Lack of respect for women is often thought to be a source of sexism, but in a recent study led by Case Western Reserve University doctoral student Joshua Grubbs, researchers found that an abundance of self-worth can also create prejudice against women.
Grubbs’ study, which focused on the link between entitlement and negative feelings towards women, found that men who felt privileged were more likely to adopt a hostile form of sexism, in which they perceived women as people prone to deceive or trick others.
Women in the study, however, were likely to adopt a different form, benevolent sexism, meaning they were more likely to perceive women as feeble. The key difference between the two forms of sexism is that hostile sexism perceives women as cunning and deceitful, while benevolent sexism views women as soft and fragile.
Grubbs’ interest on the relationship between narcissism and sexism emerged from an undergraduate statistics class, where a fake data set investigating the relationship between the two prompted him to develop a real interest in the subject.
Grubbs, however, began wondering whether it wasn’t simply narcissism that invoked sexism, but rather a specific form of it, entitlement. Narcissism and entitlement are two closely related personality types, but they’re not exactly alike. Narcissism is a character type in which a person excessively loves oneself. Entitlement, however, implies that a person feels as if they deserve certain things, without the need to prove that they deserve them.
The recent paper reported findings from two separate studies, one on undergraduate students at CWRU and one on adults from across the nation. Using standard scales that scored subjects on items such as, “I deserve more out of life,” and, “People like me deserve an extra break,” the researchers were able to assess feelings of entitlement among the subjects. Then, using statements such as “Women seek to gain power by getting control over men,” and “Women should be cherished and protected by men,” they were able to gauge hostile or benevolent sexism. The results showed that there is a strong link between the two.
These attitudes come with a plethora of consequences. Entitled men who portray hostile sexism are more likely to lash out at women, as they are more likely to believe that women are out to take what should belong to them. In some cases, violence, especially sexual violence, is evoked from these attitudes.
“A study in South Africa found that entitled men were more likely to commit rape,” said Grubbs.
On the other hand, entitled women who portray benevolent sexism are more likely to believe that men should treat them uniquely and be chivalrous. However, this perception is a major source of gender inequality.
“You end up getting less out of life,” said Grubbs.