“I’ll Get That for You”: The Relationship Between
Benevolent Sexism and Body Self-Perceptions
Mindy J. Erchull
Emily Forsyth Queen
Published online: 14 August 2010
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010
Abstract Benevolent sexism has been shown to have
negative consequences for women. In the present study,
we investigated whether there were differences in reports of
body self-perceptions between 93 college women in the
southeastern United States who either witnessed or did not
witness a staged act of benevolent sexism. Because we
believed that benevolent sexism could make beauty norms
more salient, we hypothesized that women who witnessed
benevolent sexism would report higher levels of self-
objectification, body surveillance, and body shame. Women
who witnessed benevolent sexism did report higher levels
of surveillance and shame, constructs associated with self-
objectification, but not higher general levels of self-
objectification. This research provides more evidence of
the negative effects benevolent sexism has on women.
Keywords Benevolent sexism
Self-objectification occurs when women view their bodies
as an outsider would (Fredrickson and Roberts 1997).
Benevolent sexism is a sexist view that women need
additional help with certain activities, for instance carrying
items, because of their gender (Glick and Fiske 1996).
Previous research has shown both of these phenomena to
have negative consequences for women (Dardenne et al.
2007; Fredrickson et al. 1998; Hurt et al. 2007; Noll and
Fredrickson 1998; Roberts 2004; Sibley and Wilson 2004).
Previous research suggests that one outcome of benevolent
sexism is to encourage women to adhere to their proscribed
gender roles (Glick and Fiske 2001). One aspect of the
feminine gender role is to look attractive (Forbes et al.
2007; Mahalik et al. 2005). The importance of these
narrowly defined societal standards for female beauty have,
in turn, led many women to self-objectify (Fredrickson and
Roberts 1997). This led us to ask whether benevolent
sexism could lead to self-objectification since it may
remind women of traditional gender roles, therefore,
leading to greater self-objectification because conforming
to beauty norms is an important aspect of the feminine role.
An experiment was conducted using college women from
the United States as participants, half of whom viewed
an act of benevolent sexism while the other half
witnessed no such act. The women then completed
measures of self-objectification and related constructs.
Our study suggests that womenwhowitnessedbenevo-
lent sexism scored higher on measures of body surveil-
lance and body shame, two constructs associated with
benevolent sexism. Therefore, these may be other
negative consequence of benevolent sexism which may
well be applicable to women from other cultures since
research has shown that benevolent sexism exists across
a wide array of cultures (Glick et al. 2000).
“I’ll get that for you,” is a phrase with which most
women are familiar. We have often heard men utter this
phrase while holding a door open or offering to carry
something for us. While these behaviors may seem helpful,
Glick and Fiske (1996) classify them as benevolent sexist
acts and suggest that they are harmful because they
perpetuate established gender roles. One of the feminine
gender roles that society expects women to follow is
M. J. Erchull (*)
E. Forsyth Queen
Department of Psychology, University of Mary Washington,
1301 College Avenue,
Fredericksburg, VA 22401-5300, USA
Sex Roles (2011) 64:1–8