Whose picture accompanied front-page newspaper coverage of Hillary Clinton’s spotlight moment becoming the first female U.S. presidential nominee of a major political party? Several media outlets went with her husband, Bill Clinton.
And when the NewsHour asked white male voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania if they thought sexism factored into this year’s presidential election, many people did not connect how their stated values conflicted with why they weren’t going to vote for a woman for president.
Peter Glick of Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, and Susan Fiske of Princeton University know a thing or two about subtle sexism. The pair studied it for two decades and developed the theory of ambivalent sexism.
According to their theory, threats, intimidation and abuse of women demonstrate hostile sexist attitudes. But when a person acts as if a woman can’t manage life on her own simply because she is a woman, that’s still a form of sexism — “benevolent sexism.”
During the first two weeks after the PBS NewsHour published a pared-down version of Glick and Fiske’s original 22-question Ambivalent Sexism Inventory, respondents completed the quiz more than 153,000 times. Since then, that number has grown to more than 211,000 times.
More than a quarter of respondents identified as female, while 59 percent said they were male. Those remaining either did not reveal their gender identity or chose other.
Respondents were asked to grade a series of statements on a 0-to-5 scale with 0 meaning they disagree strongly and 5 meaning they agree strongly. When Glick and Fiske designed the test, they did not offer a neutral option, so the NewsHour did not either.
This quiz was never designed to produce nationally representative results, according to its creators. Nor does a high score instantly transform you into a cartoon Neanderthal, ready to attack anything that lacks a Y chromosome. Instead, the dual scores indicate that one’s responses, taken collectively, may be sexist.
After respondents took the quiz, they received a hostile score and a benevolent score. The average hostile sexism score was 2.16, and the average benevolent sexism score was 1.56.
Overall, respondents agreed most with the statement “feminists are making unreasonable demands of men.” And perhaps illustrating how many more male respondents took the quiz than female respondents, men also offered the strongest agreement on that question.
Male respondents disagreed most with the statement that “Women, compared to men, tend to have a superior moral sensibility.”
When we analyzed average scores by respondents’ gender identity, some interesting findings emerged.
Women who took the quiz agreed most with the statement: “Women should be cherished and protected by men.” In contrast, they disagreed most with the idea that “[m]en should be willing to sacrifice their own well being in order to provide financially for the women in their lives.”