A feminist work in progress.

MEETINGS Monday at 4:30pm in Harlan House. Food and discussion. Feel free to bring a friend!

WHO ARE WE? Third Wave Resource Group is a student rights and resource group centered in Harlan House, at Cornell. We are a safe, comfortable environment for community members which provides information, equality and empowerment informed by feminism. We believe feminism is about values & ideals. Empowerment & education. Community building & understanding. (And calling people out on their bullshit).

RESOURCES WE PROVIDE Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Advocacy, access to Safe Room, emergency transportation, library, kitchen, sewing room, safe zone, and confidentiality.

CONTACT 319)895-5750

the problem of traditionally gendered acts of chivalry


Benevolent sexism [aka chivalry] may not be physically violent, but it has a pretty similar outcome to hostile sexism… . . A group of psychologists … ran a study to find out does benevolent sexism influence how girls’ feel about their bodies?

The researchers used a simple test to measure the effects of benevolent sexism on how women felt about their bodies (this is called “self-objectification”, looking at your body as men or other women might and turning yourself into an object in your own eyes). The researchers tested two groups of college women.  Now, here’s the clever part.  In one group, the participants simply filled out surveys measuring self-objectification. In the second group, there was a female and a male research assistant (let’s call them “Susan” and “Tim”) pretending to be participants.  The researcher in charge of the group was “in” on the trick.  During the experiment, she received a fake phone call that she said was from a colleague who needed a box of research materials brought to another room.  She asked “Susan” (whom everyone else thought was just another participant) to carry it, at which point “Tim” stood up and said, “I’ll get that for you,” and took the box.  “Susan” sat back down.  After this exchange, the real participants filled out the surveys measuring self-objectification.

So, what did that little act of “politeness” do?  Well, when they compared the two groups’ survey scores, they found that in the group that watched Tim’s act of chivalry, women felt a stronger sense of shame about their body.  They were more concerned about their bodies not fitting into society’s standards of how a woman should look.  This group was also more preoccupied with monitoring their appearance (which researchers call “body surveillance”).  Basically, the group that saw Tim’s act of “politeness” examined their bodies more to see how they compared to cultural standards of beauty and felt shame about not fitting into what society says women should look like.

But what do we make of these results? How could Tim’s simple act of carrying a box make women feel bad about their bodies? The authors propose that benevolent sexism, even though it may be meant to convey respect, actually reinforces traditional gender roles.  Traditional femininity emphasizes the importance of a woman looking attractive (as opposed to intelligent, witty etc.) Without being aware of it, simply being reminded of traditional gender roles can make women more concerned about how they look (as opposed to their accomplishments or personality) which translates into “body surveillance” or women checking themselves out. When women compare their bodies to cultural standards of beauty, they can feel a sense of shame if they think they don’t “measure up.”  It pretty much goes without saying that this is harmful to women and girls.


whoa our research blog got onto tumblr & we didn’t put it there! way cool. for those of you in the notes asking “so we should just never be polite to anyone ever?” nah! you should be polite to everyone! but think about the way gender informs your “politeness.” 

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