Hostile sexism is a form of sexism targeted against people, and especially women, who do not conform to traditional gender roles.

What is hostile sexism? 

Hostile sexism refers to a form of sexism characterized by negative and hostile attitudes toward individuals who do not conform to traditional gender roles. 

One example is women who enter traditionally masculine realms, such as science, technology and engineering. In this sense, it is triggered when women stray from patriarchal norms, which can lead to different forms of harassment.

Hostile sexism can manifest as open hostility, sexual harassment, contempt and violence. It can also result in verbal abuse and derogatory comments. 

At its core, hostile sexism maintains traditional gender roles and stereotypes. It can be defined as a common expression of sexism, deeply rooted in prejudice, misogyny, and the devaluation of individuals based on their gender identity.

Hostile sexism definition in relation to benevolent sexism

Hostile sexism coexists with the concept of benevolent sexism as its direct juxtaposition. Both concepts complement each other in cementing stereotypes and biases. Whereas benevolent sexism consists of offering protection to women and rewarding them for conforming to conventional gender roles, hostile sexism punishes women for doing the contrary.

Even though both forms of sexism promulgate gender inequality, women are often more inclined to endorse benevolent forms of sexism. The same way positive stereotypes can hinder progress towards gender equality, benevolent sexism also contributes to reinforcing traditional gender roles. 

In this respect, it contributes to the idea that women need to be protected and receive special treatment just because they’re women. 

Hostile sexism as a component of ambivalent sexism

Ambivalent sexism is the idea of the duality of sexism: hostile and benevolent. Even though they are different in style and expression, they both contribute to sustaining male dominance.In this sense, sexism (as the overarching concept) is a complex and contradictory set of attitudes toward women, characterized by both benevolent and hostile components. It recognizes that sexism is not always negative, but can include seemingly positive or favorable attitudes that still perpetuate gender inequalities.

Examples of hostile sexism

Here are some common false expressions of hostile sexism: 

An important aspect of gender inequality

It is common for women to be seen through the double lens of hostile and benevolent sexism. It is also common for both men and women to have ambivalently sexist beliefs about women. 

All sexist expressions are fueled by harmful gender stereotypes that contribute to inequality. They reinforce negative biases and discriminatory attitudes against women, belittling their achievements and limiting their access to opportunities in all spheres of life. 

Responding to hostile sexism in the workplace

Responding to hostile sexism requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach. Here are some key strategies:

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