New York: Want to know if your male friend at work is more approachable and friendlier or hostile towards you? Carefully watch how he smiles and chats with you.
In their effort to decode gender discrimination, researchers from Northeastern University in the US have found that the more hostile sexist men were perceived as less approachable and less friendly in their speech while interacting with women.
Men with more hostile sexism also smiled less during the interaction. Hostile sexism is an antipathy or dislike of women and often comes to the fore as dominant and derogatory behaviour in an effort to maintain power.
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," said lead researchers Jin Goh and Judith Hall.
Benevolent sexism is less negative on the surface and more paternalistic, reflecting a chivalrous and subjectively positive view of women.
"Men who demonstrate this 'well-intentioned' sexism see women as warm and pure yet helpless, incompetent and in need of men's protection," the authors wrote.
For the study, the researchers carefully examined the social interaction of 27 pairs of US undergraduate men and women.
They were filmed while they played a trivia game together and then chatted afterwards.
Observers scrutinised their interaction by reporting their impressions and counting certain nonverbal cues such as smiles.
"While many people are sensitive to sexist verbal offenses, they may not readily associate sexism with warmth and friendliness," Goh argued.
"Benevolent sexism is like a wolf in sheep's clothing that perpetuates support for gender inequality among women at an interpersonal level," Hall elaborated.
These supposed gestures of good faith may entice women to accept the status quo in society because sexism literally looks welcoming, appealing, and harmless, the authors concluded.
The study was published in Springer's journal Sex Roles.