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Is Romantic Love Rooted in Sexism?

Sexism in its most literal form is just prejudice based on gender. Look at it that way and prepubescent kids — with their single-gender cliques — are some of the most sexist beings around. But as they become older and more interested in the opposite sex, they become more open minded. Except a new study found one group actually becomes more sexist, and it's not who you'd expect. Romantic teens, of both sexes, cling to gender stereotypes the most.

What's most disconcerting is that when you look at sexism through this lens, girls contribute just as much as boys. The study's author breaks it down into two categories: hostile and benevolent sexism. Hostile is what you'd expect, but benevolent sexism is more complex, something like chivalry. It may seem nice or polite, but is actually patronizing. Benevolently sexist ideals are expectations like women should be cherished and protected by men; women are pure; and men should put women on a pedestal.

That sounds a lot like the Disneyfied version of love that's perpetuated in romantic comedies and is commonplace not just among teenage girls but adult women. An adoring man is a gentleman — the man we expect in the early stage of relationships, otherwise known as romantic love.

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Join The Conversation
Natalie-Love Natalie-Love 6 years
I do believe that as a woman I should get equal pay in the workplace, not be looked down upon for doing the same work as a man, and respected as a human being, beyond my body; the things listed as hostile sexism, basically, are for real jerks. But if I enjoy my boyfriend cherishing and protecting me, giving me his coat when I'm cold and lifting things I have a hard time with around the home, does it mean I'm pro-sexism? If we were out, and I was cold, and my boyfriend said "Well, we are equal,no reason I should be cold while you have my jacket. As a liberated woman, you must understand this" I would be quite hurt, as I enjoy his caring nature towards me.I don't want my boyfriend to treat me as if I was just another dude friend.
MeiGaku MeiGaku 6 years
it's not just about respecting the other--that's a given that everyone should be that way. the kind of sexism they're talking about is institutionalized sexism that becomes so ingrained in our behavior that we don't recognize it--like chivalry. for example, it's nice and all for a guy to open a door for you, but those practices are based on practices created by priests during the middle ages for knights to stop killing each other. they're based on principles that women are too weak to protect themselves (or do anything for a matter of fact--such as read). it IS nice for a guy to pull out a chair for you, but at the same time, some can take that to an extreme where the flipside of receiving that kind of chivalry is staying at home and taking care of the kids because that's the only thing that you can do (not that it's your choice). so what they're pointing out are beliefs that girls and boys should behave in certain ways due to their sex, that each group can't be one thing or another in a relationship. it is a form of sexism and gender stereotyping that is reproduced in society and may not always be healthy.
RoaringSilence RoaringSilence 6 years
I put everyone on a pedestal when I'm dating them.. guy or girl.
zeze zeze 6 years
sexism is in the eye of the beholder....maybe some people see sexism because they are sexist.
weffie weffie 6 years
Doesn't everyone want to feel cherished and protected by the one they love? Including, for example, teenage lesbians? I think this has very little to do with gender.
Lovely_1 Lovely_1 6 years
well said bransugar79 and totygoliguez!
totygoliguez totygoliguez 6 years
Maybe I'm taking this too literal, but I don't see anything wrong with wanting men to respect you. I like to be spoiled--and I like to spoil-- once in a while. I like my boyfriend to go out of his way to make me feel special. I don't think courtesy and chivalry could be categorized as sexism.
bransugar79 bransugar79 6 years
Good grief! Why does everything in a relationship have to be based on sexism? Maybe my husband is considerate of my needs because he likes and respects me, not because he thinks I am weak. And maybe I expect him to be kind and caring towards me because I believe it is respectful to treat any human being that way? Being courteous and expecting the same in return is polite and it's what allows us to form close relationships with others.
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