Sexism and Racism Linked with Similar Mental Processes

Decreasing Prejudices Would Have a Positive Effect in Preventing Violence in General
According to researchers at the UPV-EHU, encouraging equality and decreasing prejudices would have a positive effect in preventing violence in general. Luis Demano / SINC

Researchers have found a link between two discriminatory behaviors - sexism and racism - and advise the need for education in encouraging equality.

“People who are highly sexist, whether hostile, seeing women as the inferior sex, or benevolent, believing that women are the weaker sex, also have racist tendencies,” said Maite Garaigordobil, professor of Psychological Testing at the UPV and co-author of the study.

The University of the Basque Country (UPV-EHU) research team said that prejudiced attitudes are based on generalized suppositions about certain social groups and could well be a personality trait.

“The results even suggest that such prejudiced attitudes could be a personality trait,” said Garaigordobil.

The study included 802 participants from the Basque Country between the ages of 18 and 65 years. It showed that both processes are closely related and that they are likely to be based on more general beliefs about relationships between different social groups.

"Sexism is linked to authoritarianism and a leaning towards social dominance," the author wrote. "In other words, sexist people accept hierarchies and social inequality, they believe that different social groups have a status that they deserve and they feel that the social class to which they belong is the best."

The study also confirmed that sexism is related to low intercultural sensitivity as sexist people show low levels of involvement when it comes to interacting with immigrants, as well as presenting low levels of respect for differences, confidence towards immigrants and desire to interact with them.

Education

Jone Aliri, another author of the study, and Garaigordobil, highlighted the importance and need for psychoeducation during infancy and adolescence to encourage and maintain equality among both sexes and respect for others.

"One of the variables that foretells sexism is prejudice. This implies that psychological intervention to reduce prejudice in general would help in reducing sexism," the co-author wrote.

Sexism and Low-Self Esteem

Although the author’s initial hypothesis was that there is a relationship between low self-esteem and sexism, the study has found this hypothesis to be incorrect.

The study indicated that there was hardly any relationship between low self-esteem and sexism.

"Given the important role that self-esteem plays in interpersonal relationships, we were hoping to find a negative correlation, or rather, the lower the self-image, the higher the level of sexism,” the authors said.

Previous studies showed that low self-esteem can bring about negative interpersonal relationships such as domination or aggressiveness. However, Garaigordobil insists that "this new data points to the fact that there is hardly a relationship between these two variables and that when there is, it is found only in men and is not very strong."

Sexism and Self-Reflection

However, sexism does have an influence on how people view themselves, the authors wrote.

"Men with higher levels of hostile sexism describe themselves using adjectives associated with masculinity, i.e. physically strong, brave, sure of themselves, determined, admirable, etc.," says Garaigordobil. "Women who display hostile sexism described themselves using characteristics that go against femininity such as not very cooperative, not very tolerant, not very compassionate and not very sensitive or sentimental."

Men who scored highly in benevolent sexism described themselves using adjectives associated with femininity, such as warm, friendly, and good.

This was also the case for women who displayed benevolent sexism.

The authors point out that with regards to sexism and its link to self-perception, people must bear in mind that sexism does not affect men and women in the same way.

"While sexism allows men to continue in a position of superiority, it stops women from developing their full potential,” said Garaigordobil, which means that the relationship between these two constructs is different for both sexes.

"Sexism is one of the main beliefs that keeps gender inequality alive and if we bear in mind the close connection between sexism and domestic violence, encouraging equality and reducing prejudice will have a positive effect on preventing violence in general."

 

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