from experts in the field:
from an expert in the field:
Susan Fiske is a professor of psychology and public affairs at
Princeton University. Peter Glick is the Henry Merritt Wriston
Professor in the Social Sciences at Lawrence University.
Opinions expressed are
those of the individuals or
and are presented to
foster discussion. Costco
and The Costco Connection
take no position on any
Is regifting tacky?
BY ALL means,
hold the door
more common courtesy. But if chivalry—treating
women as if they are fragile flowers who constantly
need men’s assistance—isn’t dead yet, let’s kill it.
Consider a personal example from the male
author of this piece: After buying a wireless printer
with his wife, Peter chivalrously assumed the manly
role of installing the device, but a computer firewall
interfered. After several hours’ frustration, he gave
up. What did he say when his wife offered to take
over? “Oh, honey, you’re never going to figure it
out. You’ll just get upset; I’ll do it tomorrow.” Her
response: “Did you hear yourself, Mr. Sexism
Researcher? I’m going to do it.” And she did.
Despite 15 years researching the topic, Peter’s
behavior was benevolently sexist. He had automatically taken over a “masculine” job, assumed male
strength and female weakness, all the while thinking he was “being nice.” What if his wife had left it
alone? Imagine repeatedly being “protected” from
certain tasks: That’s no way to build competence or
self-confidence. Benevolent sexism (aka BS), seems
nice, but insidiously undermines women.
BS views women as wonderful but weak,
Worldwide research shows that nations with
the worst gender inequality score highest on both
hostile and benevolent sexism. These attitudes
work as a coordinated system: BS “rewards” women
who fulfill traditional expectations, while HS, or
hostile sexism (explicit antagonism), punishes
women who challenge men’s status or roles.
Men perpetuate BS because the protector and
provider role has high status. Women accept BS
partly because it seems nice, but also because refusing has social costs. In one study, participants saw a
man offer patronizing help (“A woman shouldn’t
do that!”). If a woman politely declined, she gained
perceived competence, but lost perceived warmth.
In the workplace, BS holds women back.
Studies show that women in male-dominated
occupations often get treated with kid gloves—
receiving more verbal praise, but less-challenging
assignments and fewer promotions than men.
When exposed to benevolently sexist comments in
a job interview, women perform worse on cognitive tests; they begin to doubt themselves.
The next time you see chivalry, label it for what
it is: BS. C
votes received by
December 31, 2013. Results
may reflect Debate being
picked up by blogs.
Scott Farrell is an author and director of the Chivalry Today Educational
Program ( www.Chivalry Today.com).
FEW PEOPLE really understand the origins of this code
of honor of the knights of
old. In fact, the word “knight”
means “servant,” and chivalry has much more to do
with service, duty, commitment and fidelity than it does with bringing flowers
on a date or holding the door open for someone
In medieval times, a knight played many roles:
soldier, guardian, courtier, estate manager, athlete
and patron of the arts. Chivalry was created as a
guide for honorable, ethical behavior in all of these
fields, blending strong ideals like courage and bold-
ness with gentler ones such as compassion and fair
play. A knight, in the words of author and medieval
scholar C.S. Lewis, is “a paradox” who “brings
together [ideals] which have no natural tendency to
gravitate toward one another.”
Today, we—like those medieval knights—have
many roles to play: parent, employee, mentor,
spouse, friend and citizen of the global society.
There is more and more focus today on both the
value and the benefits of service in all its forms.
Successful Fortune 500 businesses are coordinating
local community service projects; people are forgo-
ing luxury resorts to go on eco-vacations and par-
ticipate in conservation activities; grassroots
community activism programs are helping people
hit by unfortunate circumstances, from hurricanes
to layoffs; and retirees are starting whole new
“encore” careers to stay engaged and give back to
Psychological studies show that helping others
is more than just a superfluous feel-good activity. In
fact, working in the service of others combats feelings of depression and isolation. Research done at
Yale University shows that human beings are essentially hard-wired to be helpful: Infants, seeing
someone in need of assistance, will attempt to lend
a hand before they can talk, or even walk.
This isn’t to say that service and helpfulness
come easily. In today’s world, we’re practically surrounded by products and activities that invite us to
draw inward, to isolate ourselves in a blanket of
self-indulgence and distraction.
But honorable and admirable behavior is not
the easy road—and that is as true today as it was in
the world of those medieval knights. They recognized the difficulty of overcoming laziness, complacency and cynicism, which is why they
developed a code to emphasize service and duty, as
well as honesty, courtesy, optimism and hard work.
Once we understand this traditional code of
honor, it’s clear to see that not only is chivalry alive,
but we are, in fact, living in the midst of a resurgence of the true ideals of the knightly code. C