If you want to know if a man is sexist, just observe the way he smiles at you, says a new research.
The study by Jin Goh and Judith Hall of Northeastern University in the US, sheds light on how sexism subtly influences social interaction between men and woman.
Goh and Hall wanted to investigate how men’s word choice, attitudes and smiles show the type of sexism they sometimes subtly show when interacting with women they have just met. Theirs is the first study to capture both nonverbal and verbal expressions of benevolent and hostile sexism during mixed-gender interaction, and how these two types of sexist beliefs are expressed differently.
The researchers carefully examined the social interaction of 27 pairs of American undergraduate men and women. They were filmed while they played a trivia game together and then chatted afterwards. Observers then scrutinized their interaction by reporting their impressions and counting certain nonverbal cues such as smiles. Word count software was also used to further analyze the content.
The more hostile sexist men were perceived as less approachable and less friendly in their speech, and they also smiled less during the interaction. In turn, those who displayed benevolent sexism were rated to be more approachable, warmer, friendlier and more likely to smile. They also used more positive emotional words and were overall more patient while waiting for a woman to answer trivia questions.
Hall said that benevolent sexism was like a wolf in sheep’s clothing that perpetuates support for gender inequality among women at an interpersonal level. The supposed gestures of good faith may entice women to accept the status quo in society because sexism literally looks welcoming, appealing, and harmless.
The study is published in Springer’s journal Sex Roles.