When Benevolence Backfires: Benevolent Sexists' Opposition to Elective and Traumatic Abortion


  • An earlier version of this paper received the Bertram H. Raven Award for Best Social Issues Research Paper in Social Psychology. The authors thank an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on an earlier draft of the paper.

Danny Osborne, Department of Psychology, University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand. E-mail: d.osborne@auckland.ac.nz


Though gender-role attitudes correlate with attitudes toward abortion (Wang, 2004), past research has treated gender-role attitudes as a unidimensional construct. The theory of ambivalent sexism (Glick & Fiske, 1996) holds that attitudes toward women form 2 distinct ideologies; namely, benevolent and hostile sexism. The current study examined the relationship between these ideologies and attitudes toward elective and traumatic abortion in a sample of Internet users (N = 529). As expected, both benevolent and hostile sexism predicted attitudes toward elective abortion, but only benevolent sexism predicted attitudes toward traumatic abortion. These results remained robust after controlling for important demographic factors. Such findings highlight the importance of differentiating between hostile and benevolent sexism when predicting attitudes toward complex issues.