Damned if she does, damned if she doesn't: Consequences of accepting versus confronting patronizing help for the female target and male actor


Julia C. Becker, Philipps-University Marburg, Department of Psychology, Social Psychology, Gutenbergstraße 18, 35032 Marburg, Germany.

E-mail: beckerj2@staff.uni-marburg.de


Three studies examined how a woman's reaction to a man's benevolently sexist offer of help affected observers' perceptions. Results suggest a dilemma for women: A woman who accepted benevolently sexist help was perceived as warm but incompetent and less suited for a competence-related job (management consultant), whereas a woman who declined help and asserted her independence as a woman was perceived as competent but cold and less suited for a warmth-related job (day care worker). By contrast, observers viewed the male help-offerer especially favorably (warmer, more competent, and more qualified as a management consultant) when the female target accepted (versus confronted) his patronizing offer. But only perceivers who endorsed benevolent sexism showed these effects. Implications for challenging benevolent sexism are discussed. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.