Sexists are happier

This study makes the claim that so-called “benevolent sexists” (BS) are happier.

What this means is that what we Mormons would see as “traditional family roles,” ie men work and are responsible for making money, women take care of the kids and home, actually makes people happier.

To quote from the description of the study:

For men, BS was directly associated with life satisfaction. For women, the palliative effect of BS was indirect and occurred because BS-ideology positioning women as deserving of men’s adoration and protection was linked to general perceptions of gender relations as fair and equitable, which in turn predicted greater levels of life satisfaction.

To translate this: men like traditional family roles, and so do women. Women acknowledge that traditional family roles often put them in a seemingly inferior position but in exchange they get more attention and protection from the man, and they like that.


Quick note: the paper distinguishes between hostile sexism (HS) and benevolent sexism (BS). Basically, hostile sexism is being a sexist jerk toward women. Benevolent sexism is still sexist because it maintains the basic structure of patriarchal society. To sum up, a lot of Mormons engage in BS, according to the current paradigm. If you want to read more about HS and BS, you can visit this site:

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

20 thoughts on “Sexists are happier

  1. I’ve always been happier in my role at CDO (Chief of Domestic Operations)…yes, even up to my elbows in diapers with the other child crying at my feet.

  2. I’d have to read the whole article to see what their findings are exactly and how they account for them. It seems like basically the *definition* of societal norms is that those who conform are rewarded and those who don’t are socially censured in various ways (stigma, microaggressions, subtle or overt shunning, lack of mentors and peers for support, lack of societal structures in place for support, etc). So it’s not necessarily a surprising finding the levels of stress are higher in salmon swimming upstream than those who are floating down with the flow.

  3. Kind of funny that they use “BS” as their acronym.

    Anyhow, I know of some evolutionary psychologists that preach the very same thing as this article. Basically they claim we are instinctually somewhat sexist as part of our evolutionary history. The idea is people not constantly fighting that instinct makes for generally lives in most cases. Obviously lots of people disagree with that theory but it is out there.

  4. Cynthia L, that is a fascinating response. When my wife left the workforce in her mid 30s and married me so she could raise our kids, she experienced exactly what you are talking about, ie microaggressions, subtle or over shunning, lack of mentors and peers for support, lack of societal structure in place for support — from just about everybody. People were actually angry at her for becoming a stay at home mom and expressed it violently and regularly. It would have been much easier for her to be a salmon swimming downstream by staying in the workplace and sending the kids to daycare. She shared her experiences with some stay at home moms in our ward, and many of them had the same experience. So, there is a lot of shunning going on, but it appears to be society shunning and making fun of those who make “traditional” choices.

  5. I don’t think the brave little rebels argument works, not when the rebels stormed the citadel decades ago.

    I’m not real sure what to make of this research and of people’s self-reported happiness levels generally.

    If I had to hazard a general explanation, I’d say that life contains a great, great deal of ineradicable inequality and that people who aren’t strongly ideologically committed to egalitarianism can take life better in stride. My prediction would be that you don’t need to be ‘sexist,’ you just need to not be anti-sexist.

    Assuming I’m right, this study is pointless. Since if you’re willing to discard for a little happiness your egalitarian commitments that men and women are unisex beings with varying genitalia, you probably weren’t committed to it enough to make you unhappy in the first place.

  6. My other explanation is that there is a lot more happiness to be found in family life than in making the world a better place. Sexual egalitarianism introduces a hermeneutic of suspicion to family life, or at least the potential for it. So its gains are less than its costs.

    Again, pure speculation, the study authors offer their own competing explanation, and who cares anyway?

  7. So I read the Wikipedia article you linked. What a load of horse-shibboleth. It makes me glad that my life’s work is merely useless.

  8. I agree with Geoff J’s psychologist friends. Certainly we are instinctually sexist, from a biological perspective. The word “sexist” has so many negative connotations. It should be another word. One that accepts the natural assumption that men and women are different, and that they act in very different ways. Is that assumption sexist?

    Various 20th Century forces tried to crush the sexist instinct, and spent decades emasculating men. Part of this is good. Rapes and murders are at an all time low. Warfare among educated nations is also at an all time low.

