Exposure to Benevolent Sexism and Complementary Gender Stereotypes: Consequences for Specific and Diffuse Forms of System Justification

By John T. JostAaron C. Kay
2003| Working Paper No. 1789

It has been argued that seemingly benevolent and complementary gender stereotypes serve to maintain or increase support for the system of gender inequality, especially among women. In prior work, support for this hypothesis has been indirectly inferred from the existence of stereotypes themselves or on the basis of purely correlational findings. We conducted three experimental studies (N = 484) in which male and female research participants were exposed to different types of gender-related beliefs and subsequently asked to complete measures of either gender-specific or diffuse system justification. Results were highly consistent across studies and demonstrated that, compared to control conditions, activating (a) communal or complementary (communal + agentic) gender stereotypes, or (b) benevolent or complementary (benevolent + hostile) items from Glick and Fiskes (1996) Ambivalent Sexism Inventory increases both specific and diffuse support for the status quo among women.