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Chivalry isn’t dead. It’s just terribly sexist

Chivalry isn't dead, a study has found. But according to the researchers, gallantry has become a front for "benevolent sexism."

Everyday acts that imply that women should be cherished and protected are a form of patriarchal control, they argue.

Based on the report, published in Psychology of Women Quarterly, enlightened men should avoid the following:

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1. Offering to help a woman carry shopping bags (implies she's weak)

2. Insisting on driving her home (implies she can't look after her own safety)

3. Assuming she wants help buying a laptop (implies she's clueless with technology)

4. Complimenting a woman on her cooking (reinforces the idea that cooking is a woman's job)

Insidious deeds like these are being overlooked by women as well as men, psychologists Julia C. Becker and Janet K. Swim report in the study.

To correct matters, women need to "see the unseen," the researchers note, while men need to be aware of their sexist behaviour and also feel empathy for the women targeted.

The question is, should men be on the lookout for benevolent sexism too? Based on our observations, women may be guilty of the following:

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1. Expecting a man to take out the garbage (implies it's a man's job)

2. Leaving car maintenance, such as oil changes, for a man to do (see above)

3. Ridiculing how a man dresses a child (implies a woman's colour coordination is superior)

4. Judging a man for being "cheap" when he wants to share the dinner bill (reinforces the idea that men should be earners)

The lists of offences cancel each other out, don't they?

As for the crusade against sexism, Sunday Telegraph columnist Jenny McCartney argues that feminists have bigger fish to fry (at least, they would if a woman's place was in the kitchen).

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Examples include female circumcision, child marriage, human trafficking, rape as a weapon of war and the proliferation of extreme sexual violence in films and on the Internet, she writes.

"I am inclined to think that when one finds a man who believes that women should be cherished and protected, it would be a good idea to send him forth to encourage the others."

Does "benevolent sexism" bother you?

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About the Author

Adriana Barton is based in The Globe and Mail’s Vancouver bureau. Her article on growing up with counterculture parents is published in a McGraw-Hill anthology, right after an essay by Margaret Atwood. She wishes her last name didn’t start with B. More

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