The unexpected sign that a man could be sexist

Want to know what a man really thinks of women? Just look at his smile.

That’s according to a new study from academics at Northeastern University who studied interaction between 27 pairs of male and female undergraduate students to try and detect so-called “benevolent sexism”, where men see women as helpless, and “hostile” sexism, where men simply dislike women.

Researchers measured the male views on gender using a test called the 'ambivalent sexism inventory', which asked the men to rate whether they agreed with statements such as that women should be on a pedestal ("benevolent sexism") or that women were too easily offended ("hostile sexism"). Participants were not told ahead of the study that the research was about sexism.

They then filmed the pairs playing a trivia game, analysed their expressions and used word count software to further analyse the content of their conversations. They found men who displayed traits of hostile sexism were perceived as less friendly while benevolent sexists tended to be the warmest and were most patient. The study, although small, indicates that chivalry itself may be a sign of sexism.

"While many people are sensitive to sexist verbal offences, they may not readily associate sexism with warmth and friendliness," said lead author Jin Goh. "Unless sexism is understood as having both hostile and benevolent properties, the insidious nature of benevolent sexism will continue to be one of the driving forces behind gender inequality in our society."

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