First is the phrase women sexist

Compliment or insult? - "Sexism is often nicely packaged"

Ms. Becker, when a man tells a woman that the skirt suits her - is that sexist?
That can be meant as a nice compliment, and then it's perfectly fine. It goes in the direction of sexism when the man only praises the woman for her pretty blouse and the good food and less for a clever contribution or her competence.

How do you define sexism?
On the one hand, sexism is when someone is judged negatively because of their gender. On the other hand, it is always about maintaining the unequal status between men and women. And then sexism can be both an individual attitude or behavior and a cultural or institutional practice.

How do you recognize sexism?
Sometimes it's not that easy. A distinction is made between hostile and benevolent sexism, known as benevolent sexism. The latter is rather subtle and often difficult to see.

What does that mean?
Hostile sexism is a clearly negative view of women, which is expressed, for example, in sayings or sexist jokes. It is based on the belief that men have a higher status and women are less competent. Hostile sexists also assume that women aim to gain power and control over men. This is why hostile sexism is often aimed at career women and feminists.

Then what is meant by benevolent?
The benevolent sexism is just nicely packaged, often disguised as a compliment. In doing so, women are assigned characteristics that are initially positive - warm-hearted, compassionate, social. The man pretends to be a gentleman, he acts chivalrously, the woman is lifted onto a pedestal.

That doesn't have to be bad.
No not that. But benevolent sexists believe they have to protect and care for women. As in the example with the skirt, they do not assign them any characteristics such as competence or independence. Benevolent sexism means that women actually behave less competently: Research has shown that women solve math problems more poorly if they have been asked about gender stereotypes beforehand than if they approach the arithmetic problem without knowledge. Admittedly, benevolent sexism is difficult to recognize, because a nice offer of help, such as setting up the computer for the colleague, can of course only be meant in a collegial manner. This form of sexism can usually not be read from a single situation alone. Often this includes a history.

Some women do not seem to perceive sexism as fundamentally negative. They seem to like it when they are whistled for, for example.
Yes that's true. One study comes to the frightening result that many women prefer a benevolent sexist to a non-sexist. That means that many women support sexism. They even demand the behavior of men.

Can you give an example?
When a woman does not want to replace a broken light bulb herself and prefers to leave it to the man, although she could of course do it herself.

So can women be sexist too?
Yes. Nevertheless, research shows that men are much less likely to be disadvantaged by sexist attributions than women, since the power balance in our society is in favor of men.

How should one respond to sexist jokes and sexist behavior?
It is best to confront the person with his behavior while still in the situation, otherwise you will get into a loop of pondering according to the motto: Maybe I should have said something. There is of course always the risk of being insulted as a bitch or emcee, so it can be helpful to address the situation in a nice or humorous way.

Do women actually do that?
Often not. In one trial, people were asked what they would take with them to a desert island. A man who was on the trial team without the knowledge of the female participants said he would take a woman to cook. Almost none of the participants commented on this statement, although all previously stated that they normally defend themselves against sexist statements. After the attempt, the women said that they had perceived the statement as sexism and that they also felt uncomfortable.

The sentence of the FDP politician Rainer Brüderle to a journalist “You can also fill in a dirndl” sparked a sexism debate. You have made an investigation into this.
Yes, we interviewed 500 people. Due to the small number of participants, this is not representative, but it is basic research and has produced interesting results.

Six opinions have cropped up again and again, for example one that we call the allegation of hostility towards pleasure, as well as the sexist compliment. In addition, there are trivializations and the view that sexism is something natural and innate. Those who have expressed any of these opinions are also more likely to agree with hostile and benevolent sexism. What was interesting was that women can be just as sexist as men. There was almost no gender difference in answering questions about the acceptance of compliments or suggestive sayings.

To person

Julia Becker has been Professor of Sociology and Social Psychology at the University of Osnabrück since 2013 and researches sexism in society. In their studies, the 36-year-old and her team investigate, among other things, whether sexist behavior can be directly attributed to attitudes.

Interview: Heike Manssen