To explore ambivalent sexism in a personal way that allows students to compare their own level of sexism with the level of other people.
Discuss ambivalent sexism in class, explaining that sexism is not limited to negativity toward women, but rather, has a "benevolent" side as well. Here is an explanation of ambivalent sexism from page 20 of Understanding Prejudice and Discrimination (see also Section V of this book, which contains a full-length article on ambivalent sexism):
"Ambivalent sexism includes two separate but interrelated components: (1) hostile sexism, which involves negative feelings toward women, and (2) benevolent sexism, a chivalrous ideology that offers protection and affection to women who adopt conventional gender roles. Because benevolent sexism may superficially seem like positive regard rather than prejudice, it can go unnoticed or even be embraced by women themselves."
Indeed, in more than 20 countries studied thus far, men scored higher in hostile sexism than did women, but in roughly half these countries, women scored the same as men in benevolent sexism (and in some countries, even higher).
Assign students to take the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (ASI) on this site. The ASI is a 22-item questionnaire that was developed by researchers Peter Glick and Susan Fiske specifically to measure ambivalent sexism.
Tell students that when they take the ASI, they will receive two scores: one for their level of hostile sexism, and one for their level of benevolent sexism. They will also be able to compare these scores with average scores received by other visitors to the site, and to research participants in other countries.
Instruct students that once they have taken the ASI, they should:
- Record their hostile and benevolent sexism scores
- Compare these scores to the average of other site visitors
- Compare these scores to females and males from other countries
Students should then write a 2-3 page paper that discusses:
- What they thought of their hostile and benevolent sexism scores
- Whether they think the idea of ambivalent sexism makes sense
- How hostile and benevolent sexism are related to each other
- How each form of sexism might be most effectively reduced
Instead of requiring a paper, instructors may simply ask students to take the ASI and be prepared to answer the questions above in class.
Because the ASI may reveal information that students do not want to know about themselves, instructors should offer an alternative assignment for students who would rather not take the ASI.
Glick, P., & Fiske, S. T. (2001). An ambivalent alliance: Hostile and benevolent sexism as complementary justifications for gender inequality. American Psychologist, 56, 109-118.