It is always around mid-February that Southern Hemisphere’s summer slowly starts its departure. Mornings are little bit crispier and evenings arrive earlier. There is a tinge of sadness in the warmth of every sunny afternoon, like in the last kiss lovers exchange just before parting.
Ocean sways with melancholy and little boats nod knowingly.
Around the same time shop windows display elaborate arrangements of red roses, chocolate hearts, and any number of similar such trinkets in prominent places. I like seeing them decorated so even though they are there of course to ensure lucrative trade in the name of one day a year dedicated to romantic love; Valentine’s Day.
Lot can, and already has been said about commercialization of every imaginable holiday, special day or special occasion in one’s life, and while Valentine is certainly no exception, I do not wish to add to those already overloaded laments.
Besides Valentine’s Day has been and gone and whether delicate jewellery or abundance of roses, or a simple bunch of flowers your beloved picked in the local park on the way home from work, makes your heart skip is entirely between you, your heart and well … the beloved of course!
Or at least I used to believe that until I came across the recent research published by the University of Auckland.
According to the research, wishing for a chivalrous and gallant Prince Charming puts me into category of benevolent sexist the term used in academic circles to describe those who believe that women are warm, wonderful, fragile creatures who ought to be protected and provided for by men. They often think women should be at home raising children, while men should bring home the beacon. Almost 81% of women in New Zealand and some 88% of men think so, although only very small proportion hold what is recognized as extreme believes.
Given those statistics, since the large part of society hold those believes, they will inevitably influence relationships. According to the research those influences could be very damaging because of the expectations involved.
Benevolent sexists are inclined to look for certain characteristics; men for good looks and supportive domestic goddesses, and women for a man who has a successful career and is dedicated to supporting his family. When those expectations are not met, or do not continue to be met, both parties end up more hurt and dissatisfied than they would if they did not have such expectations to start with.
It is like a silent contract has been broken whereby each party has implicitly agreed to keep up their end of the bargain; the man will work outside the home to provide and protect, while the woman will sacrifice her career to stay home, nature and support him.
All of that steam from benevolent sexists’ unrealistic, romantic ideas about relationships based on fairy tale like approach; women are promised to be cherished and protected by their chivalrous husbands if they adopt traditional, domestic roles.
But if that does not happen, scary hostilities can occur, as the moment woman steps out of the traditional, cherished role, the man’s attitude changes from protective and caring to derogatory. When such relationship breaks, as men have status outside the home, they have less to lose from a break-up, while women who believe they should be revered and cherished experience much harder falls, and are far more likely to be hostile towards their partners.
There is also a strong link between benevolent sexism and hostile sexism which is hostility towards women who strongly challenge traditional gender roles (such as feminists for example). Men with those beliefs are either patronizingly sweet or viciously hostile towards a woman at any given time; she is either cherished and protected partner, mother, sister, daughter, or she is completely different type of woman who is trying to compete with men and therefore who should be looked down on and punished. Thankfully only very small about 8% of New Zealanders are found in this category.
At the end, the heterosexual romance where woman, even if subconsciously, pine for a powerful prince to sweep them off their feet, and as long as men continue to link earning capacity with chivalry and being a good guy, gendered prejudice that underpin it all will remain the bastion of benevolent sexism.
While reading the article, I could not help having two seeming contradictory thoughts:
- That most of it rings true, and some of it could be easily recognized in the real life, and
- That, if I had a son I would have brought him up to open a door for a woman.
Would that make him a benevolent sexist? Someone to whom a well-intended woman might one day tell off for trying to open a door for her, as I have witnessed not long ago in a real life?
No, I do not think so, because I would also teach him to help anyone who needs help regardless of gender, without presuming that a woman, because of her gender, needs more help than a man, and if he chooses to share his life with a partner, to do so in a way that fulfilled them both as a couple, as well as individuals.
And if he still one day gets telling off … well he can always fell back on; ‘Sorry Ms, but my mum taught me to do so!’
Because I remain of the belief that love that carries support and strength for each other, when you can completely count on each other, is the key to any relationship.
And yes, I would still love for a man to open a door for me, or lavish an occasional bunch of flowers on me … does that makes me a benevolent sexist?
No, I do not accept it does. Because I am ready to extend the same love, support and strength … irrespective of the fact that I could never fix the car, or build something … but I can turn any house into home, and hold a damned good argument!
At the end … as long as two people love and care for each other but employ each other’s strength to create the life both are happy with, all is well … and hopefully good-old fashion romance needn’t die!
- Delusions of Gender: How Male Insecurity May Lead to Sexist Views (sciencedaily.com)
- Is chivalry dead? (stuff.co.nz)
- Just In Time For Valentine’s Day: Queendom.com’s New Study Reveals That Chivalry Is Alive And Well (prweb.com)
- Most Prefer That Men ‘Pop the Question,’ Survey Finds (news.health.com)