    But the emasculanization of men and the deterioration of traditional family roles has lead to a crisis of identity, which I believe has had some negative consequences. Art of Manliness has blogged about this extensively. There is a balance to be had. We can’t ignore or snuff out our masculinity or femininity. We should recognize it and embrace it in healthy ways.

  9. Maybe I live in a different world, but I have never met or known anyone who got crap for leaving the workforce to be a stay-at-home mom. I have known women lawyers, corporate vice presidents, and women in all professions. Now, I can understand why some employers might feel used if a woman they have invested a great deal in walks away from that, especially after taking maternity leave, but that’s another story. I’ve seen worse abuse meted out in my ward to young people who choose not to attend BYU.

  10. Don, because you are a man, you have probably never been aware of “mean girl” behavior in a grown woman that is far more subtle and backstabbing than your average mean girl teen. Grown women can take apart another woman and most men won’t even notice.

  11. Ditto ja benson. After 30 years of marriage my wife worries about what I think but she REALLY worries about what her sisters and fellow church sisters think or say about her. Most women’s social network is much larger than the average male. I have often observed that when it comes to issues amongst the sisters they too often have met the enemy and it is other women. As for BS, maybe ignorance truly is bliss. Or, there just may be something to this patriarchal stuff that we don’t quite understand.

  12. JA Benson, definitely. The mean girl behavior my wife endured from her “friends” when she left the working world was unbelievable. We can laugh about some of it now because it was mostly jealously by people who wish they have made different choices in their own lives, but at the time it was pure pain.

  13. I think the reason women are so eager at being mean to one another; is women, in their natural (wo)man state, are lone wolves. We do better when we are in charge of our own families and our own business. Put a bunch of women together and they will fight tooth and nail and compete to be #1. We will pull others down to elevate our position. Woman can cause great hurt with slight nuances and glances. Men, don’t even notice because it takes something much more aggressive to get their attention.

    Men, in their natural man state, are either alpha males or supportive beta males, and everyone is happy in their roles. Men will go to great lengths to circle the wagons around their “leader”. Natural Man behavior can be good or bad depending on the situation. (Wo)men have to work at being Christ-like in a group situation; whereas teamwork naturally appeals men who feel comfortable in pack mode.

    As much as we may want to, some of our behavior is innate within in us whether we like it or not. This is why most men are happier in male roles and women in womanly roles. However there are exceptions, and this is why equality in education and the workplace is very important. We all still need the free agency to choose. Mature people understand this, and respect the choices others make.

  14. Don, I’m surprised to hear you say that. I think is Geoff B’s wife’s experience is not uncommon. Women, unfortunately, can’t seem to win either way.

  15. Here is a fascinating one for the “meanness” (don’t like that word in this context) of some women.

    It says women apologize more than men do, but only because they offend more than men do (self reported). Reading #15’s comment that women can’t win either way, I wonder if it’s because they offend more (or perceive more offense).

    “Turns out that men are just as likely as women to apologize for a given offense. But their threshold for thinking they have committed an offense is higher.”
    Since that study seems to match my intuition, I tend to question it…

    Sometimes I think all these studies don’t mean much… but in a self reported study like this whether it’s “real” or not, it does seem to show that a woman either offends more in fact, or perceives more offenses. So this might also reflect in some of the supposed meanness that occurs between mothers in and out of the work place.

    Either way, this study doesn’t mean much, as you can easily see it being dismissed with an over the top comparison to free slaves being less happy than when they were still a slave. It’s the “injustice” (in the BS case) that many argue needs changing, whether we like the taste of the medicine or not.

  16. Just watch girls and women playing volleyball (not professional teams or anything). It is all “sorry” all the time. When I used to play just for fun with some women I would have to intentionally try to not say sorry all the time because I felt it was wrong to say it all the time and it bothered me that everyone was saying it but it was culturally ingrained in almost all of the women, even me.
    I noticed that when we had a mixed gender group, the guys only apologized in very rare instances.

  17. I hate to say this publically, but I actually agree with Adam G here. What is this world coming to…?

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