorry, got to dash petal, here take my coat.

    • Marie Louise Noonan

      ‘Their protection was kind of crap really.’

      I think it’s cool!

      • Liz

        You very well might think it is kind of cool, but think about it rationally. It was utterly ineffective; Women suffered huge amounts of male violence and avoidable death at their hands or due to their neglect of female services during the era of adhoc male “protection”.

        And what of the women who didn’t manage to bag themselves a protector?

        Victorian and Edwardian eras were vastly more dangerous times to be a woman than nowadays.

        What genuinely protects women is the law and financial parity and those were the things men deprived women of. Still deprive women of all around the world. You are romanticising things.

        • tjamesjones

          And you’re romanticising other things. Nobody is arguing in favour of men beating woman, but that doesn’t mean men and woman are the same, or that there aren’t systematic and interesting differences between the sexes.

          • Liz

            Danger to women doesn’t just come women’s way by men arguing in favour of their right to beat women (although plenty do). It comes in the form of patrician attitudes that men should “look after” women, ie. deprive them of equal political representation, financially disenfranchising them, religiously disenfranchising them and so on.

            It’s precisely those “benevolent” attitudes that see women throughout history and in the developing world and still in the developed world feeling that the law, business, political and media classes don’t represent them or their needs and instead think they know what’s best for women.

            It’s precisely these attitudes that mean the Spectator can’t be bothered to get any women to write about feminism, only men.

            • Surlautobus

              Is Liz guilty of ‘microaggression’ with her rather full throated objections?

          • StephanieJCW

            ” but that doesn’t mean men and woman are the same,”

            But we should treat them as if they are. Or at least treat people as individuals. I don’t want some form of special treatment assigned to be on the basis of my genitalia. Particularly when it has a negative impact on my daily life.

            • Mark Bailey

              If you think that sexual differences are only expressed through the genitalia, then either you weren’t paying attention in class or your schools educational standards were slightly lacking in the science department.

  • Liz

    “The American-led Left has a new fixation: ‘benevolent sexism’. R”

    Ed West, always exactly 40 years behind the feminist curve.

    • Marie Louise Noonan

      Probably because he’s not a feminist.

      • Liz

        Not being something is no excuse for being uninformed about it, especially when you want to write about it.

        Benevolent sexism is not a new thing, it’s been on the women’s rights radar for decades, in fact centuries.

  • Liz

    Some women quite like sexism? Nobody told me some women quite like it! If I’d known some women quite like it, I wouldn’t have complained when it happened to me.

    Discrimination. If some people like it, it’s okay.

    Is somebody writing this down?

    • Marie Louise Noonan

      Professional victim already!

      • Liz

        Now you’re just being silly.

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    I suppose any kind of “sexism” is all in the mind really – but still depends on the kind of contract one may or may not feel lumbered with. That’s why it’s so artificial.

  • Kitty MLB

    Those Belgium women sound somewhat mettlesome, rather like Scottish women.
    quite indefatigable in their efforts to see who has the most Herculean strength
    of body and the mind of Einstein.
    Honestly benevolent sexism, Mary Wollstonecraft would turn in her grave if she
    knew feminism was no longer about intellectual respect and equality and now
    about people not appreciating their own gender, especially femininity as well as confusing chaps.
    We are benighted with the word ‘ Sexism’.

  • sarahsmith232

    I wonder just how un-Burkean Labour was being when they opened the flood gates. The whole point of this was to preserve the equilibrium holding up their own world order, or their Labour party ‘moral universe’, as they’d put it. Their Labour party universe exists for them due to the BBC spending decades achieving ‘progressive political ends by building on tradition and emphasising institutions, manners and social trust’ . . . . . within the Left. They’re all now successfully brainwashing themselves with their propaganda. When you get a former Labour Home Secretary justifying their open-door on the grounds that this was right ’cause ‘we were on the side of the angels’ then you know that they have long since lost any connection to reality or interest in existing in it.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    I was the victim of benevolent sexism only this morning. A woman in Greggs’ said “Alreet Pet?” in a blatant attempt to oppress me with her so-called superior feminine empathy. I tried desperately hard to be offended but unfortunately my superior white male heterosexist neofascist politeness won through and I could only reply “Not bad” thereby perpetuating this utterly iniquitous state of affairs.

    • sarahsmith232

      Ha! Corker of a comment, tee hee.

    • Daniel Maris

      Surely the correct response is “You’re a gowk to ax a gadgie if he’s in fettle.”

    • Hexhamgeezer

      ..sorry.. that should have been “AalReet Pet?” I apologise for any distress or confusion occasioned.

  • la catholic state

    BTW…..when are we going to have a boycott of Belgium. It seems a dangerous place to go to….and horrendous for sick children. If and when my children’s school intends to take a school trip there…..I will boycott it. But where’s the world’s boycott?!

    • Marie Louise Noonan

      ‘when are we going to have a boycott of Belgium.’

      Flanders and Wallonia?

      Ed doesn’t strike me as all that tough tbh but then again I come from a military family so we KNOW what toughness truly is.

      (Although those eyes of his look as though they could pierce someone’s soul.)