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Benevolent Sexism?

Before I dig into the topic, let me be very clear.

I respect women.

I believe women are equal (and often superior) in importance, value, and opportunity.

I will admit, however, my beliefs and practices are considered dated and old-fashioned by many.

But first, some terms…

We define sexism as “prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.” And it is wrong. Dead wrong.

The term “benevolent sexism” is defined as an attitude toward women that seems positive in tone (e.g., women should be treasured), but it comes from a position of superiority.

Many believe benevolent sexism stems from an attitude that infers weakness or a lack of competence. What’s worse, in this type of sexism, protection and provision are often offered in exchange for a woman submitting to a subordinate role.

To be clear, benevolent sexism is wrong. Dead wrong.

Okay, now that we’ve got that all out of the way, so what? Why the rambling about sexism?

Because I’m concerned that we’ve confused acts of kindness toward women with sexism.

Let me explain.

When I open the car door for my wife or offer to take her hand while navigating a snowy, slippery parking lot, I’m not doing so because I think I am better. There is no hidden agenda that infers that my wife is weak or incompetent. (Sometimes she keeps me from falling.)

My acts of chivalry and kindness are not actions of authority or superiority.

Of course, I know my wife is perfectly capable of opening her door by herself.

And when I offer to help a woman load her carryon baggage into the overhead storage compartment of an airplane, I am not doing so because I am flaunting my strength and trying to put her in her place.

All my actions toward my wife (and any other women) are acts of kindness and statements of value.

No woman, not my mother, wife, my daughters, or any of my female friends are less than me. In fact, in my mind, they are greater than me and so they deserve greater honor.

When a judge walks into a courtroom, everyone stands.

When the president or vice-president (currently a female) walks into a room, everyone stands.

We stand as an act of honor, respect, and value.

Yes, when my wife and I walk to the car together, I typically open the door for her.

No, she doesn’t need me to do so, and she isn’t weak or inferior to me.

But I desire to do so because she matters more to me than me.

I do so because serving others is what Jesus did (remember that whole foot-washing thing).

I do so because it is kind, and kindness is not sexism—it’s Christlike.

With all my heart I pray that kindness, and selflessness, and honoring others above ourselves never gets old or old-fashioned.

I can almost hear the arguments, “Well, what if your wife wants to open the door for you? What if she wants to serve and honor you?”

Trust me.

She already honors and serves me in many ways.

I am not overstating anything when I tell you she shows value to me frequently and consistently.

Not that we’re keeping a tally, but I’d need to open about a thousand more doors for us to be even.

Maybe ten thousand.

So, I will look for as many ways as possible to show her that she matters. A lot.

Call it what you want. I call it love.

So does Jesus.

 

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Kurt Bubna

Kurt W. Bubna has published seven books, is an internationally recognized blogger, conference and retreat speaker, as well as an experienced life and leadership coach. Bubna has over forty years of experience working with individuals, teams, and a wide variety of business and non-profit organizations.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Kay Anderson

    I love this post. Reciprocal kindness, respect and honor is what I strive for too. It is so good to surprise, delight and serve my wonderful husband, Steve for the last 53 years! God is so good! God bless you for this column.

    1. KurtBubna

      Well said, Kay. Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  2. Allison

    That was a good one!

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