My ten-year old son was discussing his day at school. He and his friends were complaining that they had to sit on the floor during music class. When I asked what happened, it seems that the classroom was short on chairs that day, so boys had to sit on the floor, leaving the chairs for the girls. I’m sure the teacher thought she was teaching the boys to be chivalrous, but she was really doing a disservice to the girls. I explained to the boys that girls are just as able to sit on floors as boys. They’re not more fragile, weaker, or less flexible. They don’t need to be cared for by boys.
Chivalrous behavior, where men help women solely because of their gender, is a form of benevolent sexism. Benevolent sexism consists of positive feelings toward women, and the belief that men should protect and provide for women. The problem with this type of sexism is that is accompanied by the belief that women are less competent and need men’s help. Benevolent sexism is not only endorsed by men, but women express benevolent sexism as well ( a recently published study found that women who felt entitled were more likely to endorse benevolent sexism).
What’s wrong with women wanting to be taken care of by men? Studies show women who want men to take care of them tend to have less personal ambition, defer to their partners when making career decisions, and feel that the role of women is to help their partners’ career.
In other words, we can’t have it both ways. We won’t make it to the boardroom if we can’t open our own door. We won’t be in the C-Suite, if we can’t wait our turn to get off the elevator. And we won’t be running corporations if we can’t sit on the floor in music class.